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The Barn Project

August 21, 2011

We recently made our annual trip to Ohio to visit Nell’s family.  Along the way, we noticed that many of the barns we had become familiar with along our normal route were beginning to deteriorate badly.  Some, in fact, had become unrecognizable piles of lumber and rusted metal.  The one on the left is still recognizable as a barn, but is quickly becoming overrun by vines.  It sits at the intersection of Highway 36 and Wilson Road, just south of Centerburg, Ohio.  I’ve taken a few photos of it as we drove past, but have never gotten good shots.  This time, in light of our conversation, we turned off the highway and took the time to get a number of good reference photos of the old place.

Nell made the observation that, at one time, I had made it a sort of mission to record old barns in drawings and paintings.  I felt a twinge of guilt as I realized I had moved away from my focus on these old structures, primarily because I had begun to doubt whether many people bought paintings of old barns anymore.  Part of our conversations on this trip touched once again on that old problem of trying to paint what people might buy, instead of painting what the heart wants to paint.  I think she may get a bit tired of seeing me stray onto that path as often as I do.

I’ve been struggling in recent weeks, casting about for inspiration.  Some of the work has been okay, but if I’m honest, my heart really hasn’t been in it.  Nothing was calling out to me with that siren voice, drawing me in, insisting that it must be painted or drawn.  I realized that these old barns just might be the answer.  Maybe I needed a “project”.

Sometimes I have to be careful.  My family have always been somewhat amused by my tendency to jump from one thing to another.  I had a daughter-in-law who once said about something I was contemplating, “That’s just what you need, Dad… another project.”  For the past four years I have done well by staying very focused on painting… landscapes… with gouache.  But there has been a desire in recent months to experiment a bit more, with subject matter… and with other media, such as pencil, watercolor, pen & ink.  If I approach it right, The Barn Project might provide me the impetus to stay focused, while experimenting with different materials.

As always, I came home from Ohio with a huge number of great reference photos, many of them barns in various conditions.  But there was a special focus this time.  To keep myself on some kind of meaningful track, I’m thinking this might be a book project.  That way, I can make use of sketches and drawings, as well as finished paintings.  It’s not all completely clear in my mind yet, but there is at least an initial vision that will hopefully keep me focused.  Of course, there will be other subjects interspersed occasionally into the work flow, just to keep me fresh.  Besides, a few old houses and some old dirt farm roads could be a reasonable part of this endeavor.  We’ll see.

Meanwhile, since I didn’t do a lot of art work while on this trip, I’ve spent the last couple of days playing around, just getting my touch back.  And, of course, experimenting.  Here are some things done as combinations of gouache and graphite pencil…

Malabar Barn, 8x10, Gouache & Pencil

The last two are 5×7.  All done fairly quickly, just to see how the combination might work.

All of these are from photos taken at Malabar Farm, built in the 1930’s by Pulitzer Prize winning author Louis Bromfield, in Richland County, Ohio.  Bromfield built it to test ideas about farming and conservation.  While there, we took a tour of the 32-room country house, where Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall were married, followed by a wagon tour of the farm itself.  The farm is now owned by the State of Ohio, and continues as a working farm, operated by Ohio’s Department of Natural Resources and Department of Agriculture.  I fell in love with the place, and will probably do a number of paintings from photos taken there.

Meanwhile, this is a tiny start on The Barn Project.

One Comment leave one →
  1. April 7, 2013 1:44 pm

    I dearly love barns!!!!

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