Barbara in her Studio.

Barbara in her Studio.

I want you to feel like the sun is on your face and like it's a perfect day in the mountains or on the water. These paintings are windows into that world. It feels soothing.  You smile because there's just something about nature, especially when it's made to be fun and playful with a paintbrush. I was trained to be a film director to convey mood and emotion. And I traveled, visited many ancient sites and experienced how color is used in many different cultures, focusing on how design and color made me feel.  Have you ever seen an old carving from 1000 years ago that feels full of life, like it was just finished? That experience, regardless of where I find it, inspires me. Basically my goal is to make paintings that are upbeat, happy, calming, vibrant and alive. What could be more important?   


My painting career began suddenly and violently one night at 1:30 in the morning. I was cleaning the restaurant after closing. That night I slipped. The next thing I knew my left hand was caught in the stainless steel pizza dough rollers, getting crushed. I screamed and my coworker ran over and turned off the machine. Like a surrealistic dream he put his hands into the rollers and used super human strength (the kind people use to pick up a car) to separate the rollers to get my hand out. I still remember the intensity and crazy level of strength coming from this shy, soft spoken man. My hand was free. The two of us looked each other in the eye, totally in shock. A car pulled up. Out jumped two men I had waited on earlier that night. They came back to the restaurant to apologize - at 1:30 am. They hadn't had enough money to leave me a tip and felt bad.  They drove me to the hospital and waited with me in the emergency room for 4 hours.  They were such nice men. The doctor took one look at my catcher's mit sized bruised hand and asked if I could move it. The thumb and forefinger worked. Nothing else moved even though it felt inside like I was moving it. It just lay there on the table, throbbing terribly. The doctor determined it was paralyzed and admitted me to the hospital immediately. He told me that if I got the use of my hand back, I would have arthritis so badly by the time I was 30 I'd lose the use of my hand then. He was wrong. My hand recovered over the next several months as the nerves regenerated. It's served me well ever since.

As I climbed into my hospital bed I wondered what it was about my hands that I had overlooked. It must have been important or my attention wouldn't so dramatically have been drawn to them. I was certain there was a reason.  By the time I woke up later that day in the hospital I knew I needed to learn to draw. Suddenly and simply the decision was made.  All the story telling, lighting and staging I had learned to become a film director would be carried out in drawings and paintings. Somehow. 

When I left the hospital 3 days later I picked up drawing supplies on the way home.

I didn't know anything about how to draw. Where would I start? It was an exciting mystery.  I resolved that I'd just play. I was easy on myself, which was new for me. I was usually very hard on myself. It felt good to make space to explore. My instructions as I left the hospital were to keep my left hand elevated over my heart - for two months - I had plenty of time to experiment. 

Having this space with no judgment opened me up.  What would happen if ...?  Drawing was private and personal. Doodling gave me permission to play. It was an easy habit to get into.

I played until I had some skill.  I drew landscapes.  As a kid while my family drove all over north america from Mexico to Canada.  Landscapes everywhere were beautiful. I knew what I wanted to make but I wasn't sure how.  Just so you know, I felt like a klutz for a very long time.  When I judged myself it was a painful. When I played I learned. The better I got the harder I was on myself. I was both my biggest supporter and my own biggest obstacle. Do you know that feeling?

In college I worked with Carl. He had long white hair and beard, and crystal blue eyes, just like Merlin.  He taught us to think about images in terms of optical illusions. He also asked inspiring questions: Are you the source of your creativity or are you a funnel through which your work flows into the world?  His insistence in helping us ask questions was a great gift. 

I lived in a farming village in Nepal, made a documentary film and painted landscapes. The people in my village were content in a way I hadn't experienced before.  Their shrines blew me away. The colors were deliberately used to captivate the villagers of Nepal's Himalayan foothills who spoke 550 separate languages in a country the size of Tennessee.  It was quite an accomplishment. My experience of the design work was pure inspiration. The color and overall experience inside those shrines had a lasting impact. So did the idea of communicating to such a diverse population.  I wanted to create work that spoke to people of different cultures too.

I visited a small art school for one quarter.  The old man I work with damaged my work.  His disapproval and scorn towards me ran deep. One day he orchestrated a surprise attack by taking the class into my personal studio space.  He demanded the boys in the class 'fix them,' referring to the personal paintings I was making for myself - paintings intended to capture the memories of the farming village in Nepal. I was trying to get through my 'reverse culture shock.' Before I could react the canvasses were stacked like building blocks, scratched and bent, the boys eager to win favor with the teacher, one upping one another with the damage they inflicted.  'Stack them.' 'Drill holes through them,' they told me.  The teacher rewarded his gang of boys with a nod of approval. He demanded I sand all the paint off. I had 'no right' to paint again.  I sat alone in my studio as if I was in a bizarre dream, similar to the feelings of shock I had when my hand was crushed.  I didn't know how I would overcome this emotional pain ripping through my core. I promised myself when I overcome this experience I would never be held back again.  Then I became curious. Who were these people and what was going on here anyway? 

My studio friend Richard understood. He was about to graduate and had seen this charade play out many times. "That's why everyone else's work looks the same." he explained. "They're terrified of the teachers. The color teacher is the worst by far." The students were amazingly skilled. He was right. The drawing and painting students had nearly identical work.  Their skills had come at too high a cost.  The P.T.S.D. - like feeling was re-triggered many times by many people, especially when I tried to share my art. Eventually I learned that the mean behavior was about the person being mean. It wasn't my fault.  They were responsible for their own behavior or lack of social skills, as was the old man. It took a long time to understand because I had been trained, like so many women, to feel responsible for other people's behavior. Finally that realization set me free. It let me own both my journey and my mission.  And with that shift in outlook I was able to fulfill my promise to myself.

I return to college to study whatever the nice people who sent me to  Nepal taught.  32 students applied. 8 of us got to go and I was a freshman. I studied art through an anthropology lens. How art informs our identity, how it helps people thrive and how arts can help to bring about cultural change. I deliberately focused on revitalization movements. After all, that was what I needed most.  I channeled my energy right down the path it most needed to go.  

I've spent a lifetime in nature,  hiking countless mountain trails including my trek through the Himalayas during monsoon. I love capturing that experience of being in nature and fusing so many varied influences from across time and culture.  My goal is gifting you the feelings of the perfect moment in nature, usually with a strong water theme. 

My mission is to make as much of a difference in people's lives with these skills as I can.  Landscape paintings made with an upbeat and positive outlook dramatically improve interior environments, including personal home and more public business spaces.  Research by the Society for Healthcare Arts revealed that landscape and nature paintings have a similar physiological impact as nature itself on individuals. In hospital settings research has consistently shown that landscape paintings lower blood pressure, reduce the need for pain medication and even leads to faster healing. Patients surrounded by landscape paintings and photography are discharged from the hospital sooner than patients who are surrounded by institutional spaces or abstract art. In 2005, professor Roger Ulrich of Texas A&M compared over 700 studies in 5 countries to learn the impact landscape and nature paintings have on the staff and patients. Staff morale improved and retention increased. It appears nature is a nutrient for the soul. My personal mission is to be sure as many people hear this message as possible. Imagine how we can all improve our friends and family's quality of life by adding some nature to their world. For people with highly stressful jobs and who have a hard time getting into the wilderness, this is particularly important. I hope you'll join me.

Today I feel like I'm one of the luckiest people because I get to live on Bainbridge Island in Washington state. My 800 square foot studio and showroom are located in the protected wetland. The stream that runs through the property is so peaceful. If you are interested in visiting when you are on the island, please give me a call or send an email. I will be happy to give you a proper tour.