12 FOR OUR 12TH
MILLER WHITE FINE ARTS
708 ROUTE 134 SOUTH DENNIS, MA
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by Anne Daley
In a small Kansas town in 1950, a seven-year-old boy hides behind the family garage, playing in the dirt. But he’s not creating fortresses for imaginary armies, nor sculpting imagined terrain on a distant planet; he’s learning to paint. With dust and soil as his medium, twigs and leaves as his tools and his own skin as his canvas, he inhabits his own atelier.
Howard Barnes is not in Kansas anymore, but through his paintings he has created his own Land of Oz, replete with Yellow Brick Roads and Emerald Cities. At the age of 74, Barnes is savoring the fruits of his labors, having continued to paint during his years spent art directing at major high-tech corporations and providing medical illustrations for education and courtroom evidence. Barnes credits his time on the corporate side as allowing him to “see things [he] couldn’t see any other place, and [offering him] a full perspective, knowledge and insight.” He added, “I appreciate all of the opportunities I’ve been given.” Nowadays, having retired to Cape Cod in 2001, he is able to focus on painting full-time: he’s truly livin’ the dream.
Although Barnes had an early start to his painting education, followed by training at the Washburn University School of Fine Art and the Heidelberg University School of Art, he feels things coalesced during his time studying with famed Washington Color School trailblazer Paul Reed. Barnes considered Reed a “father figure,” whom he credits with “getting [him] into the world of art.” He adds that Reed, who died in 2015 at the age of 96, “was very clear about his mission … he levied a strict focus on the Color School process and made sure that I did everything right … something sacred was going on in the studio that must never be altered, demeaned or belittled.” While Barnes’ style evolved beyond the Colorists’ strict tenets, he said that his time with Reed “remains a part of him.”