Artist of the Month: Al Barnes

On the Frio (oil, 24×36) by Al Barnes was a Animal/Wildlife finalist in the 25th Annual Art Competition. Barnes is our September 2009 Artist of the Month.

Residence: Rockport, Texas


Start in art: I sold my first painting when I was in sixth grade, for one dollar. I received my bachelor of fine arts degree from the University of Texas.

Genre and mediums: I work primarily in oil, but I also do some pastels, watercolors and etchings. Birds, boats and tropical water are my inspirations—aside from hunger. Sargent and Chase are two heroes; Thomas Daly and John Felsen are some living ones.

About this painting: I was interested in painting the clear hill-country water and making the transition between its reflective and transparent qualities. I like the transition from dark to light and opaque to transparent.

The green jay helps give scale to On the Frio, but it wasn’t the reason for the work. All my paintings are approached that way: I see the landscape first, and then later, something may wander, fly or creep into the painting.

His process: I love to paint outdoors, but I also like to be comfortable. Here in Texas, it’s the heat that’ll run you into your air-conditioned studio. I take lots of photos—digital cameras have been a real blessing to me. If I need a certain pelican pose, I just go down to the harbor and take 20 or 30 shots.

We have a lot of hot, bleached out colors down here, so raw umber, yellow ochre and mars black are major players on my palette, along with the Richard Schmid palette. When I paint the Caribbean, I can’t live without cobalt turquoise and phthalo green.

On art doppelgängers: I have an artist friend, Herb Booth, who lives here in Rockport. For 35 years, people have gotten us mixed up. We’ve shown in the same gallery, but Herb is tall and lean, and I’m not. People approach us both and talk about a painting they own or admire, and halfway through the conversation, you have to stop them and tell them they’ve got the wrong guy. I’ve gotten phone calls about works I didn’t do, mistaken introductions at banquets and even prescriptions handed to me that were Herb’s.

Why he makes art: Creating art makes me feel good. When I don’t paint for a week or so I feel out of sorts. It’s the only thing I can do well that people will pay me for.





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