Northwest NEWS

December 2, 2002

Features

What time is it? Watercolor artist Kay Barnes and her art students have no idea.
By Bronwyn Wilson
   Senior Staff Writer

Bronwyn Wilson/staff photo
Kay Barnes in her studio
Not one clock ticks, dongs, gongs, clangs or cuckoos in Kay Barnes' art studio. But that's not the reason time stands still inside the cozy, clock-free zoneÑa room warmly illuminated by a glowing fire inside a slate mosaic fireplace.
   Instead, clocks have no place in the studio because once inside, time doesn't matter. Barnes and her art students use the Woodinville studio space to lose themselves in sheer creative delight.
   They splash, mash, spin and swirl vibrant colors like ultramarine blue and viridian green on French-made rag paper. With no consideration to the hour of the day, the students glide their brush across the paper, forming shapes into a combination of light and shadow that reflects their dreams, memories and hopes.
   Their creative process begins with a tone and mood and Barnes sets a positive one. She makes certain that her students take pleasure in their work by supplying an uplifting and pleasant environment. She also inspires her students with her philosophy that whatever you focus on will expand into your life.
   "I'm a woman of faith," she says. "If you focus on good things, it will come to you."
   Having faced a number of personal challenges in her life, Barnes proves her philosophy works with her upbeat personality, brightly colored, bigger-than-life paintings and cheery, gracefully decorated home.
   It wasn't always that way for Barnes. Back in 1982, on a blustery Minnesota day in March, Barnes wanted to brighten her home.
   "I had blank walls and I couldn't afford to buy art," she remembers. Then she had an idea to create her own. "People have told me all my life I have artistic talent." With this in mind, she began to experiment with watercolors and an oil painting brush. "I played with it and loved it," she recalls.
   With drive and determination, she stuck with it. "My first year I did over 300 paintings. I was a bit obsessed."
   Today, Barnes' colorful artwork adorns many walls other than her own. Now a nationally noted watercolor artist, Barnes collects "Best of Show" awards.
   Her paintings enliven the walls of fine art galleries, mega corporations like Nordstrom's stores as well as numerous private homes, including 34 of her paintings that beautify a villa in Antigua.
   Between creating and showing her art, Barnes teaches at the Bellevue Art Museum and at art workshops overseas.
   In addition to this, she holds watercolor classes for adults in her home studio, either in 10-week group sessions or one-on-one.
   Although she primarily works with adults, she has limited space for kids. Each class has a lesson plan and short demonstration, which students can observe in a large overhead mirror.
   Adult sessions last three hours and children's sessions go for an hour and a half, but who's counting? Barnes says it was actually one of her young students who made the observation that "time stood still'"in her studio.
   Eleven-year old Cammi Powers suggested that she furnish the room without clocks. "No clocks at Cammi's request," Barnes says, explaining that children love the freedom to paint without attention to time. "Here, they can paint anything they want," she adds.
   Children choose their own subjects, one might decide to pick a flower from her garden to use as a model for a painting, another might want to paint Barnes' cuddly Red Doberman Pinscher named "Major."
   Most of all, Barnes hopes to help children, as well as grown-ups, find a way to express themselves creatively. "It's my ministry."
   She explains how she chooses a subject for one of her paintings. "I like a subject and design that challenges me. I love textures. It doesn't matter if it's a floral or a landscape as long as it has the elements of design, composition and placement of shapes."
   She says that whatever painting she works on becomes her favorite painting at that time. Each work brings its own joy.
   "The most fun is watching the pigments and the surprises. It's very satisfying when something works the way you planned it."
   She's currently working on a painting of pink roses from her rose garden, a painting that follows a beauty in nature theme resonating throughout the majority of her work. She adds enchantment to many of her pieces with natural details.
   Her painting of a white wicker chair beside a table holding a vase full of orange sunflowers serves as an example. Says Barnes, "See how the light casts great shadows through the pattern of the wicker."
   She points to another painting called "Table Dance."
   Varieties of pears, in colors of red, yellow, gold and green, line up in juxtaposed dance-like positions on a table covered in a hand-woven tablecloth, "The primary colors are what's fun," she says. "They're woven into the abstract pattern of the tablecloth. That's fun. That's pure fun."
   She goes on, "The artist's job is to observe. So many people walk right past something extraordinary and see it as ordinary.
   "Artists walk past something ordinary and see it as extraordinary. It's not a difference in talent, it's the difference in viewpoint."
   Watercolors provide her with a way to not only show a different view but to have a good time while doing it. "Watercolor painting is so expressive, spontaneous and forgiving," she says. "It gives me the latitude to say so many things."
   And she uses the latitude freely. Her paintings focus on life's "good things."
   Flowers flourish in a painting she calls "Butchart Garden Cart." It features a hand-painted wooden cart bursting with flowers in a profusion of tints and tones.
   In another painting, half-bushel baskets loaded with baby's breath and roses beckon shoppers at Pike Place Market.
   Holding up her painting of pink, yellow and white roses in a French galvanized bucket, she says, "This feels like a cool spring morning." And even though it's a brisk November day, there's no doubt that every day feels like spring in Barnes' studio, a place where spring can last as long as it wants.
   For those who would like to view Barnes' art as well as her student's artwork, a Holiday Show will be held in the clock-free art studio on Sunday, Dec. 8.
   For an appointment to visit the Holiday Show, to see the studio at another time, or for more information on the next class sessions beginning Jan. 6, 2003, call (425) 482-0930. Also, Barnes' art can be viewed at the FrameWright Gallery in Bothell.