Barbara O’Brien loves to travel and it shows – in her art, that is.
“I like to delude myself that there is purpose in my travels. Painting seascapes on Star Island and Bermuda and in Mexico, landscapes in Scotland, marshes on the Cape – all challenge me and provide a quiet time to memorialize the place, the time and the feeling of the place,” she said.
She also finds time to paint at ArtSpace, finding help from a community of artist friends.
“We are so lucky to have such a diverse group of ArtSpace artists. The collaboration, encouragement and friendships have spurred me on to try new things,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien recently answered questions from the Beacon-Villager about her art.
How did you become an artist? Who influenced you?
DeCordova Museum in Lincoln had fantastic art classes when I was growing up. Lincoln Public Schools offered a seventh and eighth grade field trip to Stratford, Connecticut for the Shakespeare Festival. I fell in love with set design when I saw “Much Ado About Nothing” and the set opened up like a Victorian lace valentine. I majored in technical theater, designing and building productions.
Years later, life got busy and I was looking for a stress-relieving hobby and found Michelle Garro’s classes at ArtSpace. After studying with Michelle for a couple of years we became friends and now share studio space.
What are your biggest challenges to being an artist and how do you deal with them?
My biggest challenge as an artist is finding the time and discipline to work. My second challenge is to define myself and not skip around. I am still experimenting with finding my “voice.” I take workshops from artists that I admire. I spend a week each June on Star Island [off the coast of New Hampshire and Maine] where I can really focus on my painting.
How has your work evolved over the years?
My work has evolved from studio still life paintings that are challenging but easier to set up and leave in place, to Plein Air paintings where you are packing up, fighting the elements and painting quickly to capture the shifting light.
To me, painting outside feels like an Outward Bound endurance sport. My painting style has become looser and more personal.
How long have you been at ArtSpace and how does having a studio help you when you’re creating art?
My introduction to ArtSpace was approximately 12 years ago when I started taking classes with Michelle Garro. Sharing the studio with Michelle for the past five or six years has been heavenly. Just walking into the building, I can feel my blood pressure lower and my focus increase.
ArtSpace Maynard:Explore the unknown at UFO Art Store in Maynard
The first “Out of the Box” show in February 2020 was the opening of the new West Gallery at ArtSpace. I created my first mixed media piece for this show and benefited from encouragement from fellow artists Gwen Murphy, Sue Huszar, Mary Mooney and writer Ruth Herman.
Is there something you are currently working on, or are excited about starting that you can tell us about?
My new obsession is journaling. Wandering around with a journal, pen, pencil and small watercolor set provides me with “no excuses.” I am experimenting with quick contour drawings out in nature and minimal color. I find it very calming in these crazy times.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I am very excited about ArtSpace’s New Vision Weekend the third weekend in September. It will feel so good to have the doors open with studios and artists greeting the public again.
More about Barbara O’Brien
HOMETOWN I have lived in Maynard since right before the Blizzard of ’78.
EDUCATION I have studied painting with wonderful artists and teachers: Michelle Garro, Christopher Volpe, Sam Vokey, Lew Fifield and Clare Walker Leslie. I have an MBA from Simmons School of Business in Boston and a BA in theater from Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, Viriginia
ART MEDIUM I have been painting in oils for the past 12 years. I recently started experimenting with watercolors and mixed media.
UPCOMING EXHIBITS My mixed media robot, “Sassy,” is in the “Take Me to Your Leader” show at UFO Artspace, 63 Summer St. in Maynard until October 16. My oil painting, “Night Falls” is in the student show at Concord Art at 37 Lexington Road, Concord until Aug. 16.
MOST PEOPLE DON’T KNOW I love red mooring balls on turquoise seas.