Friday, January 20, 2012

Friday Feature: Barbara Davis

Hi Everyone,

One of the fun parts of moving around all the time in this crazy military lifestyle is meeting lots of new people.  It is so great to meet artists from all over.   Barbara Davis is a fabulous artist that I have met during my time in Montgomery, Alabama.  She paints in plein air and I have never seen such beautiful skies.  Not only is her work breathtaking, but  you have never met a nicer person.   She is beautiful inside and out and her outlook and demeanor just pour through onto her canvases. 

To view more of her works visit her blog and website.

"The Memory Brightens" oil by Barbara Davis
 How did you get your start?  What’s your artist journey so far?

I have always loved art and, probably like most of my artist friends, it all started with a big box of crayons!!  Still love ‘em!  Thank you, Crayola! 

Fast forward to the 9th grade – My art teacher, my favorite teacher, was killed in a car accident at the end of the year.  Little did I know, the day before she died she had turned in my name to receive the ninth grade art student award.  This event really spurred me on to continue. 

I ended up majoring in art in college, working after graduation as an illustrator at an advertising agency.  After things went sour for that company, I worked at non-art related jobs for sixteen years except for a brief year-long ill-timed stint when I tried to make it as a full-time portrait artist.  I worked at a bank for 13 years – all the time painting, mostly portraits– on the side.  Something clicked in 2004, when I turned 40!  I knew if my art career was ever going to happen, I was going to have to do more to get there! 

I don’t believe in coincidences, so I know God led me to pick up an American Artist magazine for a little beach reading the summer of 2004.  In it I saw an article about plein air painting and feature article on artist Patti Andre.  I knew that’s how I wanted to paint!  The next month, I bought a French easel and starting painting outside.  I was hooked!  My painting improved dramatically and I won my first award.  That’s when I became confident that this could happen!  Every weekend was spent plein air painting from that time forward. 

I got involved with the Alabama Plein Air Painters and met some wonderful supportive artists who shared my passion.  I also became involved with the Montgomery Art Guild.  The support of my artist friends has been so important to me!

It seems like a dream come true that six years after my first venture into plein air painting and my commitment to make this art career succeed, I am painting full time! 
"Many Mansions" oil by Barbara Davis
Where were you born? 

Montgomery, AL

If you could live anywhere where would you live? 

Somewhere out west in a wonderful art community!
"Warm Glow" oil by Barbara Davis

What’s your favorite thing to paint and why?

My favorite thing to paint is the wide open sky for several reasons.  It’s such a spiritual thing to me to see the sky unfold each hour, each day, each season.  On most days, it is breathtaking.  It has been a challenge and a delight to try and capture clouds and light.  Painting the subtle changes in color temperature and value and the ever-present struggle to not make those clouds look pasted on is difficult, but so much fun!

Could you talk about your painting techniques? 

I paint as often as I can outside en plein air.  This process really teaches me so much.  I truly feel like I learn something every time I paint from life.  Of course, I also work in the studio and the process is really the same for both.  I paint wet-on-wet, alla prima usually.  I work from dark to light and usually begin with an underpainting in transparent red oxide. 
"Fields of Cotton" oil by Barbara Davis

Do you have a favorite artist?  Who has been your biggest inspiration? 

I have several oil painters in our region that I have taken workshops from and learned so much from – in particular, Perry Austin and Roger Dale Brown.  I love their work!  Roger has inspired me so much because of his story.  He has worked so hard and has quickly become a very accomplished and well-known artist.  He set goals for himself, i.e., paint 365 paintings the first year, for example.  He is a fabulous teacher, too!  I also love the work of Kathryn Stats, Scott Christensen, Richard Schmid, Rose Frantzen and study from them any way I can – by video or studying their work in magazines, books, and on-line.

What are some of your favorite things or things that are essential to your well being/success as an artist? 

My husband, John!  He’s my favorite guy and definitely essential to my well being and my success!  He’s my greatest cheerleader, my security guard when I’m painting outdoors, my helper, my marketer –he helps me dream!  He’s behind me 100% - even after years and years of listening to me whine about wanting to paint full-time!  I am very blessed to have him in my life and I know it!!
"Evening" oil by Barbara Davis
Do you have go-to paints/colors, what are your favorites?

Although I use several different brands, I primarily use Gamblin paints.  I am very partial to sap green.  My sap green color chart is my favorite!  I love the effect it has on so many colors.
"5'oclock on Washington" oil by Barbara Davis
How do you balance your teaching life with your art career?

At this point, I try not to commit to long-term teaching assignments, but prefer to teach periodic workshops or four-week courses.  I enjoy teaching, but I don’t ever want it to interfere with my painting.  I will say I learn a lot when I teach because I am researching and studying for my teaching, so my art benefits as well!

What are five things you would like to happen in your life in the next five years? Dream big here:)

Okey dokey!  Here goes!
  1. Expand my market and gain representation in a gallery in the western US market.
  2. Become a sought-after workshop instructor.
  3. Build a studio!  My current space is tiny!
  4. Paint the landscapes I see in my head!  I want to be able to achieve what I am visualizing!
  5. Take a couple of workshops with some of the country’s best artists!
"Summer Still Life" oil by Barbara Davis
What is your advice for other artists who are just getting started in their career?

Paint all you can and paint all you can from life!  If you’re like I was and have to work at a non-art related job while you build your career, it may be hard finding the time to paint.  Commit to painting 5 minutes a day.   The little problem is that once you paint for 5 minutes, you’re probably not going to stop!  Don’t give up!  You are the only one who can make it happen!   

What is the best advice that you have received as an artist? 

The best advice I ever received came from my art professor and adviser at Auburn University Montgomery, Phil Coley.  He said, “if you want to learn to paint, you just paint, paint and paint.”  Sounds simple, huh?  So true, though!  Another similar adage, but I don’t know where it originated…”You’re only as good as the miles of canvas behind you”!  Keep at it!!!!
"Sunshine on a Stem" oil by Barbara Davis

Chocolate or vanilla?  Vanilla

Sunny beach or rustic mountain retreat?  Rustic mountain retreat…although hard to choose!!!

Book or movie?  Movie

Favorite author?  Harper Lee

Favorite movie?  To Kill A Mockingbird (although this time of year, it’s definitely “It’s A Wonderful Life”!)

Romance or comedy? Comedy

Favorite ice cream flavor? Coffee

Night owl or morning person?  Morning

Cake or Cupcakes?  Cake

Barbara's interview leaves me wanting to go outside and plein air paint:)  Have a great weekend everyone:)



  1. Wow! She paints just like the 'Old Masters'! Amazing work! My favorite has to be the one of the traffic in Washington - It is the way she has used the warmth of the low light. Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeautiful! :0)

  2. Always love your Friday Features and this one was really wonderful. I love plein air also and Barbara's skies are gorgeous. I love the trolley and cotton field too! Thanks Carrie for sharing a special friend with us- she is lucky to know you also~!

  3. Ditto as what Sandra and kathy have said.. Thank you again for the interview..

  4. Loved your interview with Barbara. One day, I want to work up a get together with some of the Alabama gang. Barbara's personality seems as warm and beautiful as her paintings. Thanks Carrie!

  5. Wonderful interview, Carrie! I just visited Barbara's blog and yes, she has some beautiful pieces and happy to say I am a follower now! Her skies are! and I love 5 o'clock on Washington!! thank you for sharing.

  6. Je te remercie Carrie pour cette nouvelle interview... Barbara a un grand talent, j'aime beaucoup son travail et la simplicité avec laquelle elle parle de son art.
    Gros bisous à vous deux.

  7. Carrie, thank you for taking time doing the Friday Features! I've learned about a lot of fabulous artists from this part of your blog. The information included are very interesting and I love the ideas shared in them!

  8. Thanks for the great interview, Carrie. Enjoyed "meeting" Barbara. Her work is lovely! xx

  9. Great advice and beautiful paintings from Barbara!