Your Painter of Memories

“Your Painter of Memories” has been my tag line for as long as I can remember.

Way back when I was just getting started as an artist, it was all about how I could help preserve your memories by creating a portrait of your special someone. Then as I started painting Pittsburgh landmarks like Kaufmann’s clock and Kennywood Park, it began to describe sharing memories of happy times spent with family and friends.

Now my “Jolly Old Elf” series of Santa paintings evokes a different set of cherished memories of the holiday season with imagination and warm nostalgic feelings of childhood wonder.

Obviously, painting is my passion, but sometimes circumstances require putting it on the back burner.

At least my new painting of Santa’s Snowy Friends is off to a wonderful start. I’m so glad I got it done before this crazy (yet wonderful) turn of events.

For the last few weeks, it’s been impossible to just sit down in my quiet studio and paint. Alyssa’s twins, Abigail and Autumn, have entered our lives six weeks early, and big sister Aria has needed a lot of grandparent time. Painting, unfortunately, has been at the bottom of the to-do list these days.

Completing the sketch for this year’s big Jolly Old Elf painting has stretched out into a few weeks instead of the few days that it usually takes.

Progress has been slow, trying to schedule creative time between hospital visits, caring for Aria, and helping out as much as we can. I’ve also been trying to fit in a little time here and there to hang out with my husband on our “Porchville” vacation (Pittsburghese for a vacation where you stay home and do chores).

Oh well… as John Lennon once said, “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.”

Here’s what I have so far – I really hope you like it!

I recently transferred the sketch to museum-quality art board, and I’ve started to add a little color so I can get a feel for it. It’s a little hard to see the detail in the sketch, but I would love to know what you think of it. I don’t have a title yet, and the design is still changing and evolving. The actual painting part will be on hold until I’m satisfied with it.

I’ve had this subject in mind ever since I first imagined the Jolly Old Elf series, and I’m really excited to be bringing it to life at last.

In this painting, Santa is at his North Pole headquarters, sitting by a glowing fireplace with a snack of milk and cookies while he reads his latest fan mail. His favorite tree is decorated, illuminating the room with a soft glow of its own. Christmas Eve is just a few months away, so the room is filling up with gifts for all the boys and girls. With his beloved kitty at his feet, he reads a letter from a very special little girl.

It says:

Dear Santa,
I hope that all
of the people in
the world find
someone special
to be with this Merry
Christmas.
Love,
Aria

I hope to have it ready before the fall show season. Wish me luck!

Enjoy your week…

Twice as Nice – Welcome, Autumn and Abigail!

As you know, Tom and I have been eagerly awaiting the birth of our twin granddaughters, originally expected sometime in August.

However, as time passed, our daughter developed more and more complications in her pregnancy. Alyssa was admitted to the hospital, and for the last week and a half, we’ve been in crisis mode as we prayed for our daughter’s life and the lives of her twins. The situation changed minute by minute, with the actions being taken based on the precarious state of her health and the babies’ well-being.

Finally, the decision was made to deliver the babies at 34 weeks and 2 days because the stress level was so high, and Alyssa was encountering more and more setbacks. At that point, the risks of prematurity for the babies were outweighed by the threat to Alyssa’s health.

So with blessings from above, our daughter gave birth to beautiful twin girls on Monday night. (Things have been so topsy-turvy that I’ve lost track of time and had to think a moment about when it happened!) Even though the girls are fraternal twins, I believe as of right now that they really look alike! What are your thoughts?

Big Sister Aria with Mommy

The upside to spending the last couple of weeks hanging around in hospitals is that I’ve had plenty of time to think about some new gift items I will be introducing for the coming holiday season. I don’t have photos of them yet, but there will be a new tray set, a bookmark, and several new ornaments.

Because these are all handmade, they will take about a month to be ready, and there will be a limit on what I can reorder for the holidays. Just a heads-up because once they’re released, if you like them, you may want to order early for the gift-giving season. (This is true for all the full color metal pieces.)

You’ll find them all under Collectibles at www.lindabarnicott.com

Have a great week, and may your blessings be as great as mine.

We Have a Winner!

Well, I’m back from vacation, and what a vacation it was!

We avoided the touristy parts – no Zoo, no Sea World – and other than splurging on a few movies and restaurants, Tom and I did just about every free thing there was to do in San Diego. Much of our time was spent just enjoying the ocean, the boardwalk, and the bay.

We walked, we talked, we people-watched, and we especially loved watching the seals and sea lions! Balboa Park (shown in the photo above) was our favorite place to hang out. The part I liked best was listening to talented musicians play a huge pipe organ in an amphitheater right off the square.

What we discovered about San Diego is that the folks who live there are an eclectic bunch who really enjoy life and expressing themselves. Whether they were walking their dogs along the beach (it seems like everyone in San Diego has a dog!), riding bikes or scooters, or walking on tightropes between two trees, every person we met was happy to stop and talk.

We have a winner!

Now for the big announcement you’ve been waiting for…What did I paint in the snow globe that Santa is lovingly holding in his hands?

(Drum roll, please…)

The correct answer is:  A Snowman
(actually, a snowman family)

…And the winner of the contest is Sandy Wilkins!

(Believe it or not, Sandy was the only one who correctly guessed the answer! I’ll be contacting her later today to arrange delivery of her print.)

I had an amazing number of responses, and I’m sorry I couldn’t answer every one. There were so many great ideas that maybe next time I’ll ask what should I paint instead of what did I paint!

I dropped a clue in one of my earlier emails that the snow globe contains something I had never painted before.  Over the last several years in the Market Square Holiday Chalet, I’ve met quite a few people who are snowman fans and collectors who asked if I would consider putting a snowman in one of my Santa paintings.

When I began planning this year’s Jolly Old Elf series, the very first thing I thought of was how I could include a snowman in one of them. I knew I wanted it to be more than just your average snowman, and I wanted it to be fun and friendly.

I decided to paint a snowman family to represent the special connection between Santa and our families as well as the bond shared between family members, especially in the holiday season.

At Christmas time, snowmen have been known to come alive, and Santa is part of the magic that makes it happen. The true miracle of snowpeople is not a magic hat that makes them come to life, but families and friends working together in harmony to create the snow masterpieces for all to enjoy!  It is the love put into these snow creations that brings them to life in our dreams at Christmas and in childhood memories for years to come…

So before the rest of the world sees it, here’s Santa’s Snowy Friends:

Thank you all for your participation in this contest. It was so much fun to read all your ideas!

The prints are already available on my website under Prints for Sale, “Jolly Old Elf” series. Click here to check it out! 

Have a great week and a great Fourth of July!

It’s Always Sunny in California

Vacation must really agree with us – Tom and I are super relaxed and enjoying our time away. A change of scene is something I highly recommend for everyone. Even if you can’t leave town, just spending some uninterrupted time with your loved ones is energizing for your spirit.

Sometimes you’re lucky enough to have a great vacation experience that stays with you for the rest of your life. Other times you might have an experience that’s memorable… but for the wrong reasons!

This actually isn’t our first visit to La Jolla. We vacationed here once many years ago when our children were young. At that time, I thought it would be a terrific idea for all of us to try kayaking together. Boy, was I excited! We paid close attention to our kayaking lesson, and we were sure it would be a cinch. We decided that Tom would take Alyssa since she was so small, and I would take Britt.

The plan for the kayak tour was to go out to the marker, then turn toward La Jolla’s caves. We would do a three-point turn inside the cave, and then we would all paddle back out to the marker and return home together.

But I knew we were in trouble before we even got over the first wave.

Tom and Alyssa paddled as straight as an arrow and soon made it out to the marker with the others. Britt and I, however, couldn’t keep our kayak straight no matter how hard we tried. We tried paddling and then counting and paddling. We were hardly making any headway and were soon exhausted. I had a feeling it would take us so long to get to the marker that we’d have no time to rest like everyone else, and they would take off for the caves and leave us lagging behind again.

Sure enough, we were the last to reach the cave, as Britt and I straggled in, worn out and embarrassed. Just as I had feared, everyone else had already started the return trip, leaving us to fend for ourselves. For a moment, I thought to myself, “This is how people get lost at sea.”

Somehow, maybe just by instinct, we finally made it back. I developed a much greater respect for the ocean that day… And I never set foot in a kayak again!

Now, wasn’t that a nice story?

The stories behind my paintings are much happier ones – and often just as memorable! If you’re in the market for a meaningful personal gift for someone you love, I’ll be returning home in a few days, ready to help you pick out something special.

Meanwhile, today is the first day of summer, which means… it’s festival season! Mark your calendar for July 5th through 8th for the Westmoreland County Arts and Heritage Festival (also known as the Twin Lakes Festival). I’ll be returning this year, looking forward to being out and about… and maybe even seeing you?

I still think La Jolla and its ocean may be one of the most beautiful places on Earth, but I’ll stick with my Three Rivers.  See you back in the Burgh!

Greetings from San Diego!

Tom and I are in San Diego for the next two weeks getting some much needed R&R!

And San Diego is definitely a great place for that. It’s really a beautiful city. The historic Gas Lamp District (as seen in the photo above) is one of those places I would love to paint, especially the unique trolleys.

Since we arrived two days ago, we’ve been focused on putting our feet up and basking in the sun, but soon we’ll get out and see all the sights we’ve heard so much about.

Of course I couldn’t leave work completely behind… so I’ll take this opportunity to remind you that midnight tonight is the deadline to enter my “What’s in Santa’s Snow Globe?” contest.

One lucky winner with the correct answer will receive a full-sized 9 x 12” giclee print of the painting, suitable for framing. If more than one person gets the right answer, I’ll put the names of all the correct guessers into a hat and draw a winner.

So get your ideas in by midnight tonight! The winner will be announced on June 28th(incorrectly stated in last week’s email as June 21st).

Claire’s Garden

This week I had an opportunity to do something I love but don’t get to do very often. I spent an entire day visiting the beautiful garden of one of my clients to paint a plein airpastel.

Claire’s remarkable garden is an exceptional, very personal expression of her love for landscape design and the beauty of nature. There is a unique gate and a wooden fence, both handmade by Claire herself, and they’re quite striking. They became the essential elements of the painting, but I also made sure to include the bird feeder, which is one of my favorite features.

I first went to Claire’s garden a week ago for a photo shoot with sketching time. I took over two hours, from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., just observing how the morning light entered the garden. While I was taking it all in, a cheerful cardinal landed on the wooden fence and cocked its head at me, almost as if to say “Hello! Can I be in the painting, too?”

We had fabulous weather and of course, I ended up staying the whole day! Plein airpainting is something that feeds my artist’s soul, and I hope you can sense that feeling of joy when you see “Claire’s Garden.” (I’m thinking of creating a print from it.)

So have you entered my contest yet? 

In my last email, I asked you to guess “What’s in Santa’s snow globe?”

I’ve been having a lot of fun reading over all the interesting responses I’ve received so far. There have been so many great answers… I must say, I never realized how creative you all are! As a matter of fact, maybe next time I should ask for your input FIRST – because you gave me so many cool ideas that I almost had second thoughts about my original choice!

(Don’t worry – I’m already committed to my plan, and I’m going to stick with it!)

One lucky winner with the correct answer will receive a free print of the painting of Santa and the snow globe. If more than one person guesses the right answer, I will put the names of all correct guessers into a hat and draw a winner.

The contest closes at 11:59 pm on Thursday, June 14th, and the winner will be announced on June 21st. 

You have one more week to submit your best guess of what’s in the snow globe… So far only one of you has guessed the correct answer!

As you can see, I’ve finished the sketching part of the process, and I got my feet wet today by starting the first layer of the painting. I still have a lot to paint, but here’s a first look.

I can’t wait to hear your ideas about what’s in the snow globe! Is it a toy train?…Santa’s Harley?… or maybe a Super Bowl trophy? All will be revealed in two weeks!

Contest – What’s Inside the Snow Globe?

Artists sometimes have an upside-down perspective on the seasons. Because the creative process takes time, we have to think many months ahead to prepare for the next season.

So now that spring/summer has fully arrived (simultaneously this year!), my thoughts have turned toward Christmas… particularly, the 2018 paintings in my “Jolly Old Elf” series.

This year’s companion print – the one that inspired me first – is Santa looking into a beautiful sparkly snow globe. But as you can see, the globe is empty!

It’s not that I don’t know what to put in the snow globe – I’ve already decided, but I’m just not ready to finish it quite yet. So in the meantime, I thought why not have a contest to see who can guess what’s going to be inside the snow globe?

Here are the rules…

Each person gets one guess. The contest will run until I reveal the entire sketch. Everyone who guesses correctly will be entered into the drawing, and the winner will receive a free print of this painting when it’s finished. As always, you’ll know when it’s done because I like to share the progress of each painting with you!

The deadline for entry is Thursday, June 14th, and the winner will be announced on Thursday, June 28th.

What’s inside the magical snow globe? Put on your thinking cap and send me an email with your best guess!

Merry (early) Christmas!

P.S. – Some of you have young children who are finishing up the school year, and you may be looking for gifts for teachers, aides, cafeteria staff, and so on. One of the attendees at my morning meeting today just ordered a Mother Teresa candle and three boxes of Pittsburgh and Kennywood note cards.

She told me that she needed them for next Wednesday and requested that I sign them in gold (as I’m always happy to do for any customer). I assured her that I had them in stock and would have them ready in plenty of time for her son to take them to school.

So if you’re thinking about end-of-year teachers’ gifts, check out my website,  www.lindabarnicott.com. You may find that perfect gift to say ‘Thank you for caring for my child.’

I’m in Love

Can you believe this weather? When Spring finally came, it came in a big hurry, and I’m in love!

I’m in love with the sunshine. I’m in love with the white flowers of my cherry tree floating through the air. I’m in love with the fragrances of the flowers, and I especially love with playing outside with my granddaughter. Outside is her favorite place to be, and blowing bubbles is her favorite pastime.

I don’t remember if I’ve mentioned it to you or not, but this year I’ve been serving as president of the Pittsburgh Pastel Art League. It’s a real challenge for someone (like me!) who is really lousy with administrative work. But so far, so good. I’m really enjoying it, and the group seems to be having a great time.

Last Saturday we had planned a “Paint-Out” at the Gilberti Gallery in Coraopolis from 9 to 3, meaning we would be painting outdoors in the community. Well, at 9 a.m. it was raining cats and dogs. I had no clue how many people would actually show up.

My original plan was to help everyone set up, then rush home and get back to work on painting the Forbes Hospital piece (I’m on the fourth painting out of five). I wasn’t planning to actually participate in the Paint-Out myself, so I didn’t bring any materials with me. I had to leave early, and that was that.

But you know how painting is like an addiction to me! Here’s what actually happened…

Artists began to show up, and as their numbers grew, I got more and more excited. We decided to move the event inside the gallery, and we began to set up painting stations. Cindy even had all the easels we needed to make it happen.

People showed up with food to share and plenty of excitement at the prospect of painting together. Artists came from all over to join in the painting party… artists from O’Hara Township, Indiana Township, Westmoreland County, and elsewhere.

Being surrounded by artists and paint and easels, I must have looked pretty eager, because Cindy looked at me and said “Linda, I have pastels and paper here if you would like to paint. I also have reference photos to choose from.”

She didn’t have to ask me twice. My inner painter said, “To heck with going home, I’m going to stay here and paint!” I don’t get as much downtime for fun as I would like to, and when I get the chance, I call it “Bingo Night” – remembering the times when I was a little girl and my grandmother would take me with her to Bingo! It was my idea of honest-to-goodness fun.

Anyway, Cindy, the gallery owner, is terrific, and just getting to hang out with her any time is in itself a real joy.

So I started painting. It felt so good and so liberating to paint something beautiful just because I wanted to – with no commitments! I picked a photo of New Mexico, similar to a scene I remembered from last June when Tom and I spent a couple of weeks there after the pastel convention.

In the end, I was truly glad I stayed to spontaneously create art with my new friends. It was like a breath of fresh air.

I hope you also are having a beautiful week and doing what you love to do.

Spring Fever!

As we head into Easter weekend, the Barnicott family is caught up in holiday planning and activities. But even without the holiday, the entire family has a lot going on right now.

So much is happening this week!

My younger daughter (who as I’ve mentioned before is expecting twins!) and our beloved son-in-law Jon along with our little granddaughter Aria are closing on a house of their own next week. Meanwhile, Jon is looking for a new job, and my daughter Brittany just got one – she was promoted to Director of Marketing for St. Vincent de Paul.

Tom, of course, is immersed in work with Holy Week activities. Holy Week for ministers is like tax season for accountants!

As for me, I’m working double-time on my special commission for Forbes Hospital – a huge five-panel painting for their new History Wall. The paintings will be unveiled at the Omni William Penn at a black tie event on April 19th.  Although the project isn’t quite completed, three of the five panels are finished, and the last two paintings will be shown as “works in progress.”

Whenever I sit down to work on the History Wall paintings, I’m reminded of how grateful I am for the opportunity to honor the men and women of Forbes Hospital. It boggles my mind to think that my work will hang there on the History Wall for decades to come as a tribute to those dedicated people.

As much as I’m enjoying the Forbes Hospital project, it doesn’t allow me much time for other things (especially housework!). I’ve been so busy, in fact, that here we are with Easter almost upon us and – believe it or not – I still have some Christmas decorations up. I definitely need a maid… or maybe a clone?

It looks like we’re finally getting some springlike weather here in Pittsburgh. When I think about which of my paintings reminds me most of spring, the first one that comes to mind is “Oasis of Beauty at Phipps.” I’m not the only one who feels that way… just this morning, someone at my BNI business meeting asked about purchasing one of my metal sandwich trays featuring that image.

There’s something about that painting that really evokes the light and warmth of springtime for me. I had wanted to paint that scene for over a decade, and when I finally did, it was like bringing sunshine into our home. I like to think I was channeling Monet when I painted this piece, inspired by the soft light and water lilies in the pond.


Monet “Water Lilies” 1916

I hope you enjoy “Oasis of Beauty at Phipps” as much as I do. The original is sold; however, the image is available as a print or on note-cards or gift-ware. Visit my website and see what’s available… http://lindabarnicott.com/product/oasis-of-beauty-at-phipps/.

Spring Therapy

What happened to spring? Tuesday was supposed to be the first day of spring, and we ended up getting buried under a blanket of snow. (That stupid groundhog lied AGAIN!)

My brain and my body are so tired of winter… so what, I wondered, could I do to console myself while springtime is so elusive, and we still have a landscape covered in winter white?

Well, I found just the thing… I pulled together some of the plein air landscapes I had painted during my travels. After being battered by the shock of yet another cold snap and close to a foot of snow, surrounding myself with those springlike scenes was just what I needed to soothe my spirit.

Often when I create a new painting, I do a photo shoot and then return to my studio to compose and paint it.  Each of my plein air paintings, however, was created as I stood right there at the scene and painted what I saw. It’s rather zen, a very tranquil kind of process.

The painting at the top of this email, Flowering Potato Fields, is a particular favorite of mine… When I first visited the state of Washington, I remember driving past beautiful fields of flowers. I’d never seen flowers like that before, and I had no idea what they could be. Being an Easterner, I was surprised and delighted to find out they were potatoes! Who knew potatoes had flowers? Or that they could be so pretty? The pink flowers are the red potatoes, the yellow flowers in the background are Yukon potatoes, and the white ones are your basic white potato.

Here’s another painting from my travels but in the upper Midwest, a scene from Grand Marais, Minnesota by Lake Superior. Standing in this field of flowers with the beautiful lake in the background was a taste of heaven. Fun Fact: There was a broken-down rusty tractor right smack in the middle of the flowers that I chose not to include in the painting… artistic license, right?

The last painting is of a place that has great meaning for me – Strawbridge Lake Park in New Jersey. When I was just 19 and working at RCA, it was my special nature place where I would go on my lunch hour to kick up some leaves and climb some trees when no one was looking.

But what really makes this painting special to me is that my husband Tom and my two best friends, Kathy and Ron were with me when I painted it. (Ron was my best friend since childhood, and Kathy was my coworker. I introduced them over 40 years ago, and they’re together to this day.)

Want to get your own little dose of spring? Check out my landscapes collection at www.lindabarnicott.com.

Speaking of spring, I have two other paintings in “Pure Pigment,” a new show at the Gilberti Gallery in Coraopolis. You can check out this great show of pastels artists from around the region any time between now and the end of April.  The gallery is also a working studio for the owner, Cindy GIlberti. The Gilberti Gallery is located at 1030 5th Avenue (Coraopolis 15108), and you can contact Cindy at (412) 303-4590.

Wishing you good health and happiness in the coming week… and would a little warm and sunny weather be too much to ask?