Route 6 Artisan Trail Draws Artist to Corry
The Corry Journal , June, 2011
by Stephen Sears
There’s a certain time of evening at Kennywood Park, just when the lights come on, that the sky turns dusky blue and the clouds shimmer with hues stolen from the sun. The same sky has been over Kennywood since its opening in 1898, although with the ground-level park activities, not many people take time to glance upward.
Linda Barnicott did. And while the sky is definitely not the focal point, it helps create the mood for “The Magical Entrance of Kennywood,” the latest and forth in her series of five pastel paintings of the traditional amusement park. The painting captures the scene as park goers emerge from the entrance tunnel. The fudge shop is to the left, the Turnpike to the right and straight ahead is the Old Mill, Kennywood’s most long-lived ride. “I love doing skies,” according to Linda, whose favorite one is in her newest Kennywood painting. “I almost hate to cover it with leaves.”
Linda, who is left-handed, works right to left, top to bottom, to keep from smearing the chalk pastels, which she likes because of their blending qualities. After making a sketch she begins to paint on the colors, starting with the sky. The Green Tree resident uses lighting and intensity to capture the scenes in photo-like color. “I like to paint in such a way that it looks like it’s coming off the paper,” she says.
Before beginning the painting, Linda took several photographs of the area to capture the buildings and rides from all angles as well as the light and shadows. The next step is to add the people—and not just generic ones. Since she has worked primarily as a portrait artist, she brings the park visitors to like by using the proportions and faces of real people. Having places in each of her paintings are husband, the Rev. Tom Barnicott; her daughters Brittany, 11, and Alyssa, 7; family and friends; people who collect her works; and those affiliated with the park. “Magical Entrance” includes members of the Kennywood staff who have helped her with her series, including publicity director Mary Lou Rosemeyer, sales representative Norm Swiech and director of facilities Rich Henry. They are posed gathered at the fudge shop railing, viewing the conceptual sketch of “Magical Entrance.”
The series started in 1995 with “Ride with Me on the Carousel,” followed by “Making Memories at Noah’s Ark” in 1996 and “Coasting through Kennywood” in 1997. The Carousel and Coasting paintings still have some prints left, but the Noah’s Ark edition has sold out. Like others in her series, the limited edition painting will have 500 prints and 50 artist’s proofs. The carousel painting had 750 prints.
To decide in what order to do the Kennywood scenes, she sat down with Ms. Rosenmeyer and the publisher of the series, Denny Oliver of Black Swan Gallery, to brainstorm. Noah’s Ark coincided with the renovations at the ride and “Coasting through Kennywood” was released the year the Racer, Kennywood’s twin coaster was refurbished. Linda’s latest painting was chosen for Kennywood’s 100th birthday because the Old Mill is the oldest ride at the park. Also, the sign on the Turnpike carries a birthday message, which commemorates the park’s centennial. She plans to debut the painting in late June at the Black Swan Gallery in Carnegie.
Linda says it was a toss-up whether to end the series next year with Kiddieland or the Thunderbolt. After meeting members of Association of Coaster Enthusiasts last year, she made the decision. “The Thunderbolt won out. I admire ACE members for being able to ride the coaster; I’m a wimp when it comes to that.” She will include the Potato Patch in the foreground.
A man who’s image she included in her carousel painting told her it was his “favorite ride.” Putting real people in her paintings isn’t always easy. To get the right positions for people rowing boats in the Kennywood lagoon, she posed family friends Mike and Jean Migliozzi outside in lawn chains with their two children. Kristen and Leighann. Linda stuck a rake and broom in Migliozzi’s hands to simulate boat oars. The sight was not any funnier than another couple sitting inside on dining room chairs with the man holding tennis rackets in a similar fashion. She snapped photographs of both families and began preliminary sketches before starting on the actual “Coasting through Kennywood” painting last year.
The nostalgic quality of her paintings appeals to Kennywood fans. Many are given as wedding presents and a number hang on walls in dentist’ offices, perhaps to put patients at ease.
Her obvious affection for Kennywood shows in her work. But she is not a native Pittsburgher who grew to love the park at Kennywood picnics of during childhood visits. Linda grew up in Eddington, Pa., now Bensalem, northeast of Philadelphia. As a child, her artist talent was evident—a “blessing” that allowed her to show people she loved them.
She met her future husband when her high school orchestra visited Bethel Park High School, where he went to school. After initial letter writing they lost touch until two years later, when he contacted her. He proposed to her on their third date—after a day at Kennywood. On their first anniversary, he felt a calling to leave his job as a salesman at AT&T and become a minister. When he finished seminary, they started a family. She became a stay-at-home mom with a portrait art career on the side. Her husband and children have been very supportive and patient with her artistic endeavors.
She eventually began doing hometown sites, including Kaufmann’s, Market Square and the Cathedral of Learning. The customer who purchased the original of her Kaufmann’s painting told her if she ever did the Kennywood carousel, she would buy it. It was an image Linda already had in her mind. “It just kind of jelled,” she says. “Kennywood was real special and the carousel was real special.”
She called WQED’s Rick Sebak, who produced the documentary “Kennywood Memories” and asked for his help about where to start. He referred her to Ms. Rosemeyer, and her series began. She chose to end it after five paintings mostly because collectors only have so much wall space. “Now that I started painting Kennywood, I don’t want to quit,” says Linda. “We’ll see what the future holds.”
She still has two more paintings in a series she started featuring Kennywood’s carousel mounts. She has done “The Spirited Pegasus,” the lead horse, and “Kennywood’s Black Knight.” Linda will finish the series with the lion and tiger, the only two animals that are not horses.
She also did a pen-and-ink conceptual sketch of Kennywood’s centennial midway. Because she was pleased with the result, she is considering a pen-and-ink series of the park. It’s something to contemplate while she demonstrates her talent during the park’s Grand Victorian Days on July 1 through 5.
Her next undertaking is “A Holiday Tradition,” featuring the former downtown Pittsburgh Joseph Horne’s decorated with its famous corner Christmas tree in lights. She is using archival photographs for reference. The painting will be used by the American Cancer Society on its Christmas cards this year.
Perhaps the most special painting she has done is “Meet Me Under the Kaufmann’s Clock, Too,” done to recall her husband’s family’s annual visits to see the windows at Christmas time. She included her in-laws, Jean and Tom Barnicott, and husband, Tom, and sister-in-law Terri as children. She painted the picture after Jean Barnicott was killed in an accident in 1991. As the elder Tom Barnicott recovered for 90 days in Allegheny General Hospital, he could see the steeple of a downtown church, which Linda included in her painting. She also added the 31 Sheridan/Elliott streetcar to honor the neighborhood where her husband’s church, Emanuel United Methodist, is located.
In her small, bright, home studio, she has more than 1,000 pastel chalks and colored pencils, ranging from hard to soft. Her favorites are handmade in France by Sennelier, known in artist circles for their quality – and cost. Noah’s Ark brought them across the ocean to her. “It took until I painted Noah’s Ark until I could afford them. “