Lovely Ligonier

The weather forecast is for seasonal temperatures and sunny skies this weekend, so I hope you have plans to get outdoors!

Tom and I are excited – we’re leaving today for our anniversary weekend trip to Geneva-on-the-Lake – but I’m still sad about missing out on Fort Ligonier Days this year (canceled due to the pandemic).  So while we’ll have fun celebrating our 40th anniversary, I’m still a bit disappointed, as this would have been our 10th year at Fort Ligonier Days.

Ligonier has always been one of my very favorite places in Western Pennsylvania, and I had always dreamed of painting it.  Then one day in 2014, I was looking at old photos (so old they were taken with a film camera!) from way back when I first thought about someday painting this beautiful town. Before I knew it, I was putting the pastel board up on my easel, and I created “Silent Night in Ligonier.”

I think this print perfectly captures the holiday ambiance of this old-fashioned town, sparkling with lights and freshly fallen snow. I even lit up the church for Christmas Eve services. My aim was to pull the viewer into the scene with warmth and saturated pure color.  Though a few things about the “Diamond” have changed in recent years (the bandstand area has been refurbished, etc.), I think my painting expresses the beauty and charm of historic Ligonier.

Like many of my prints, “Silent Night in Ligonier” is also available in a number of products, including a handmade metal ornament and a magnet.

Because we won’t be able to meet face-to-face at Fort Ligonier Days this weekend, I’m offering FREE SHIPPING on everything on my site (except those heavy candles!) from today until Sunday night at midnight. It’s almost like being there… except you don’t have to carry the art all around town with you and get it back to your car!

So take a look at my website and see if anything strikes your fancy!  I look forward to seeing you in person next time.

Noteworthy Notecards

When I first started painting the nostalgic landmarks of Pittsburgh, I created prints of each of those original paintings. It’s always gratifying when customers discover my early works, but did you know that many of those prints are also available in a different, very affordable format?

Somewhere along the line, I got the idea to make some of my prints into notecards.  They may be small in size, but they still serve as gentle reminders of days gone by.  From views overlooking the Golden Triangle from Mt. Washington to scenes of our city neighborhoods… Kaufmann’s and Horne’s, the old department stores we knew and loved… Kennywood’s coasters and one-of-a-kind attractions like the Carousel and Noah’s Ark… as well as our sports teams and our local universities… these are just a few of the notecards inspired by my paintings.

These mighty little cards have an impact far beyond their small size:

They’ve been sent to loved ones who’ve moved away to remind them of home.

Some folks send out my notecards – especially winter scenes and my Jolly Old Elf series – as their holiday cards to friends, family, and clients.  In fact, for 17 years, the Pittsburgh Chapter of the American Cancer Society used seasonal images that I donated to create their holiday fundraiser cards to help support cancer research and prevention – a program that raised over $750,000!

Many customers have purchased my notecards as corporate gifts and awards, and they also make great thank-you cards.

I have matted the cards so they’ll fit into any 8 x 10 frame. I’ve also framed them like mini-prints – just perfect for those small, hard to decorate areas of your home.  Some customers use these little framed notecards to accent one of my larger prints and create a themed “memory wall” devoted to Kennywood fun, Pittsburgh sports, or views of the Point.  I love helping them pick out their favorites!

All cards (except for the Santa series) are blank inside, with the story of the painting printed on the back.

This is a great time to stock up for the holidays or as a little “thinking-of-you” gift for a special someone.  And if you would like to order a set of notecards or my Jolly Old Elf holiday cards this week, I will be happy to sign each one in gold on the bottom front for you.

Just click here to go directly to the Notecard/Holiday Card section on my website. 

Kitchen Art

Ever wonder where magnets come from?  Legend has it that they were first discovered about 4000 years ago in Magnesia in ancient Greece when a shepherd happened to step onto a rock, and the iron nails in his sandals got stuck there.

Magnets have been around for thousands of years and used in many ways, in everything from false eyelashes to watches, from medical devices to entertainment (magicians in Ancient Egypt used them to create the illusion of objects floating in mid-air).  Personally, my favorite way to use magnets is to create “Kitchen Art!”

Magnets are my thing. I have tons of them!  It all started when a fellow artist at the Pittsburgh Home and Garden Show showed me how he had gotten magnets made of his photographs.

I love the idea of creating your own little mini art gallery on your refrigerator, and I’m definitely not the only one who is a fan of Kitchen Art.  What I like best is when you have young children or grandchildren like I do, you can use my magnets – they’re very strong and pretty to look at! – to display your kids’ artwork.

I hear stories from people who collect my magnets to use in their office space, turning it into a little personal art gallery.  In fact, UPMC just bought 30 of my magnets for their new hires.

Others have used them as thank-you gifts for clients or gifts for family and friends who are Pittsburgh expatriates.  And a new Christmas store that will soon be opening in Monongahela just bought a ton of my Santa magnets!

Another great idea is to enclose a magnet with a holiday card or tuck one into a Christmas stocking.  For instance, one of my clients collected my Kennywood magnets for all of her children as a special little gift on Christmas morning.

The magnet shopping experience on my website just got a makeover!  I used to sell magnet bundles in groups like sports, amusement parks, or Pittsburgh scenes.  Now you can choose your own bundle of any 5 magnets – just pick your favorites and mix and match them any way you like.

Which magnets would be in your Top Five?  Click here to see the entire gallery!

“Riding Kennywood’s Auto Race and Train”

For some reason, my painting “Riding Kennywood’s Auto Race and Train” has been on my mind this week… perhaps because it reminds me of some of my favorite Kennywood memories.

One feature of the painting is a part of the park that’s very special to me, and it’s not even a ride! Each spring, I eagerly look forward to seeing the flower clock – with all the rides and people and noise, it just feels like a breath of freshness. I suppose it’s the gardener in me. I love the flowers and how each year they design the clock differently.

Why did I decide to paint the Auto Race instead of a more prominent ride? Truth be told, it’s actually my favorite ride in the park. I loved riding with my girls when they were young. The old-fashioned wooden track and retro cars were charming, the ride was fast and exhilarating, and we loved waving to Daddy.

I couldn’t wait until last year when my granddaughter was finally old enough to ride, and I could ride it again with her. Maybe next year I can ride it two more times – one with each of the twins!

I also have many precious memories of riding the train, formerly known as the Olde Kennywood Railroad. That little train with the fabulous river view (and a local history lesson as well – there were even Revolutionary War soldiers!) was my “Old Reliable” – when I was pregnant and couldn’t ride much else, it was my go-to ride. I loved seeing the history of Pittsburgh’s steel industry, with the US Steel Edgar Thomson works just across the river and the old Joe Magarac statue, standing so tall and mighty. It was especially lovely to ride at twilight – the magnificent view with the lights shimmering on the river was breathtaking.

But one of my favorite parts of the train ride was “Laffin’ Sal” – a rather creepy mechanical woman with a crazed raucous laugh. At that time, Sal occupied the “ticket office” at the train station, but over the years, she has been placed at various attractions around the park.

I think she was my favorite because of a story Tom told me – when he was a little boy, Sal was located right by the entrance. Her manic laugh scared the pants off poor little Tommy, and he would get away from her as fast as he could, silently shaking in his boots. So as a bit of a tease, I took great joy in painting her into the piece. Sal has moved to the Penny Arcade now, but some still say she’s the scariest attraction in the park!

If you look in the background, you can also see the park’s mascot, Kenny Kangaroo. I made sure to place Kenny in my Kennywood paintings whenever I could. I’ve gotten to know a couple of the park employees who played Kenny over the years, and it’s always a pleasure to talk with them. They certainly have some stories to tell!

As usual, a number of people served as models for “Riding Kennywood’s Auto Race and Train,” including someone very special who has recently passed away. Fred Weber, Kennywood’s maintenance chief, was one of the kindest men I’ve ever met. He was a fatherly type who knew how to keep the coasters soaring (and the trains running on time!). Fred had retired not long before I created this painting (I had photographed him walking near the train with his daughter the previous summer). As he rests from his labors, I like to think that I have celebrated his life and friendship in this particular painting.

“Riding Kennywood’s Auto Race and Train” is one of only two originals from the Kennywood series that I still have here in my home gallery. I get to enjoy them myself until they’re sold. When anyone asks, I tell them my originals live on my walls until they find a happy home. Some I get to keep longer than others; I make no apologies!

The framing is exquisite on this one, too. I like to think about how this painting will be around for centuries. It won’t fade or crack like oils often do, though the painting is pure pigment, the same that is in oils. Of course, the prints are beautiful, too! But there’s something about originals… they just have a special look about them.

“Coasting Through Kennywood”

After 31 years of painting Pittsburgh, a lot of people ask me which one of the paintings is my favorite. I always answer that it’s a no-brainer – “Coasting Through Kennywood” is the hands-down winner because I filled it with so many happy memories, secret messages, and beloved family and friends.

It seems like just yesterday, on my very first visit to Pittsburgh (and to Kennywood) in 1977, when a much-younger Tom and I stood on the bridge overlooking the lagoon, watching people paddling around in the old aluminum boats. (Does anyone else still remember the aluminum dust that would get on the bottom of your jeans after riding the boats?) But mostly we only had eyes for each other! As we leaned on the wrought iron fence, I told Tom about two dreams I had had earlier in the week.

In the first dream, he had bought me a gaudy blue and white plastic engagement ring – like something you’d find in a bubblegum machine. The second dream was about us going to a Justice of the Peace to get married, and while we were sitting in the waiting room, a newly married couple came through the double doors. We asked them how their ceremony had gone, and they said, “We felt like we were cattle – herded in and herded out. Go to a church and get married!” Keep in mind, we had only known each other for about three months, and this was basically our third date.

Meanwhile, Tom just stared at me. He appeared flabbergasted, turned on his heel and walked away, leaving me alone on the bridge. I immediately regretted sharing the dreams with him – I was afraid I had scared him off! What I didn’t know was that Tom had been waiting for just the right time to propose to me, and he was a nervous wreck all day. My strangely prophetic matrimonial dreams really threw him a curve ball!

Spoiler alert: He did propose to me the next night, just five minutes before I boarded the plane to go home to New Jersey.

This painting also has a “secret message” – the aluminum boat labeled #22. I don’t know if there was an actual boat #22 in the Kennywood fleet, but I picked that number because it has a special meaning for us. When Tom and I first met, he sold shoes at South Hills Village in Upper St. Clair. As a matter of fact, we often said that selling shoes prepared him for ministry because it kept him on his knees, and he had to work with soles (souls)!

Tom was such a super salesman that his coworkers nicknamed him “Cuda” – short for Barracuda. His employee number at the store was #22, and he had a habit of writing “22” on some of his dollar bills.

So back in May, on our first date in New Jersey where I lived at that time, he accompanied me on a college art project deep in the rural farmland near New Hope, Pennsylvania. Not knowing that Tom didn’t know one end of a screwdriver from the other, I asked him to help me tear down a chicken coop and cut down part of a tree.

He was pretty relieved when it was time to take a break, and we took a ride in the woods. We came across a little ice cream place called Dilly’s. After we ordered, the girl behind the counter gave Tom his change, and written on the bill (in Tom’s handwriting) was his number 22. That bill had made it all the way across the state, making the day even more amazing, more magical!

The people in Boat #22 are very dear friends of ours. The little blonde girl who is pointing grew up with my daughter Alyssa (who is shown in the striped shirt and red shorts standing by Tom and Brittany on the right). Believe it or not, when they posed for this painting, it wasn’t in a rowboat at Kennywood – it was in their backyard, sitting on a picnic bench.

Michael, the dad, was holding an old broom and a broken rake as a substitute for oars. Unlike a photographer, I have a little creative license when it comes to setting the stage for a painting!

I put many other “real” people in “Coasting Through Kennywood,” including my lifelong friends who were visiting us. You can see them standing by the lamppost behind Tom and the girls. Everyone in this painting is very special to me, including my first mentor who sadly lost his life to cancer at the age of 49. He was a graphic artist, inventor, and the owner of the biggest, heartiest laugh I’ve ever heard. I like to think he lives on in my painting, looking out over the lake near the Jack Rabbit.

This is also the first time that Kenny Kangaroo, Kennywood’s mascot, makes an appearance in one of my paintings. You may also notice that this is the area where my tent used to stand during the Grand Victorian Festival and Celebrate America, Kennywood’s annual summer celebrations. For 18 years, I was a part of the family fun at these special festivals, along with jugglers, mimes, and musicians.

In fact, I met some of the nicest people in Pittsburgh on that very spot. The Kennywood Trolley, which often passed by my tent during parades at the park, is also part of the composition.

A collector once asked how much I wanted for the original painting of “Coasting Through Kennywood.” All I could say was “Sorry, it’s not for sale.” Then I had to explain to Tom why I couldn’t sell it… and of course, he understood. The painting is just so full of special people and treasured memories, we decided it would have to remain in our personal collection.

Does “Coasting through Kennywood” remind you of summer fun? The print is available on my website (as well as cards, magnets and bookmarks) at

Puppy Love

Thank you all who listened to my interview last week and offered insights and comments about it.  I really enjoyed all of your responses (especially your own stories) and hope you’ll share the interview with your family, friends and colleagues.

Last week, I also showed you some photos of our “blank canvas” front yard.  On Tuesday, we “painted” it by planting dozens of trees, bushes and flowers.  It was a true labor of love but still really hard work – several days later, Tom and I both still have sore muscles!

We also added a birdbath that was stained a pretty golden brown and laid down some really big, heavy stepping stones that added a nice touch to the landscape.  All that’s left is to put down our mulch and seed the patch of grass at the center of the yard, and it will be finished!

My favorite part (besides, of course, working alongside Tom to make our yard beautiful) was the encouragement we got from so many people who passed by over the last two weeks, cheering us on while we were working and telling us that they’ve enjoyed watching our progress.

I’ve mentioned before how landscaping our yard reminds me of creating a pastel painting.  It starts with a drawing, creating a pleasing composition, acquiring all the components needed to paint, and then once all the details are ironed out, applying the pastels. Then in the end, I will look it over, make a few adjustments, and finish up with a few added extras.
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However, I didn’t spend my entire week gardening (though it sure felt like it!) – I also finished up a delightful commission.  Whenever I’m creating a painting, I feel it’s important to learn as much as I can from my client about the subject, whether it’s a building, a person… or in this case, a dog! Yes, the commission was a portrait of a sweet little Sheltie named Jasper.

When Jasper was a puppy, he was a cute little fluffball who was intrigued by all the activity in the family’s backyard pond. You see, the pond was full of Koi, and Jasper just couldn’t get enough of watching those colorful fish.  Perching on the rocks overlooking the water, he intently tracked them as they swam to and fro.  Eventually, he couldn’t resist the temptation any longer and took a flying leap into the pond. This would be the first of many times Jasper decided to cool off and frolic with the fish.

Painting Jasper was challenging, as I needed to draw his head from one photo and put it onto his body from another photo. I also rearranged the positions of the Koi swimming in the pond, making sure to get their best sides! The 12″ x 16″ painting was finally completed by tweaking the placement of the rocks and greenery and the application of color to make the elements really pop.

Here is Jasper’s journey from sketch to finished portrait!

Why do I paint commission pieces, which can be some of the hardest subjects to capture? Because for me, my art has always been about bringing happiness to others.  If I can create a painting that brings you great joy to hang on your walls, or if I can use my pastels to capture a special moment in time and tell that story, then I’ve done my job well.

In a way, original pastel paintings have a life of their own. They are unique statements that stand out on your walls and make your home feel extra special.  And these pure pigments on museum board, when framed correctly, will last for centuries. Pastel paintings will not darken or crack like many oil paintings do.  They’re timeless keepsakes to hand down through the generations.

As we’re spending so much time at home these days, we have more opportunity to reflect on good times and special people (or pets!) who have made our lives richer.  Perhaps a unique, one-of-a-kind painting would be a wonderful addition to your family home.

Have a great week and stay healthy.

Another 15 Minutes of Fame!

It’s amazing how much you can accomplish, even when you’re stuck at home.

Tom and I have been working all week, creating our front-yard garden.  I’ll admit, we’re pretty worn out! But it’s been a real labor of love and so fulfilling, looking forward to the beauty we will see this summer every time we look out our front door.  I had hoped to have it finished in time to show you the completed garden here, but thanks to the rain, we’re looking at finishing sometime early next week.  But that’s okay – this will give us a chance to lay out the second load of dirt exactly the way we want the garden to flow. As you can see, even our granddaughter Aria is getting her hands dirty “helping” (actually, mostly playing in the dirt)!

Building our garden has been really satisfying, but not nearly as exciting as the Big Event of my week!  Despite Andy Warhol predicting everyone would be famous for 15 minutes, I somehow managed to get an extra 45.

On Monday, I was interviewed by Pittsburgh’s own Becky Auer, a renowned speaker, author and entrepreneur.  Becky has started three multi-million-dollar businesses and was ranked #20 in the world for small business coaching.

I was honored when Becky asked to interview me for her Spotlight Success Series.  I was super nervous about it, but she made me feel very much at ease and comfortable in the interview. Becky and I chatted for about 45 minutes about my life and career as an artist, while she skillfully used paintings and other graphics to illustrate each topic.

Now here’s the amazing part… it wasn’t more than a day or two later that Business Innovators Radio picked up the interview for their online Business Innovators Magazine! It was pretty mind-blowing to find myself sharing the same page with Gwen Stefani, Mark Cuban and Dave Ramsey!  So yeah, I was definitely walking on air all day.

I really wanted to share my good news with you and share the interview as well. Here’s the link to the interview at Business Innovators Magazine:

Or you can watch it on YouTube:

I hope you can take a little break and come into my studio and sit a spell while I tell some of my stories, smile a whole lot, and try not to stumble over my words. Just click on one of the links above.

P.S.  – Here’s a shout-out to all of you who have written me personally to share your stories related to my paintings. I can’t express how much joy it brings me that you care enough to write me about those memories and to know that my paintings are meaningful for you.

“Wishing Under the Horne’s Tree”

This image features Linda Barnicott's painting "Wishing Under the Horne's Tree."

Being at home 24/7 does have an upside… I now have time to garden, cook (I’m definitely improving, just ask my husband!), paint with my friend in California via Zoom, and get my stories written down.  Today’s story is about “Wishing Under the Horne’s Tree,” the last painting in my Pittsburgh Remembered series.

As I’ve mentioned before, when Tom and I first started dating back in the late 1970s, ours was a long-distance romance – I lived in New Jersey and Tom was from Bethel Park.  We were only able to be together about once a month, so every minute was precious.  As we grew closer and eventually fell in love, we made it a point on our visits to take each other to the most amazing and unique places in our hometowns.

So when I visited Tom during the holiday season in 1977, he wanted to show me how Pittsburgh celebrates the holidays. One thing he knew I would love was the KDKA Children’s Hospital broadcasts from the windows of the “Big Three” department stores – Gimbels, Kaufmann’s and Horne’s – where broadcasters like Jack Bogut and Art Pallan would greet long lines of visitors who were making donations to Children’s Hospital of Pittsbugh.  For their generosity, they would receive a special treat – always something to do with “Farkleberries!” One year, it was a Farkleberry Tart, another year it was Farkleberry Brew, and then another year they served Farkleberry Snickerdoodles!  What’s a Farkleberry?  Who knows? But whatever they are, they’re really good!

During my first visit to Pittsburgh in December, we strolled hand in hand, taking in Kaufmann’s whimsical animated windows, then headed over to Joseph Horne’s Department Store at the corner of Penn Avenue and Stanwix Street. In particular, we wanted to visit the Santa Shop on the 9th floor.  We exited the elevator, walking through shimmering holiday decorations of gold, silver, red, and green on our way to see the Jolly Old Elf himself.

At one point, I was standing near a beautiful Christmas tree, and suddenly I realized it was talking to me! I stood there with my mouth hanging open as it complimented me on my outfit, describing it in great detail.  Obviously, this was no ordinary tree!  How did this happen?  A holiday miracle, perhaps?

This is an image taken by Linda Barnicott in the early 1990s of Horne's Tree in Downtown Pittsburgh.

Fast forward to 1990… I was planning the third painting in my “Pittsburgh Remembered” series, and I knew from the start that it had to be “Wishing Under the Horne’s Tree.” In my mind, I returned to that magical day in 1977 when I first saw and fell in love with Horne’s Department Store, especially that massive, sparkling outdoor tree soaring up the side of the building, a symbol of joy and hope.  I was determined to do my best to capture that feeling on canvas.

It just so happened that when it came time to pose people for the painting, my best friends from New Jersey, Kathy, Ron, and their young children, Dawn and Scott, were visiting.  I put them to work as models (along with my daughter, Brittany), asking them to pretend they were gazing into dazzling holiday store windows as I quickly snapped some photos.

This is an image taken by Linda Barnicott in the early 1990s of Horne's Department Store in Downtown Pittsburgh.

At the time I was planning the composition of this painting, I was at a local gallery signing prints of “Walking in the Light of the Cathedral.”  I was a bit surprised when a number of customers asked where I was going to put my husband in my next painting.  I didn’t realize so many folks had noticed that I had been using Tom as a model.

So when I returned home that night, I told Tom, “It seems they’re expecting you to be in all of my paintings!” He actually loved the idea of making more “Alfred Hitchcock” type cameos, and once again, he put on his raincoat and hat and posed for me, leaning against the dining room wall, pretending it was the Horne’s building.  I drew him in the painting with arms crossed and looking to the side.

At that time, the movie “Dick Tracy” was in theaters, and Tom pointed out that I had painted his raincoat a little too yellow – he argued that it looked like Dick Tracy was in the painting, sporting his trademark yellow overcoat.  I did see his point, so I toned down the color of his raincoat a couple notches to a nice neutral beige.

If you look carefully at the painting, you’ll notice there’s a silhouette of a gentleman looking out one of the office windows alongside the tree.  Within a year of the release of the print, a man approached me at a gallery signing and insisted I had painted him in his office. He was delighted by this accidental inclusion, and I was happy to have brought a smile to his face.

One of my favorite parts of the painting is the little girl on the street, looking behind her at the Scotty dog. Even though the girl and the dog were not models and didn’t represent anyone in particular, I was charmed by her childish curiosity and laughter and had to include her in the painting.

Later, I met a fellow artist who became a friend and mentor of mine over the years.  It turns out his father helped put up the Horne’s tree every year.  He was so proud of his dad’s contribution to the Pittsburgh holiday scene.

This is an image of Linda Barnicott's painting "Wishing Under the Horne's Tree" after it was completed and before it was framed.

It was under Horne’s Christmas Tree that Tom and I first imagined our life together and dreamed of creating our own holiday traditions with our future children.  Horne’s Department Store with its magnificent tree has been a place where many wishes have been made and dreams were born, so it made perfect sense to entitle my painting “Wishing Under the Horne’s Tree.”

If you are interested in “Wishing Under the Horne’s Tree” or any of my other paintings or gifts, just browse my website. Shipping is free, except for candles (they are just so darn heavy!).

Have a great week, stay safe, and stay healthy!

“Meet Me Under Kaufmann’s Clock”

This image shows Linda Barnicott's painting "Meet Me Under Kaufmann's Clock."

Here we are, another week into social distancing. It’s a good thing I have so many stories!

This week I want to tell you the story behind the very first painting in my Pittsburgh Remembered series, “Meet Me Under Kaufmann’s Clock.”  It was the start of my career as a Pittsburgh artist.

In 1989, the nice people of Kustom Korners Gallery in Village Square Mall allowed me to set up my tables and pastel chalks out in front of their gallery and paint portraits. Not just “quickies,” mind you, but rich, detailed portraits.  I wanted to show more than just a face – I wanted to capture that person’s essence, their spirit.

One day the owners asked if I would consider painting a Pittsburgh streetcar scene.  I was intrigued by this new challenge and readily agreed.  The plan was that if it wasn’t good enough to become a print, they would still put it in their front window and sell the original.

There was just one thing… I had never in my life painted a building, a street, or a streetcar. I didn’t have the slightest idea how to paint what I had just agreed to paint.  Lucky for me, I lived next door to an astonishingly talented graphic designer named Gary.  Now, Gary was one of those people who could make you believe anything is possible. He was funny and had an infectious laugh that made me smile from ear to ear. He offered to teach me perspective, which is vital to properly capture a city scene – and quite different from the techniques I used in my portraits.  Many hours (and many tears of frustration on my part!) were spent with Gary explaining perspective to me again and again, until I finally understood how to draw a building without it looking as if it were leaning or about to fall over.

What would be the perfect setting for this new experiment?  It didn’t take me long to decide on the corner of Fifth and Smithfield in downtown Pittsburgh – the corner where Kaufmann’s Department Store stood with its beautiful landmark clock proudly overlooking the busy intersection. I may not have been raised in Pittsburgh, but I understood how meeting under Kaufmann’s clock was a tradition for generations of Pittsburghers. Meeting under Kaufmann’s Clock was how everyone knew exactly where to find each other before the days of cell phones and texting.

The day I traveled into town to take my reference photographs, it was cold and wet. I remember checking out every vantage point, trying to find just the right angle.  Of course, the clock would be the centerpiece of the painting, but I also wanted to include the Kaufmann’s sign and architecture and the Fifth and Smithfield intersection itself.  At just the right moment, I snapped a photo of an old truck that had stopped at the light, which made a great addition to the composition. I also included an old fashioned streetcar (as requested by my publisher) with its lights aglow.

Inspired by the romantic greeting cards my husband sent me when we were dating, I wanted to include a young couple meeting under the clock.  My publisher suggested I add a person decorating the store window, and so I came up with the plan for Tom to pose for me in my studio, pretending to hang a wreath in the holiday display. I didn’t know it then, but like “Waldo,” “Where’s Tom?” ended up becoming one of my trademarks… People began to search for his hidden figure somewhere in each new painting.

This image shows Linda Barnicott working on her painting "Meet Me Under Kaufmann's Clock."

As I began to paint, I was inspired by a Texas artist named G. Harvey.  He had a way of creating city scenes that were more than just buildings, filled with nostalgia, emotion, and the energy of people’s lives.  From Mr. Harvey, I learned to be courageous and paint with feeling.  As I continued to develop my composition, I followed his example and planned my painting to capture a moment at twilight, when the city lights began to glow, and even frosty winter streets would reflect their warmth.

When I finished the piece, I brought it next door to show Gary.  I told him I was going to call it “The Meeting Place,” since that’s where everyone meets.  He shook his head and said that the title didn’t do anything for the painting. “But Gary,” I countered, “everyone says, ‘Meet Me Under Kaufmann’s Clock!'” “So why don’t you call it that?” he said.

I thought it was an awfully long title, but I went with it anyway.  It turned out to be the right decision – I’ll bet that title sold just as many prints as the painting itself did!  At that time, the Pittsburgh Press had customers from all over the country, missing their hometown, who received the paper by mail, so my publisher ran an ad in the Sunday Press with a small black and white photo of the painting.  Frankly, the ad was awful – you could hardly make out the photo at all – but the title above it read “Meet Me Under Kaufmann’s Clock” in big black letters. We soon began receiving an amazing number of orders from displaced Pittsburghers from all over the country, just from that one ad!

“Meet Me Under Kaufmann’s Clock” was my first limited-edition print, and I signed each one in order as they were sold.  It seemed like every day the gallery would call and ask me to come by and sign more. On one occasion, I walked into the gallery to find a long line of customers waiting – each one holding a print! The framers in the back of the store playfully teased me that they were sick and tired of framing my print.

I was shocked! After all, it had only been a few months since I dropped off the original with the printer in Ohio, when I was a nervous wreck that the color on the print may not match the original. It was my first experience with a printer. Tom and I had driven 5 hours to get there, and it took what seemed like forever to try to get the print colors as close to the original painting as possible.

I remember calling my sister that night and confessing my fears about the print, how hard it was to color-match, and so on. To my surprise, she had just one request – that she wanted the #2 print in every edition from now on.  I asked, “How do you know there’s going to be a second painting?” She had more confidence in me than I did! Now, after all these years, she has the complete catalog of my art career, and I finally got some confidence!

Looking back at my first artist signing, Kustom Korners was nice enough to create a big event around it.  I was delighted to see that they had put my name up on the new electronic marquee outside of Northway Mall on McKnight Road.  I pointed out to Tom, “Look, my name is up in lights!” Tom’s dad used to say that I finally made the Barnicott name famous.

As I was sitting in the front of the gallery signing prints, a very tall man approached me, dressed in a business suit and beige trench coat.  With tears in his eyes, he explained that he needed to buy the painting because it reminded him of his mother, who had passed away.  “When I was a boy,” he said with a smile, “I felt so grown up when finally she told me I could run around town on my own, as long as I met her back under Kaufmann’s Clock at 1:00.”

His story really touched my heart, and by the time I returned home, I realized something… my portraits are created to make one family happy, but with hometown memories, one painting can bring happiness to many people. As I told Tom, “Painting Pittsburgh is like painting a portrait for the whole city, not just one family at a time.”

So until next week… stay home, stay healthy, stay positive!

“Artistic License” in Market Square

Linda Barnicott's painting "Sharing the Season at Market Square."

The other night, Tom and I decided to take a drive, and somehow we ended up in Market Square.  Normally it would be bustling with people and cars, but last night it was a ghost town – quite different from what I’m used to from the winter Holiday Markets and summer Night Markets.  The quiet and stillness reminded me of one of my earlier works, “Sharing the Season At Market Square,” and I thought you might enjoy hearing the story behind that painting…

If you have ever yearned for a huge fish sandwich, clam chowder or crab cakes, you may have headed straight for one of Pittsburgh’s most historic restaurants – The Original Oyster House in Market Square, which has been satisfying hungry Pittsburghers since 1870.  I wanted the Oyster House to be the focal point of my new Market Square painting, which was going to be the fourth of five in my “Pittsburgh Remembered.” Not only is Market Square a very quaint little block in the center of downtown Pittsburgh, but its eclectic restaurants and historic buildings are surrounded by huge, modern skyscrapers.  As I looked over the architectural contrasts from a bench in the Square in 1991, I knew I just had to capture this remarkable scene on canvas.

Another popular business in Market Square is just down the street from the Oyster House in the 1902 Building, home of the Nicholas Coffee and Tea Company.  They stock an amazing selection of aromatic teas and coffees as well as old fashioned candies and other treats.

Of course, I wanted to highlight the most unique buildings of Market Square, like the 1902 Building and a few others.  Unfortunately, their locations were not necessarily convenient for my composition!  When I took my photographs, I realized those beautiful buildings were just too far away.

This image shows a photo of Market Square in Pittsburgh in the early 1990s.

I asked myself, “How can I make it a better painting?” And this is where what we call “artistic license” comes in!  Because in art it’s okay to break the rules whenever you want, you can play around with the composition to create exactly what you want to portray.  In fact, I did some serious remodeling of Market Square, erasing an entire city block to bring these distant buildings forward so the viewer could get a better look at them.

That also meant I had to discard a few buildings as well, one of which was a nondescript beige cement-block storefront. It added nothing to the painting, so out it went!  I mean, who would notice, right?  Turns out the only person who really missed it was the owner of the building, who laughingly said, “I would have bought a print if my building was in it.” So I lost one sale, but it was a sacrifice that was needed to make the painting the best it could be!

This image shows a photo of Market Square in Pittsburgh in the early 1990s.

Next, I had to decide what season it would be in my painting.  I ended up choosing to show the Square, like the other paintings in the series, in a winter motif.  Next, I had to wait patiently for a snowy Sunday morning in Pittsburgh. (It had to be Sunday because I needed fresh snow and none of the usual foot traffic.)  Finally, the perfect winter Sunday morning came along.  Then as I entered the Square, I saw a woman feeding bread to pigeons… and not just a few pigeons, but what seemed like hundreds! I started snapping photographs as fast as I could as the birds flew all around her.

This gave me an idea…

As soon as I arrived home after my photo shoot, I immediately fired up the VCR and watched Disney’s Mary Poppins.  I fast-forwarded to the poignant scene of the old woman sitting on the cathedral steps selling breadcrumbs to feed the birds, and I quickly sketched her.

Because I wanted to get her anatomy just right, I asked a woman from our church to model for me, which she did while sitting in my dining room. Her husband also modeled, standing by the entrance to the Oyster House, deep in conversation with Tom.  My little daughter Brittany, who was just four years old at the time, also wanted to be in the painting, so I added her as the lady’s bird-feeding assistant.

One other important element that I added later was the Salvation Army bell ringer, standing
on the sidewalk collecting donations in his trademark red kettle. I wanted to symbolize the importance of giving to those who are struggling, especially at that time of year.

Market Square has certainly changed a lot since over the years, and I like to think that my early work has helped preserve our memories of the way Pittsburgh used to be… even with a little artistic license!

“Sharing the Season at Market Square” is now available as a giclee print (the original limited edition lithographs are sold out) on my website.