Hail to Pitt!

I hope you are all well. With the coming of Daylight Savings Time, Tom and I have been enjoying the extra sunlight, and we love seeing new life emerging in our garden with the change in weather.

But in addition to the seasonal joys of the arrival of Spring, this last week has also brought us a bit of excitement. (I’m sure you’re asking “Excitement? What’s that?”) I was honored to be part of a special surprise for someone… an anniversary surprise to be exact!

It all started in January when I received an email from Michelle, wondering if my painting, “Game Day at Pitt Stadium,” might still be available. Both Michelle and her husband Corey have deep roots at Pitt.  They’re both Pitt grads who met and started dating while working at Pitt, and they were married at Heinz Chapel. They hope their 2-year old son will continue the family tradition and attend Pitt when he grows up.

Corey had wanted a print of my painting from the time it first came out, but by the time he got around to purchasing it, he was disappointed to find it was completely sold out. Since then, he had looked for it everywhere, but to no avail.

Michelle, knowing how much he wanted the print, thought it would be a perfect gift to celebrate their 10th anniversary. It was obvious from the moment I met Michelle how much she loves her husband and wanted to fulfill this wish for him.

Michelle came to my home gallery to see the original painting and fell in love with it. I promised her I would take the painting and have the glass switched from regular glass to museum glass.  (Back when the painting was originally framed, museum glass wasn’t commonly used.)  She returned the week before their anniversary to purchase the painting and loved how the new glass enhanced its beauty.

After I had shared some stories with Michelle about how I developed “Game Day at Pitt Stadium,” she had a special request.  Could she and Corey come back to my studio on the date of their actual anniversary? She thought it would be a wonderful surprise to present him with the painting, and I could share those stories with both of them.

So last Friday at 2 pm, true to her word, Michelle and Corey appeared at my home. He had no clue what was going on and was absolutely surprised! At first, he thought she had found a print but soon was delighted to find out he had been gifted with the original pastel painting.

Michelle sent me photos of “Game Day at Pitt Stadium” hanging in their beautiful home and wrote me this thoughtful note…

“The original pastel now hangs in our home office among our other Pitt memorabilia. The detail in the pastel is amazing! The colors are so bright and vibrant. We have such a special connection to Pitt, and this will be a cherished piece for us for many years to come.”

There is something very special about owning a piece of original art.  It brings me great joy to know that every painting I have ever sold has gone to a good home.

Road Trip Weekend!

I pray you all have been well this week. As for me, I’ve had more excitement and adventure in the last week than I have in the past year!

As you may have read in my most recent newsletters, I’ve been working on my upcoming painting of The Grand View Ship Hotel that was once located in Schellsburg, PA.  This week we took our first road trip in what seems like AGES to collect the some of the resources I needed to develop the painting.

I’ve always loved this part of a project. It’s a little like being a detective, sleuthing about and gathering images and information that will help bring my painting to life.

Last week, I mentioned that I was looking for a specific vintage car. My client told me he had always dreamed of having a gold 1969 Studebaker Avanti. Putting out the word to all my readers paid off big time, because I was blessed with the perfect answer right away. Soon after last week’s newsletter went out, a reader got in touch to tell me he knows a guy who has the car we were looking for!

On Saturday, we drove about an hour to the home of Bob’s old school teacher, Fred, who just happened to have a gold 1963 Avanti. Wow! It was exactly the car we were looking for! Not only was it in great shape, but it was an award-winning 399- out of 400-point car (I just learned that this was a thing). It was truly a piece of automotive art, refurbished with tender loving care over a period of 14 years.

And not only did Fred have the perfect car, but he also expertly helped identify the make and model of every car that I wanted to paint in the hotel parking lot.

Then on Sunday, Tom and I drove out to the former location of the Ship Hotel – now just a wide place in the road – and pulled off to the side to see the view. We were there in the late afternoon, the perfect time to see the rolling hills, farms, and trees, surrounded by mountains. There were still a few footings down below the cliff where the foundation had been, and someone had placed an American flag on the corner near the road. It was a gorgeous day, so we treated ourselves to a walk in Shawnee State Park (recommended by a few of you in your emails – thanks for the tip!) after our photo shoot.

This week, I heard back from the Lincoln Highway Experience Museum. I asked for their help to try to figure out all the words on the red sign that was on the front of the hotel; when the photos were enlarged, the words became unreadable. Director Lauren actually reached out to Brian Butko, the author of the book that appeared in my email two weeks ago.  Brian, Lauren, the historians, and I put all our heads together, and we think we finally figured them all out.  So that will be something for you to look for when the painting is done.

Next up:  Start painting! Wish me luck!

P.S. – My granddaughter Autumn is in love with Santa – but then, what kid isn’t? Every day Tom would babysit, she would want to see his phone and would immediately go to my website to see “Ho-Ho-Ho.” So yesterday I brought over a set of my Santa cards, and Autumn carried them around with her everywhere.  All you had to do was ask, “Autumn, what does Santa say?” and she would look you straight in the eye and say “Ho-Ho-Ho!”

Sailing into Spring

Isn’t it nice to finally see some sunshine? I know I’m enjoying it. The sun inspires me. Tom and I actually got out last night and took a walk.

I also was finally able to spend some time in my garden. Gosh, I wish I were a better gardener! I think I may have cut back some of my bushes a bit too far. I hope not. I guess time, sunshine, and Mother Nature will let me know!

Meanwhile, the process of creating my new painting of the Ship Hotel has begun.

After last week’s newsletter, many of you wrote to me about your experiences with the S.S. Grand View Ship Hotel. Your stories were so much fun to read, and I really appreciate your sharing them with me.  A common thread was that feeling of surprise – driving in the country along the mountain highway, then all of a sudden saying, “What the heck is that?!” For many of you, stopping at the Ship Hotel became a family road-trip tradition on the way to a favorite vacation spot. Some remembered the excitement of watching for the ship or looking through that big telescope up on the top deck.

Your memories, in fact, would be really helpful to me right now. I’m gathering the resources to start on my new Ship Hotel painting, and I have papers and photos strewn all about my office. In the old days, I had to visit the library to look up old photos, but nowadays, Google Images is my jam. I look at everything I can get my hands on to get the best possible sense of what I want to paint. One photo may show the spectacular view to its best advantage, but another photo may give me a little more detail of the sign… Sometimes my compositions are cobbled together from multiple photos.

It sure would be a lot easier to go there and take my own photos, which I typically do every time I paint a new piece.  Unfortunately, the Ship Hotel was lost to arson not long after 9/11, taking away any chance for a new owner to come along and lovingly restore this wonderful bit of Americana.  So in this case, I must use old resources and base the painting on research.

The client who commissioned the project told me that, back in the day, one of his favorite cars was a 1969 Studebaker Avanti. I’ve been trying to find anything I can online, but if you happen to know of anyone who may have one that I could take a look at, it sure would be a big help. The car will be front and center in the painting, so it’s really important that I grasp its essence.

Here’s what I have in mind: Based on old black-and-white photographs, I’ll paint my client’s father entering the car and his mom sitting in the front seat.  The actual photos are really of his dad with friends in a living room and his mom (wearing cat’s-eye glasses!), playing cards with her friends. In another part of the painting, I’ll place my client and his sister with a dark-blue VW that he once owned. It’s my way of personalizing the painting for him and adding real people into my work – I think putting them into my paintings really adds to the story. And of course, I will find a place for Tom!

Once I had my composition in mind, I started with a pencil sketch, about 7 x 9 inches. Then, because the photos are a little difficult to see, I made it into a pen and ink drawing to shore up the detail. Next, I sent it to my client for first approval before translating it into a larger format.

While I’m searching for resources, I’m making other important decisions: What time of day will it be? What will the background look like? What elements do I want to pull forward to showcase, and which ones will I push into the background to support the painting? In the meantime, I can start the actual sketch.  Eventually, my process will be to sketch the entire painting onto a museum-quality pastel board that I will then paint over with my soft pastels.

Stay tuned for the next steps as the painting takes shape! Any thoughts?

P.S. –  My Facebook friends may have seen this story, but I would like to share it with all of you.

Three of my original paintings and my new Jolly Old Elf  book are displayed in the front window of Lee Heckman Custom Framing and Gallery on Beverly Road in Mt. Lebanon. I am greatly honored that a few of my clients were willing to donate their pieces. The display will be up in the window for a short while, so if you happen to be in the area, please stop by and see! Lee and Paul are amazing at creating the unique, perfect frames to showcase my art.

Remembering “The Ship Hotel”

It’s been nice to have a little break in the cold weather this week. However, there was just one upside to the freezing weather we had last week – it was the perfect time to perform a job that no one likes doing… working on income taxes.
Yes, taxes are one of those awful things that artists really, really hate – papers (not the good kind of paper!) and numbers and more numbers! Give me a brush and an empty museum pastel board any time, and I’ll sing all day long. But when I have to deal with papers and bills and receipts… I just want to run away and hide.
This is why you didn’t hear from me last week. I thought about writing anyway, but who wants to hear about that sort of thing? (Maybe I shouldn’t assume!) Perhaps there are a few of you out there who love Tax Time, and boxes of receipts bring joy to your life like painting brings joy to mine. For all of you, my blessings!
The good news is that now that the taxes are behind me, I’m beginning work on a pastel commission. It’s a painting that may be interesting to some of you and remind you of fun times and family road trips.
Does anyone else remember driving across Pennsylvania along the old Lincoln Highway (Route 30) back in the day? Let’s say way back, like in the 50s, 60s or 70s? As you climb one of the many mountain summits on that route, you come upon a building that looks like a boat perched on the side of the mountain! There’s a sign that tells you that from this spot, you can see three states and seven counties!
Naturally, you can’t help but pull over to the side of the road to check out that ship and enjoy that view. That one-of-a-kind building, about 17 miles west of Bedford, about 80 miles from Pittsburgh, was known as The Ship of the Alleghenies, the S.S. Grand View Point Hotel, or simply “The Ship Hotel.”
Of course, it wasn’t actually a ship, but a building that served as a hotel, restaurant, and tourist trap for over 40 years. It was made to look like a boat, where you could stand on the “bow” and take in a scenic view of patchwork fields and farms surrounded by the Allegheny Mountains. The Ship Hotel was a great piece of Americana and a very famous stop for tourists along Route 30 until it closed in the 1970s.
I would love to hear your stories about The Ship Hotel!
Although this painting is a private commission, I’m excited to say that later I’ll be selling prints of the painting as well. As this piece takes shape, as always, I’ll share my progress with you… of course, only after the future owner of the painting gets the first peek! 😉
Stayed tuned…
P.S. – Though we won’t be able to meet at the Pittsburgh Home and Garden Show this year, my website is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to help with your gifting needs!
P.P.S. – I’m not the only artist in the family. Check out the picture of my granddaughters working hard at their paintings!

The Way We Were

Happy Valentine’s Day!

You can tell Valentine’s Day is near because of the huge increase in Facebook posts where our friends are celebrating their spouses.

This week, Tom and I have definitely taken a few strolls down Memory Lane, remembering some of our most epic dates and the restaurants we used to enjoy. So many of them aren’t around anymore, including some of our favorites like Steak and Ale, the Brown Derby and the Red Bull Inn, but especially the Joshua Tree. Oh, how I miss those lovely days of prime rib and sangria… and the prime rib cost only $6.95!

Here’s a funny dating story that Tom probably won’t appreciate, but here goes… 🙂

When we were first dating (I was just a mere girl of 19), one of our favorite dining spots was the Joshua Tree restaurant, just across from South Hills Village. I loved that place and all our wonderful memories that came to be associated with it.  Unfortunately, at that age, I had a condition my doctor called a spastic colon; basically, every time I would get nervous, anxious, or even just happy and excited, I would get physically ill and unable to eat.

Back in those days, I only saw Tom once a month, so naturally I would build up a lot of intense emotions focused on that next date. We would start out our evening sitting down in this beautiful restaurant and ordering our prime rib. But the anticipation of being together on the date would do its work, and by the time my dinner came, I would take one bite and then push my entire dinner across the table over to Tom, with a look on my face that said, “You eat it, Hon. I can’t.”

I’m sure right now you’re thinking, “Now why would Tom have a problem with bonus food?”

Well, another promotion that the Joshua Tree offered was a free carafe of sangria for each diner. I never could drink mine, so Tom got to enjoy my sangria as well as his own.  On one of our dates, by the time we got to the parking lot after dinner, the effects of the extra sangria had inspired Tom to reenact Gene Kelly’s famous scene from “Singin’ in the Rain,” as he sang to me while dancing around and swinging from a parking lot lamppost. I thought it was adorable, and I often wish had a picture of it. (Tom, on the other hand, is grateful that I don’t!)

After 44 years of being together, that night will always be one of my favorite memories of our early times together, remembering how Tom was so endearing, going out of his way to be silly just to make me laugh.

With Valentine’s Day coming up this weekend, I would love to hear your own favorite stories about you and your Valentine.  Just drop me an email!

Looks Like I’m a “No-Show”

Well, the decision has been made. For the first time in 27 years, I’m going to miss the Pittsburgh Home and Garden Show.

It’s still up in the air whether the show will happen at all, and after speaking with John DeSantis (owner of the Home and Garden Show), I decided it would be wiser to sit this year out so as not to endanger family members with medical issues.  Being the kind man that he is, John promised to reserve my same space for next year… at least there’s something to get excited about!

It’s hard to believe that it was 27 years ago that I set up my first booth in the old Convention Center. It was just a single booth in among the bathtubs and the windows on the second floor of the three-floor show. I was the only artist there and the only art booth on the second floor. There were a few galleries upstairs, but I was warned in advance that it got pretty hot up there, and most people were tired and grumpy by the time they got that far. So I took my chances on the second floor and hoped people would notice me inbetween the plumbing and home improvement booths.

I remember really going out of my way to get people’s attention… everything from putting balloons up to get people to look my way, to actually dancing in the aisle. I fell in love with the show that first crazy year, and it definitely boosted my career from that time forward.

Back in those early days, friends from our church would come over about a month before the show to help me send out postcards announcing the show, where I would be located, and what was new for that year. Those great friends would address and stamp, while I would practice my cooking for them and make sure they had a good time helping out.

I have so many fond memories of the Home and Garden Show over the years… even the endless prep work and those frantic move-in and move-out days. I will surely miss all of it this year.

February and early March are usually a super busy time for me, entirely consumed with the Home and Garden Show, but this year it looks like I’ll have a lot more free time!  So what I would like to do is to use that time wisely, and I’m thinking about what I can do instead. I’ve already come up with something… so look for an online offer coming soon to your email inbox!

I look forward to connecting with you soon.  Have a good week!

Inspiration is All Around Us

"Oasis of Beauty at Phipps" by Linda Barnicott, Pittsburgh's Painter of Memories

Tonight, I’m focused on taking in the beauty that is all around us – if we just want to see it.

As I write these words, I’m listening to the Inauguration celebration, enjoying the music of very talented artists from all over our great country. Wouldn’t you agree that music has a way of touching our hearts and bringing people together?

I have a good feeling, a sense of hope for this new year.  I think if we all come together and follow the science, we will get COVID under control.  Then we’ll all be able to go out and enjoy the simple things in life and share all that beauty with the people we love.

Sadly, last week we laid Tom’s uncle to rest.  He was a very kind and happy man, and I loved him dearly. Uncle Ron was another victim of the coronavirus; he was the third member of our family to pass from the effects of this dreadful illness.

The loss of another loved one has reminded me to take a look around and appreciate my family, my friends, and my fans.  I am reminded of how eternally grateful I am to have you in my life.  You are my inspiration.

This week – for the first time in two months! – I got back into the studio and started painting again. (It took me almost that long just to clear a path to my easel!)  It seems like every time I spend a lot of time away from my studio, when I do eventually get back to painting, I immediately remember how much I truly love it and how it nourishes my soul.

Right now, I’m working on a private portrait commission. Folks often ask, “Isn’t painting people hard?”  Creating scenes of landmarks, buildings, and such is fun, but actually, painting people has always been my passion, and it has always come easily to me.

Last week I asked your ideas for subjects for my paintings in 2021… and boy, did you send me some great suggestions!  From Pittsburgh views I haven’t gotten to yet, to holiday themes, to everyday memories of special times in our lives that we all can relate to, your ideas are really inspiring my creative brain – please keep them coming!


Out with the Old, In with the New

This weekend we will be saying goodbye to our beautiful Christmas tree, though I wish we could keep it forever!  This tree was our first Douglas fir, and it looks just as peppy as it did when we put it up… actually, maybe even better.

Every morning I turn the lights on, and every night at some point I sit for a while in our living room and just gaze at its beauty. We decorated our tree with Tom’s boyhood ornaments, giving it a very traditional, old-fashioned look and reminding us of happy holidays long ago.

The fir tree’s evergreen branches are a symbol of constancy, faithfulness, and the persistence of tradition. This year, that seemed especially appropriate to me because no matter how crazy the world gets, inside our home, there is peace.

In 2020, we created new traditions as we adapted to life in a pandemic. We saved a lot on gasoline… our hair grew… and we all learned to cook a little better (Tom is very happy about that!). I even lost my pierced ears – they healed shut!

As I look ahead to a new year, I wonder what it will hold. Two weeks in, it hasn’t been very exciting so far!  Mostly I’ve been dealing with the debris left behind after shutting down the Holiday Market early and fulfilling online sales. I’ve also been taking advantage of the good weather in the last few days, spending time outside, cleaning up my gardens and getting some fresh air.

Reviewing my emails over the last couple weeks, I was delighted to hear from several of you who gave my work as gifts this year. Your stories brought tears of joy to my eyes!

So now I would like to hear from you again… I’m heading back to the studio, and my options are open.  What should my next painting look like? What season should I paint? Will there be people in the scene, or will it be a long view? Any ideas?

Today, a friend told me that there is more to my paintings than just the subject. She said that I bring each one to life and give it a story of its own, told through my pastels. It really feels good to get such thoughtful feedback.

What would you like to see me paint in 2021? I would love to get your input and also hear about your own hopes and dreams and goals for the New Year.

Have a great week… and may you feel peace in your heart.

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.