“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 www.lindabarnicott.com.

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.
* * *
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.

Walking in the Light

This image features Linda Barnicott's painting "Walking in the Light of the Cathedral," a painting of the Cathedral of Learning on the University of Pittsburgh's Oakland campus.

First and foremost, I want to humbly thank all of you who reached out to me last week after the loss of my father-in-law, as well as to express my gratitude for your kind comments about last week’s story behind “Meet Me Under Kaufmann’s Clock, Too!”

As we continue our shelter-at-home lifestyle, I have another story to share with you. This one, I promise, is a bit brighter.  It’s about “Walking in the Light of the Cathedral,” the second painting in my “Pittsburgh Remembered” series.

My artwork has always been about memories, and one of my very first recollections of Pittsburgh happened back in 1975 during that life-changing high-school orchestra trip where I first met Tom. On the way back home to Philadelphia after the concert, we were treated to a tour of the Cathedral of Learning on the University of Pittsburgh campus.

For starters, I was awestruck by the sheer size of the building.  As I entered the Commons Room, I remember seeing beautiful wood and stone everywhere, with iron chandeliers hanging from the impossibly high ceiling on long, long chains… so majestic, like a real medieval cathedral or castle.  I had never seen anything like it!

But my favorite part was touring the Nationality Rooms.  Each room is decorated to represent the heritage and culture of a different country. The rooms reflected the architectural styles, furniture, and art of their respective countries, with intricate wooden carvings, beautiful hand-painted flowers and symbols, and more.  One room was roped off, and no one was allowed to enter, but my eyes were dazzled by the golden artifacts within. (I have no idea which room that was now… maybe one of you can refresh my memory?)  After all those years, the memory of my visit to the Cathedral was still so vivid, I knew it had to be the second painting in my Pittsburgh series.

I grabbed my camera and headed for Oakland, prowling around the Cathedral, looking for the perfect angle.  It didn’t take long before I found the perfect composition for my painting – near the Student Union Building.  As late afternoon turned into early evening, I watched the windows in the Cathedral begin to light up, waiting for an old-fashioned gas lamppost in the foreground to come on as the sun was setting. (Later, I posed a young man from our church youth group under the gaslamp, holding an umbrella.  I even put a girl in the painting for him to talk to!)  I especially wanted to capture the way the light shining through the windows created fascinating visual effects on the building’s stonework, giving the grand gray structure a warm orange glow.

This image is one of Linda Barnicott's photographs of the Cathedral of Learning that she used to create her painting "Walking In The Light of the Cathedral."

I gave the painting what some people call a “Pittsburgh sky,” raining in the foreground under big dark clouds, with a colorful sunset in the background on the horizon. To me, this symbolized the light and calm at the end of a storm and, in a way, represents the turbulence of our college years, when we’re young and finding our way in the world.

I did make one change to the painting after I thought it was finished.  I had originally painted a man sitting hunched over on a bench in the foreground.  But as the more I thought about it, the more I felt sorry for this poor (imaginary) soul sitting there and getting rained on, so I removed him from the scene.

Not long after that, Tom studied the painting and said, “You know there’s a hole in your composition now. You really need someone sitting on that bench.” After thinking about for a minute, I said “OK, go put on your raincoat and hat and pose for me, and you’ll be the man getting soaked in the rain.” So Tom sat on our dining room chair, decked out in his rain gear, and I sketched him in.  I realized then and there that Tom was going to be a very handy model to have around!

Little did I know at the time, adding Tom to the composition was the start of something that would become one of my trademarks.  Like Alfred Hitchcock doing a “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it” cameo in all his movies, Tom does the same in my Pittsburgh paintings!

This image shows Linda Barnicott working on her painting "Walking In The Light of the Cathedral."

When I released the painting in the fall of 1990, reviews were mixed.  I was surprised to find out that certain collectors – typically alumni of other local colleges and universities – were angry that I chose a Pitt landmark to paint. I was disappointed because I chose it for my own reasons, because it was a unique and special building and deserved to be painted. Regardless, some collectors just weren’t interested in hanging this print on their walls, and I wondered if I had made the wrong choice of subjects.

Then one day the innocent words of my 4-year-old daughter Brittany cheered me up and put a smile back on my face.  We were driving into Oakland on Forbes Avenue as the Cathedral of Learning came into view, standing so tall, towering of the rest of the Oakland landscape. It seemed to practically rise up in front of us as we drove closer and closer. Excitedly, Brittany leaned forward in her car seat and pointed, shouting, “Mommy! There is your building!” I realized that since I painted the Cathedral, she thought I owned the building!

This image is a photo of Oakland in the early 1990s.

She reminded me of just how unique and impressive the Cathedral of Learning is architecturally and its place as one of Pittsburgh’s most famous landmarks.  I’m certainly not the only one for whom this building is a cherished memory, and I realized that many, many people would appreciate this painting for what it is, and that’s what’s important.

Thank you for letting me share another story with you.  I learn something significant with each one of my paintings, and I hope you enjoy “Walking in the Light of the Cathedral”  … no matter where you went to college!

Stay safe, stay healthy.

A Secret Story

This image features Linda Barnicott's painting "Meet me Under Kaufmann's Clock, Too!"

Today I want to share with you a special story about one of my paintings, a story that I’ve never told publicly before. One that’s been pretty much a secret until now.

I feel compelled to tell this story because this week we lost my father-in-law, and he is one of the central characters in it.

In 1992, I had finally finished my “Pittsburgh Remembered” series.  For years, I had been getting calls to purchase prints of my first painting in the series, “Meet Me Under Kaufmann’s Clock,” though it had long been sold out. I remember going to see Jesse Hager, a master of the art of watercolor and a well-known Pittsburgh artist, to ask him what I should do. “Linda,” he said, “you can paint the same scene at least 6 different ways, all from different angles.”

That was exactly the inspiration I needed. I went downtown for a new photo shoot around Kaufmann’s Clock, looking for a new angle on one of Downtown’s most recognizable and beloved landmarks. Soon it became clear to me how I should compose the painting: I wanted to showcase the Smithfield United Church (now Smithfield United Church of Christ) in the background.

This image shows the sketch of Linda Barnicott's painting "Meet Me Under Kaufmann's Clock, Too!"

Now comes the part of the story that I haven’t shared with many people, as it isn’t a happy one. In fact, it was a real tragedy for our family.

One morning back in 1991, I was in the kitchen feeding my daughter, Alyssa, when the phone rang. “Hello!” My mother-in-law’s cheery voice always had a way of making me smile. “I know what you can get me for my Christmas present this year. You can pick the color matting for your paintings because you’re really good at that!”  Mum had been collecting my prints as note cards, and she wanted to frame them.  She had always been my biggest fan.

Later that day, Tom was paying a pastoral visit at Divine Providence Hospital, and as he was leaving the building, he noticed the Life Flight helicopter taking off.  He said to himself, as he often did, “Someone’s having a bad day.” He had no idea, of course, that the helicopter was on its way to the scene of a terrible automobile accident involving his parents.

In the end, my father-in-law survived, but unfortunately, Mum did not. Tom’s dad spent a total of 90 days in the hospital, and from his window in the AGH Continuing Care Center, he could see that church, the Smithfield United Church, and it gave him the hope and inspiration he needed to recover.

This is an image of one of the Kaufmann's department store Christmas windows.

As I began planning out and painting this piece, I created a mist in the space between what used to be the Mellon Bank building and the church so as to make the church stand out more.  I incorporated into the painting a train-themed window display from Kaufmann’s Department Store, created from photos I had taken earlier that year. Then, looking in at the display window, I placed a woman in a scarf … a familiar figure to our family.  Of course, it was my mother-in-law, Jean. Next to her in the composition, I placed a little boy (my husband, Tom), and a little girl (his sister, Terri).  I placed Dad nearby as if he were standing behind the light post (Dad never wanted to be the center of attention!).  “Meet Me Under Kaufmann’s Clock, Too” was my way of honoring the memory of a great lady.

I’m grateful that I’m able to share this very personal story with you.  There are many other stories about this painting (like, for example, how I managed to paint the streetcar going the wrong way!), but for today, this is enough.

Best to you always… and stay healthy!

Staying Connected

The image is of Linda Barnicott sitting down at the Pittsburgh Home and Garden Show.

Life certainly is full of surprises, isn’t it?

The Friday before last, we were told the Pittsburgh Home and Garden Show would be shutting down two days ahead of schedule.  Just a couple days earlier, there were no plans to close early, but no one anticipated how quickly things would change as the COVID-19 virus spread and social distancing became our new reality.

As we now are taking care to limit our time outside our homes, going out only for necessities, it’s more important than ever to use other ways to connect with each other.

With no shows or events coming up, my weekly blog is even more valuable to me now as a way to keep our connection going.  Since I don’t have so many new and exciting shows, travels, or adventures to report on these days, I thought you might enjoy hearing some of the stories behind my paintings.

I’m going to start with one that has been one of my most popular paintings, year after year…

This image shows Linda Barnicott's painting "My Hometown" featuring the incline, a view of the city, and the old Three Rivers Stadium.

At the beginning of my career as a young Pittsburgh Artist, I never would have dreamed it would last so long or be so fruitful. “My Hometown” was going to be my final painting in the “Pittsburgh Remembered” series and was considered my masterwork at the time.  It was my biggest painting ever, and it took six months to paint.

I wanted to squeeze in as many Pittsburgh landmarks as I could… including the red Duquesne Incline, Three Rivers Stadium, the Point, the Majestic riverboat, as well as the sunset and the moon to light the way.  I’ll admit I took a few liberties, tweaking, nipping and tucking as I sketched so I could bring the bridges and the cityscape a little bit closer to the viewer.

At that time, Tom was a young minister at a church on the North Side at the corner of Madison and Tripoli Streets.  Immanuel United Methodist Church was Tom’s first appointment as a minister following his internship (also on the North Side) at Allegheny United Methodist Church on North Avenue.  So naturally, I wanted to give special attention to the North Side in my painting and include every building I possibly could, but especially Immanuel Church.

Looking back on the process of setting up the painting, one of my fondest memories was Tom driving me up to the observation deck at the Duquesne Incline to do a photo shoot. There is a high black iron fence around the deck, and being of short stature, my only chance of getting the shots I wanted was to climb up onto the fence. I remember balancing precariously with my arms wrapped around the fence, while also trying to hold the camera in position, waiting for that perfect moment to capture the Incline as it passed by.  And then… it started to rain. You’d think now that I was a real Pittsburgher I would have been prepared, right? Lucky for me, a nice gentleman who couldn’t help but notice my problem came over with his umbrella and held it over my head long enough for me to take all the photos I needed.

“My Hometown” would be the final painting in the series, so of course, I wanted to make sure to include Tom somewhere in there.  (As you know, sneaking my family into my paintings is one of my trademarks!)  You can find him as the guy wearing a hat, a silhouette in the side window of the Incline car, two windows back.

Talk to you all soon. Stay safe and healthy!

Spring In Bloom

This image features a hyacinth in Linda Barnicott's kitchen.

A couple weeks ago I was shopping at Aldi, and I saw the cutest little vase with a little bulb, white roots stretching down through the clear water and a few fresh green leaves popping out of it. It was a hyacinth, my favorite springtime flower. So of course, I had to give this precious little bulb a good home, and I placed in on my kitchen windowsill.

Over the last two weeks, I’ve been giving it fresh water and turning it each day so that it would grow straight as the sun – growing stronger every day – showered its gentle rays upon it. Just a few days ago it bloomed! And the best part is that it’s purple, which happens to be my favorite color. The fragrance is so sweet. I love the way that little flower has brought spring into our home.

So not only has spring arrived in my kitchen, but Spring has arrived in Pittsburgh… because today is Opening Day of the Pittsburgh Home and Garden Show!

On Tuesday, Tom and I drove our loaded U-Haul to the David L Lawrence Convention Center. We’ve been working hard all week to create a place of color, form and composition in my booth to delight our customers. We are well stocked with many new pieces to see and some old favorites as well.

This image shows Linda Barnicott waving outside of a U-Haul truck.  This image shows a portion of Linda Barnicott's 2020 Home & Garden Show booth, including images of her Jolly Old Elf Series (Santa's Woodland Christmas and Santa's Snowy Friends).

This year I am excited to release my brand new painting, “Pittsburgh’s Tunnel Vision,” featuring one of Pittsburgh’s most iconic vistas – the view from above the Fort Pitt tunnels – and one of the subjects I’ve had the most requests to paint over the years. It’s not only the “Grand Entrance” into the city of Pittsburgh, but I like to think of it as my “Grand (Re-)Entrance,” returning to painting Pittsburgh once again now that my Jolly Old Elf series is complete. I’ll have about 20 prints available at the show for purchase.

Along with the new painting, I will also have some beautiful specialty framed pieces that are fun and unique. Hurry in, they will go fast!

If you’re feeling a bit of Spring Fever, why not come on down and visit me in person at the Home and Garden Show? I’ll be at Booth 3146, just like always, right at the beginning of Artists’ Row and close to the escalators. Hope to see you there!