Arrivederci, Pittsburgh!

I’m writing these words from Pittsburgh International Airport as Tom and I begin our Italian adventure!

Before we take off, I have some GREAT news to share with you!  Prints of my new painting, “Glad Tidings at Gimbels,” are now available at a preorder price of 15% off – no code necessary!  My latest pastel painting will be released in a limited-edition giclee print on August 1st, and I am taking 15% off the price on all preorders before that date. You can order your print by clicking here.

The edition will include 50 Artist Proofs, 50 Artist-Enhanced (with soft pastels), and 500 standard-edition prints. Each one will be numbered and signed in gold. Each print will be a giclee, archival, and printed on the highest-quality museum paper.

“Glad Tidings at Gimbels” is the perfect addition to my nostalgic Pittsburgh paintings series, “Wishing Under the Horne’s Tree,” “Holiday Memories under Kaufmann’s Clock,” and “Meet Me Under Kaufmann’s Clock, Too!” Make your memories of shopping downtown back in the day complete with this iconic trilogy. Check them out at www.lindabarnicott.com.

A big “Thank You” to each and every one of you who provided a piece of the “puzzle” and helped me develop this painting from a dream to reality.

Want to help make this Holiday Season a blast from the past? Get your print of “Glad Tidings at Gimbels” before August 1st and save 15%!

https://lindabarnicott.com/product/glad-tidings-at-gimbels/

“Glad Tidings at Gimbels”

It’s been a super busy couple of weeks in the studio. I can’t believe it’s just a few days until Tom and I embark on a new adventure – a three-week excursion to Italy!

I had to double down in the studio to finish in time, but my new painting, “Glad Tidings at Gimbels” is ready for unveiling! I’m off to the printer today to tweak the details to make sure everything is just right. There will be more information about it on my website soon, including pre-orders!

Meanwhile, there’s been a lot going on in my studio since I last wrote you. As you can see in the photo, it looked like quite the mad, mad, mad, mad world! Resources were strewn about as I pored over photograph after photograph, vintage images of Gimbels over the decades, most in black and white, rarely in color.

There were photos of streetcars from the Trolley Museum in Washington, PA, photos from a friend who shared his collection with me, and photos I’ve collected myself over the years. There were photos of people who posed for me, people from other photo shoots that I borrowed, and some from the past of people just walking around downtown (and maybe even a few imaginary friends?). I had a collection of photos of display windows, though I made up the one on the right featuring Raggedy Ann and Andy because one of my faithful readers wrote me and asked me to!

I used more pastels pencils and soft pastels than my taboret could hold at times, and my obsessive need for detail actually led to the premature demise of two pencil sharpeners. But at last, with a final dab of snow, it was finished.

My hope is that you’ll see what I see in this painting – all the magic of Pittsburgh’s nostalgic downtown holiday shopping of yesteryear… with memories of swirling snow and merrily sparkling lights… and the rush of shoppers seeking holiday treasures at the iconic Gimbels Department Store. I want this painting to inspire you to once again experience the excitement of the holiday season in days gone by.

The official release date for “Glad Tidings at Gimbels” will be August 1, 2023.

P.S. – I was driving through the Northside last week, and I just had to stop and see Gus. I knew he would be there! Even at 90, he’s still as wonderful as ever. I strongly recommend that you go and experience Gus and Yiayia’s, a beloved Northside tradition. I guarantee it will bring a smile to your face and some yummy treats to your tummy!

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

Today was the day I finally got back to my studio. This was one of those weeks where I didn’t have much time to devote to painting, despite the fact that every day, my brain kept telling me “I want to paint!”

What kept me out of the studio? A lot of running around, but mostly babysitting the grandgirls. They are getting very big indeed! Why is it that they are getting older, and I’m not? I do feel young, though there are days when it feels like my age is catching up with me!

The girls are a goofy kind of funny, almost always laughing, and you never know what they’re up to. One day this week, Bop-Bop decided to surprise them with a special treat and brought them donuts. They were very happy to express their excitement while posing for a photo.

So, as far as the painting goes, I am up to my eyeballs in windows… lots and lots of windows, everywhere you look! Similar to the Horne’s building in “A Holiday Tradition,” the new Gimbels painting is mostly just windows until you get to street level. Years ago while I was working on that painting, I was also dealing with the challenge of painting dozens of windows.

Back in the day though, I had my dad. My parents lived on the other side of the state where I grew up, but occasionally they would surprise me and come visit. I was driving myself crazy with all the windows, and my dad – God bless his soul – would sit in my studio and play his accordion while I worked through each row. It had a soothing effect on me, and I was able to paint all of those windows without tearing my hair out. As you can see in this photo, it also had a soothing effect on my girls when they were young!

I have such happy memories of my dad playing the accordion, and he’s on my mind now while I’m working on this painting. So this time around, I’m actually enjoying painting all those windows. It feels like getting together with an old friend.

Here’s the latest update on the progress of my Gimbels painting. I had fun painting in the sign and its reflected light on the wall. I also set the clock to the time right after work when it’s getting dark in the Holiday season. If all goes well, by this time next week, I’ll have more than just windows to show you.

Wish me luck… and thank you to all of you who have shared stories! Keep ’em coming!

PS – If you were wondering, I’m left-handed, and my medium is soft pastel chalks, so that’s why I always paint from right to left and from top to bottom!

Is a Word Worth a Thousand Pictures?

The word is “Gimbels,” and I wouldn’t be surprised if I have a thousand pictures of it. So many different perspectives and points of view… a little of this and a little of that.

I was just talking to a client on the phone about my process of researching and planning this painting these last couple of weeks. She asked if the Gimbels painting will become a puzzle. I told her I haven’t even thought that far ahead. Then it occurred to me that putting this painting together has been a lot like solving a puzzle. I am so thankful to those of you who have reached out to me and helped me fill in some of missing pieces!

But I have a big question that has yet to be answered…

It seems there were a number of different Gimbels signs during the store’s lifetime. The one pictured above is the one I will be using. You can also see it in the sketch below. In the photo it looks blue, but so do a lot of other items in the picture. It’s almost as if it were taken with a blue filter. My question is, does anyone remember this sign and what color it actually was?

Many of the photos I’ve acquired are rather odd, insomuch as they have color in parts of them, but then other parts look mostly black, gray, and white. Whenever I’ve come across this particular sign in other photos that seems to be the case… all except in this photo, which I’m afraid I can’t trust. Also, the trim and awnings seem kind of brown with a dark grey edge. Tom says I’m overthinking it. But I’m afraid that if I paint it the wrong color, someone will surely come along later and say “No, no, no!”

It’s going to be an evening painting anyway, so I could make it an almost-black dark blue. The letters will be lit up, of course. Though they’ll be small, there will be holiday windows, and I’m thinking some snow would be nice. The streetcar will have a really nice glow to it, and the background will be a bit foggy. I feel like I’ve included enough people to make it festive, but I may add a few more as I go. And as usual, if you look closely, you may see a few familiar-looking children admiring the window displays!

I even found an image of a Gimbels bag on Pinterest so I can put the logo on some shopping bags.

As you can see, I’m actually thinking out loud and planning the painting as I write this. My next step is to put a watercolor wash over the sketch. That may not make much sense to you all, but it will be a roadmap for when I paint with my soft chalk pastels.

I’m still open to your thoughts about the colors and eager to hear more of your stories about this iconic Pittsburgh landmark!

Wish me luck!

 

Doing My Homework

I have been knee-deep in researching my upcoming Gimbels painting for this year. The painting will show the Gimbels building as it was back in the 1950s-1960s, and just about everyone I’ve heard from has voted for a setting of twilight during the Holiday season. I’m already working on the first sketch, and I have to say I’m very excited about it!

I was lucky enough to find a 44-minute documentary that must have been used for orientation for new Gimbels employees. Not only was I fascinated by the narrator’s classic 1940s mid-Atlantic accent, I can tell you this: If I’d been of working age at that time, I would definitely have applied at Gimbels downtown! A full lunch and dessert for 15 cents! A quiet lounge to sit back and relax for a while if you have a headache or your feet hurt! They even had their own bank and their own dentist. Need a loan and a root canal? No problem!

So now with the wind in my sails, I’ll be laser-focused on creating the best painting I possibly can, and I hope it will be a piece that you’ll love as well.

My other big news this week is that I’m kicking off the 2023 spring-summer show season with a vendor show on Saturday at the Monroeville United Methodist Church. The show runs from 10 am to 3 pm, and you can find me in the parlor across from the big hall. I’m so excited to be back at our old church! Tom and I are already loading the van with all my art prints and gifts – including for the first time 12” x 18” metal prints of four of my well-loved Kennywood prints, as well as my new Pittsburgh mugs and 4” x 4” coasters.

Looking for birthday, graduation, wedding, or anniversary gifts? Stop by my booth this weekend, and I’ll be happy to personalize your gifts for you!

I hope to see you there!

Never A Dull Moment

I have so much to share with you this week! (Warning: I may get a little long-winded today!)

First up, I want to thank all of you who have contributed pictures and information for my Gimbels project. Please keep it coming!

It seems the consensus among my loyal customers is that you would like to see the painting set at dusk during the holidays. I suppose that makes sense, as my Kaufmann’s and Horne’s paintings were also set in that time and season. If I can pull this off, it will make a lovely addition to your Pittsburgh (or any!) wall display. The reason I didn’t paint it 20 years ago was the lack of available information from that time period. Today I was at the main library in Oakland, but they had no photos. I called the Heinz History Center’s library, but they didn’t have anything either. They gave me the name of a fella to call at the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, so I’ll try that next.

So, this week’s question is…what do you remember about the display windows at Christmas? How about Gimbels’ entrance under the big awning that they had in the 50s, 60s and maybe 70s? Thanks in advance!

As promised, here is the finished double portrait of the children I mentioned last week. The owners of the new painting absolutely loved it as much as I was hoping they would. One of the best moments for me when I unveil a commissioned project is when the new owner first sees the painting. I can usually tell from the look in their eyes if I can exhale and relax. The whole process has been an exceptional experience, and I was honored to create this special piece for them. It’s now at the printer to make print copies for the family, and then it’s off to the framer before it’s welcomed into its new home.

The other exciting update is that the new mug and coasters I introduced at the Pittsburgh Home and Garden show are now available online. I love the rich, vibrant colors, and I think you will too. Visit my website to check out these new products!

Last, but definitely not least, I had a visit from Santa Claus! He happened to be on vacation in the Burgh, taking a break from the North Pole for a few days and stopped by to say hello. While he was visiting, my grandgirls were thrilled to speak with him on a Facetime call. He asked the twins if they would make him some artwork for his refrigerator back home, where it will share space with art from boys and girls around the world. He sent me this photo once he got back to the North Pole. How cool is that – my grandgirls’ artwork on Santa’s refrigerator!

I hope all of you have a great week and enjoy the beautiful weather. As for me, I will be focused on my Gimbels project. Wish me luck!

Down by the Sea

What a week it has been!

Though we were all over the place last week, we still had time for some holiday fun at home, dyeing eggs with our little granddaughters. They’re growing up so fast, always curious, and always in motion. They keep us moving, too! We can always count on them to make us laugh. Sometimes they keep us so busy that we end up with sore muscles, especially the ones around our mouths and eyes with all that smiling and squinting! We feel very blessed that they live nearby so we can be very involved in their lives.

For the first time in forever, Tom and I took a little break for Easter weekend and drove to Ocean City, Maryland. Most of the time, the weather wasn’t cooperating – it was windy and really cold. But Easter Day was absolutely perfect, from the moment we woke up, to stargazing that night on Assateague Island with the wild ponies. I always feel close to God when I’m by the water, and this little break really helped my heart and my mind relax, breathe, and just be.

Of course, as soon as we returned home, it was back to the studio. Next week, I hope to be able to show you the finished version of the portrait I shared with you last week. And as soon as that’s done, I start painting the old Gimbels Department Store! I’m still looking for reference photos, so if you have any old photos of that building in downtown Pittsburgh, I’d really appreciate it if you would share them with me. (And many thanks to those of you who have shared already!)

Meanwhile, can I ask your advice about my upcoming Gimbels painting? Should the setting be daylight or dusk? Summer or winter? I’m wide open for suggestions this early in the process, and I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Finally, there’s something new coming to my website very soon! Here’s a glimpse of my new line of art gifts. Those of you who made it to the Pittsburgh Home and Garden Show may have seen and/or purchased the first six coasters in my new “collectibles collection.” They will soon be available on my website.

For example, here’s my “Ice-Ball Treats with Gus and Yia Yia” painting on a 4” x 4” hardboard sturdy coaster with a nonslip cork back. The colors are rich and vibrant and will stand up to pretty much anything to provide years of use and enjoyment. The great thing about art coasters is that they remind you of happy memories, and they’re functional as well! You can start your collection online at www.lindabarnicott.com … coming soon!

Christmas on My Mind?

Spring may be busting out all over (especially in my garden), but I’m already thinking about Christmas!

You see, I spent most of first quarter 2023 working on a private commission. But thanks to our spontaneous trip to London and Paris, the Pittsburgh Home and Garden Show, and out-of-town guests, I have yet to put the finishing touches on this double portrait of two lovely children in their grandparents’ home, enjoying the family’s model trains.  I was thrilled tonight when I called my client to ask if I could share this painting with you, and he said “Yes!”

Early in January, when I arrived at their home for the photo shoot, I was greeted by whole family – the grandparents, parents, and adorable grandchildren. I was a little nervous about it because my good camera wasn’t functional, and I knew I would have to use my cell phone. I also wasn’t sure how the young ones would react to a stranger with a phone in her hand, crawling around on her hands and knees in their grandparents’ home.

In the end, I didn’t need to use any of that energy worrying. As a matter of fact, we had a delightful time! They made me feel like part of the family. The little boy wasn’t quite old enough to fully understand what we were trying to do, so we just let him be himself. After a while, he sat down on the fireplace seat. As if on cue, his big sister sat next to him, and I got a nice series of photos of them interacting. He really loves trains, and once we added a train to the scene, it all flowed naturally from there. Big Sister is holding her favorite ornament in one hand while showing her brother the train on her lap.

Basic photos of the children looking at the camera and smiling would have made a beautiful picture, but to me, the pose we decided on made this more than just a standard portrait. I told them that I’ll give them all the photos I took that day, but this is the one that will make a great painting and a precious memory for years to come.

I asked each person about their favorite ornaments, and each in turn showed me the one they love best, reliving their memories of Christmas Past with love reflected in their eyes. As I planned out the painting, I put them near the tree. I placed the train on the platform just so – not too far back and not too far forward. Later, I asked the grandfather if I could take a more detailed photo of the locomotive that his granddaughter was holding so I could add detail. The rug at the bottom of the painting… well, that might do me in! We will see.

I’m actually a lot farther along than you see here. So why can’t I show you where the painting stands now? There’s a good reason. As I paint a commission, I typically take photos all along the way and text them over to the client as part of the experience. The client has already seen all the photos up to this point. They have loved and approved each update, and I’m confident they’re going to love the finished piece. It will give me something to unveil… and anyway, I kind of want to surprise them a bit at the end!

So obviously, I can only share with you what I have already shared with them. I promise I’ll show you the rest of the painting here when it’s finished!

In other news, now that Tom’s retired from the ministry, and Easter’s no longer his busy season, we decided to hop (Easter Bunny joke!) in the car last weekend to find out what Easter is like in Ocean City, Maryland. This was actually our very first Easter together that wasn’t spent in Pittsburgh. It felt like we were cutting class and playing hooky!

Being an ocean girl born and raised (in fact, I think I might have salt water in my veins), I can’t believe I’ve never been to Ocean City! We had a great time. I hope you all had a wonderful Easter!

“Come Up and See Me Sometime!”

Well, I finally did it! I have officially set up my store in my Home Studio. I’ve created a display of all my fun gift items and my prints around a well-lit area right next to my painting space. So now when you stop by, you can shop and also see the latest project I’m working on. Visits will still need to be scheduled in advance to make sure you don’t arrive to an empty studio if I’m out gardening, shopping, or at a show.

To make an appointment, just call me at 888-748-8278 (it rings through to my cell phone). A visit can be set up for morning, noon, or even night… I’m happy to be at your service!

 

Finding the perfect little gift for someone can be hard sometimes. A nice, warm, fuzzy, nostalgic memory with a very personal touch just might be the answer! So I hope you’ll think of me when you’re deciding on a unique gift for someone special.

Last week, a favorite artist friend of mine was in a customer’s home to paint a mural, and she sent me a photo of her client’s “Kennywood Wall.” It was fun for her to see it and quite an honor for me to receive her text. Creating your own Pittsburgh room, amusement park room, or even a year-round Santa room can be fun! It just so happens that I have original paintings, prints, mugs, and coasters that can help you make that dream come true.

Now while I have your attention… may I ask a small favor?  I am currently looking for any and all photos of the old Gimbels Department Store at Sixth and Smithfield in Downtown Pittsburgh. Why didn’t I paint it 20 years ago? I don’t know, but finally its time has come! I have some pretty good photos to start with, but I could use a lot more. Specific areas that I really need to get a better look at include under the main-entrance awning with the steps heading down to Gimbels Basement (otherwise, I might have to put a in a streetcar to cover that area!). Also, photos featuring Gimbels display windows would also come in handy.

Do you have a personal story about Gimbels? I’d love to hear it! My favorite memory was from the early 1980s. I was a newcomer to Pittsburgh, having just gotten married in 1980. Tom and I would often come downtown to shop, making the rounds of the Big Three stores – Horne’s, Kaufmann’s, and Gimbels – but Gimbels had the best art department, and I always made sure to stop there to shop for paper and pencils.

Gimbels, sadly, is long gone, and I was never able to create a painting of it because I didn’t have access to good photos. Now I have a few and could probably piece it together… but I sure would appreciate it if you could help me out.

So, thanks in advance, and have a great week!

And don’t forget to give me a call if you’re in need a gift!

Don’t Blink or You’ll Miss It!

Can you believe it’s already the final weekend of the Pittsburgh Home and Garden Show? It’s what we vendors often call “Marathon Weekend.” The show is open tonight until 9 pm, Saturday 10-9, and Sunday 10-6. Then it’s time to break it all down again!

I would love to see you this weekend at Booth #3146 (at the front end of the 3100 aisle). This year’s show has been a real treat for me. My new mugs have been a major hit!

And my ideas for what I’m going to paint this year are definitely coming together. The plan is to return to my favorite subjects – nostalgic places and (as Rick Sebak says) “things that aren’t there anymore.” Why not stop by my booth and ask me what they might be… or maybe come up with a place I haven’t thought of?

And remember — there’s still time to take advantage of the in-person special of 25% off selected lithographs! Hope to see you this weekend!