2010 AGDM Excerpt: Interview with Maggie Barnes

As promised, here’s a clip of a 2010 AGDM interview with artist Maggie Barnes. Get your copy of the 2010 AGDM to read the full interview!

Maggie Barnes: Finding Inspiration, Courage & Fulfillment as an Artist
by Erika O’Connell

Maggie Barnes never planned on being an artist. But that’s what she’s become, through a series of serendipitous events, and now she can’t imagine her life as anything else. With a bachelor’s degree in English, and a master’s in Secondary Education, this Cincinnati, Ohio, native was (or at least seemed) destined to be an English teacher. And that’s what she was for a few years—until she had children and became a stay-at-home mom.

“I was originally planning to go back to teaching when the kids went to school fulltime,” she says. “And while I very much enjoy teaching, I’m so grateful that my career as an artist sort of took off on its own.”
The inspiration to begin painting took hold of Barnes during a difficult time in her life when she was grieving the death of her close friend Mark. “He was an artist and had always encouraged my creative side, so it felt like a good way to pay tribute,” she recalls. “Also, as a recovering alcoholic, I knew it was important to find a healthy way to process my feelings. And just like when I had gotten sober, I knew there was no human power that could relieve me. I knew I had to find a power greater than myself. I found then, and still find today, that greater power in art.”….

….To learn more about Maggie Barnes, and to view more of her artwork, visit www.ArtworkByMaggie.com.

What inspires you?
Everything—nature; painterly art; life; love; music; van Gogh’s letters…
I still have a studio at the Essex, and I enjoy the fellowship that comes from being part of a community of other artists. I paint because it offers me indescribable balance and relief. It allows me to accept and resolve the things that I perceive to be chaotic and imperfect, and, through grace, fi nd an authentic purpose, a harmonious arrangement to it all. When I am able to trust that grace, that creative energy, it simply becomes a matter of showing up at the canvas to quiet the chatter in my head.
While working on my master’s degree, I came across Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity (www.theartistsway.com) in a creative writing class. I practiced it pretty regularly for a few years, and then went back to it when I began painting. I can’t say enough wonderful things about the book. It has freed me to feel comfortable doing my own work, and has disciplined me into understanding that there is power in showing up day after day regardless of inspiration or direction. I currently facilitate a weekly study of The Artist’s Way at Kennedy Heights Arts Center.
Another book that has been powerful to me is Art & Fear (by David Bayles and Ted Orland). It echoes what I learned in The Artist’s Way, and has helped solidify the idea that hard work equals success—that it is possible to make a living as an artist if you’re willing to work hard.

What do you consider your first “success”?
A few months after I started painting, a friend from high school who had moved to England came home to visit. Our families spent a few days together, talking art, swimming and enjoying good food. After she and her husband got back to England, they called with an opportunity…long story short, they agreed to pay for half of my painting supplies for a year, flew me and my paintings to London, and arranged for my work to be shown at One (www.only0ne.com), a funky high-end boutique in Notting Hill. The success from that experience—and most especially their strong belief in my work—gave me the courage to take this new hobby seriously. There is no doubt that without the help of Nikki and Richard Conway, I might not have painted for any longer than a few months. I am so grateful for their support and encouragement!
This experience also gave me the courage to ask for what, at the time, seemed to me like a lot of money for my paintings. I tested the waters with these prices at local fundraisers. Being present when multiple people are bidding on your work can be a bit intimidating, but in the end, it has been an incredible experience. I do several of these each year, and I’m always astonished and grateful. It’s a way for me to give back to the community, not to mention I get to do something I’m passionate about. It really blows my mind that I can essentially use my paintings as currency—getting paid for doing something I was going to do anyway!

So would you say “doing what you love” is the best thing about freelancing?
There are so many things I like about it, but the biggest has to be that I get to set my own schedule, which allows me to be flexible with my family’s needs. Having a studio of my own gives me a place to go to work (and I work very hard at what I love), but I’m also able to spend time with those who are most important to me—my family and friends. It’s a pretty good deal. It feels like I’ve been given a free pass. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that this is my life!

Is there a downside to freelancing?
The balance between home life and being an artist is sometimes tricky. Even though I know I have the full support of my friends and family, I still cringe at the occasional use of the word “hobby” for my artistic endeavors. I know they don’t understand: I have to paint; it’s what I’m here to do. Yet from time to time, I still feel the need to defend, even to myself, the time spent at the studio. And while I know that being creative is my purpose here, it’s easy to lose sight of it when the issue of money enters the conversation. I have found some peace in the acceptance that these tend to be semantic issues. And since art is my direct line to my higher power, it is far too important for me to let semantics get in the way….

….Do you have any advice for beginning/struggling artists?
Get copies of The Artist’s Way and Art & Fear. Read them, practice them, and share them with friends. Keep showing up!

Maggie Barnes’ painting “Katy’s Birthday” is 16″ x 20″ work in acrylic.
© Maggie Barnes. Reprinted with permission.

ERIKA O’CONNELL is former editor of Artist’s & Graphic Designer’s Market, as well as a freelance editor/writer and aspiring artist.

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