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Meet John Barney

Today we’d like to introduce you to John Barney.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
I never painted a canvas until my early 50’s! This is an important point – age does not have to be a barrier to becoming a serious artist. Most of my life I’ve been a fan of art – visiting galleries across the country, buying art books and paintings, and visiting regional art fairs. About eight years ago, my wife, son, and I decided to paint some canvasses to redecorate our family room. The process inspired me so much that I metamorphosed into an art monster- creating one painting after another in my garage under (mostly) artificial light. Everything I created was by trial and error – I’ve still never had a lesson. I learned most of my technique by observing the traits and characteristics of the paintings I’ve admired – and then incorporating those into my own work – namely, color, texture, and psychological dimension.

I was equally fascinated by the idea of making some income from my work. Almost immediately, I began selling paintings on EBAY – and within about a year and a half had my first gallery show in Whittier, CA. During the subsequent seven years I’ve had several galleries shows, won some awards, held solo exhibitions for a couple of CA
cities, participated in local art events, and had my art used in a book. I’ve also learned a valuable lesson – in the age declining galleries, an artist must be aggressive in pursuing opportunities through social media, networking, and marketing – you can’t wait around to be “discovered,” no matter how talented you are.

Please tell us about your art.
I’m generally considered to be an abstract expressionist artist with a strong emphasis on color and texture. About 75% of what I paint is done with a palette knife. I’m enthralled by the semi-random ways the stroke of the knife blends color, while also giving the painting character by way of the slashing and scraping of the knife. There’s usually a definable subject in my paintings – and I strive to create works that allow the viewer their own personal journey of interpretation. It’s what I call the “psychological dimension” of an artwork. I hope that viewers learn something about themselves through the art they experience. I’m a school psychologist by training, and I’m fascinated how different people have wildly divergent opinions about the same piece of art. That unique experience is what makes it so personal and interesting. My biggest wish is that the observer has a little “art vacation” each time they look at a painting – time and space is suspended as they lose themselves in the work. However, I also always say you don’t have to go so deep – if you enjoy a piece of art because the colors bring your room to life, that’s also a beautiful thing!

Do you have any advice for other artists? Any lessons you wished you learned earlier?
My biggest piece of advice for other artists is to “Just Do It!” Don’t wait until you think your art is perfect. Participate in local shows (there’s plenty of them), submit work to online galleries, learn how to cultivate collectors by talking with them about your work. You have to take charge of your art career – no one else will do it for you.

Not everyone will like your art – that’s OK – it’s the way it’s supposed to work! You’ll be rejected by galleries and shows; you will have a six-hour show and only sell a single print; people will gush over your work for an hour – and then walk away with nothing. It’s all part of the process. At times it’s amazingly frustrating but it’s the nature of the business.

Gallery shows are a lot of fun and make you feel fantastic. But the number of galleries out there are declining and the competition is fierce. Find ways to sell outside of that model. I love being independent. I create a painting and someone gives me money for it – it doesn’t get much straighter-more forward than that – and no waiting for a gallery payment. Be creative – I just had a show for my apartment building and sold an original – great! Finally, develop a network of other artists. They are your biggest support – because they understand.

How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
The best place to find or purchase my work is at my online gallery here: You can also catch me on Instagram under “johnbarneyart” or on Facebook at

You can check my website BLOG for current shows. My email is an open door – so I’m always happy to respond to inquiries, questions and comments. Contact me at I would also encourage interested parties to sign up for my monthly newsletter – you can do so at my website. I’m also part of a small artist group in Long Beach – we’re always open to putting on a show at your event – or even your home!!

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
John Barney

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