New York-based artist Beatrice Barkin paints fast, energetic still lifes that invite you to take a bite.
Beatrice Barkin has a thing for food: juicy orange slices, fluffy pieces of cake, and delicate eggshells all appear in her charming kitchen paintings. The Oyster Bay native has been making colorful, inviting artwork ever since her early college years at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, where she learned to work with fabric and illustrate designs. Though she still regularly posts fashion illustrations on her Instagram account, Beatrice is more interested in the possibilities of oil painting these days.
Barkin’s collage ‘The Bigger the Hair the Closer to God’ is a colorful illustration from her fashion days
“After I had children, I could only make art in the area,” says Beatrice, speaking of her cozy hometown of Oyster Bay on Long Island’s North Shore. “There happened to be a local school in town called The Teacher Studios of Art. So out of sheer necessity, I started painting and studying more classical stuff. I was learning fundamentals that had really never been taught to me.”
After five years at the Teaching Studios, Beatrice grew bored with the fundamentals, and went to study at the historic Art Students League in Manhattan where teachers Karen O’Neil and Max Ginsberg taught her new methods of painting that challenged her perceptions of classical painting. She now paints quickly, choosing still lifes as her favorite subject, and finishing each painting in just six hours. The results are bursting with energy, color, and freshness. Beatrice is currently developing the still lifes into a collection of quaint, square paintings that would brighten the walls of any kitchen.
How did your work change when you started going to the Art Student League?
Beatrice Barkin: I was being exposed to a variety of different teaching methods. It was very exciting to be there…The Art Student League is a whole historic building, and in every classroom there’s a different teacher going on, all day long.
So then I started painting more boldly, with more color, and with oil paint. I wanted to learn how to use [oil paint] in different ways, rather than the classical way. We were taught differently—we were taught to use a very big brush. We used big paint strokes, very bold.
Why did you feel attracted to oil paint specifically, over acrylic or watercolor?
BB: It was convenient for the limited time I had to paint. I still study with the same woman, and we paint still lifes with big, bold brushes… we have to complete the painting in six hours. I just love that. Whereas with the other methodology, you put on layers and layers of paint and it takes forever.
There is an immediacy to your paintings—they look so fresh and light. The colors are really appealing.
BB: I like to keep it sheer. Some people even think it looks like watercolor—they don’t know what it is.
Have you had any problems documenting your work or presenting it in a professional way?
BB: I’ve had problems trying to photograph my work because it always comes out distorted, even if I steady the work and bring a tripod for the camera. I know it’s distorted, otherwise [the artwork] would be a perfect square.
What’s difficult for you about photographing your work?
BB: Well, it takes forever to set up outside, and then a cloud could pass. The lighting could change. Sometimes you have to wait. I really don’t want indoor lighting because then you really have poor reproduction and glare from the light. I find the daylight is the most successful. Then I found out about Chica Prints and they’ve been scanning them for me ever since—it’s made my life easier!
What has been your experience with scanning so far?
BB: I get the scans back, and it’s like, “Wow, all my problems are solved.” [My inlaws] want a couple copies of [“Rocko”]. I think it’s going to make a really good reproduction. I get prints made, too, and Chica Prints does a very nice job with those.
How do you use scanning and printing to help with your business?
BB: Well, I use scanning to make digital copies of my work. I get giclee prints from the scans so I can have affordable copies of my work for people to buy. It’s been great for that.
What are your plans for the future?
BB: I’m working on my website right now, and I’m also planning on joining the Society of Illustrators here in New York.