A Bevy of Barns

Barn 1, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 8x10
Barn 1, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 8x10

Barn 1, acrylic on canvas, 8×10

A BEVY OF BARNS

At June’s workshop with AL LACHMAN, we painted from photographs, something I have not done in years. It was a great two days and a useful exercise, but I felt out of my element at times.

Like Al, who has done a beautiful series of barn paintings, and painters like Wolf Kahn, I have long had a fascination with these huge, nostalgic, often dilapidated or slightly out-of-kilter structures. They seem ancient and majestic, towering over the landscape. Their spacious insides are often dark and fragrant with years-old hay, wood, livestock, grain, apples, or tobacco. Even the poorest of farmers has at least one barn. No two barns are alike.

Barn paintings have their own section on my website.

But my results at the workshop were mixed. In the order in which they were painted, starting above:

Barn 2, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on paper, 9x12

Barn 2, acrylic on paper, 9×12

Barn 3, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on paper, 9x12

Barn 3, acrylic on paper, 9×12

Barn 4, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas board, 12x16

Barn 4, acrylic on canvas board, 12×16

Back in my studio, a barn began to emerge in one of my abstractions, to which I added a few details:

Barn 5, Russell Steven Powell oil on canvas, 9x12

Barn 5, oil on canvas, 9×12

AL RECOMMENDS beginning each painting with a premise. It can be anything: choosing a single color, perhaps, singing, or standing on one foot — anything to help shed judgment and inhibitions and start painting. I do this on my own, but I have become more deliberate about it since the workshop.

Rope, c. 2010, Russell Steven Powell oil on canvas board, 12x16

Rope, c. 2010, oil on canvas board, 12×16

I began a painting years ago of interlocking swirls that resembled a thick rope on a beach. It never quite came together. The more I tried to fix it, the worse it looked.

Dusting it off recently, I decided to turn it into a barn:

Barn 6, Russell Steven Powell oil on canvas board, 12x16

Barn 6, oil on canvas board, 12×16

Since then, the barns have kept coming, nearer and nearer:

Barn 7, Russell Steven Powell oil on canvas, 12x9

Barn 7, oil on canvas, 12×9

Barn 8, Russell Steven Powell acrylic and pencil on paper, 9x12

Barn 8, Russell Steven Powell acrylic and pencil on paper, 9×12

Shingles, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 12x9

Shingles, Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 12×9

HERE are some earlier barns that escaped my attention when I made my website.

From 2008:

Chuggy's Barn, Russell Steven Powell watercolor on paper, 17x23

Chuggy’s Barn, watercolor on paper, 17×23

From 2009:

Chuggy's Barn 2, Russell Steven Powell oil on canvas, 14x18

Chuggy’s Barn 2, oil on canvas, 14×18

From 2011:

Milking Barn, Russell Steven Powell mixed media on canvas, 14x18

Milking Barn, mixed media on canvas, 14×18

Fron 2015:

Barn IX, Russell Steven Powell oil on canvas, 16x20

Barn IX, oil on canvas, 16×20

4 thoughts on “A Bevy of Barns

  1. Yay! I own “Barn IX” and I am so proud to have it in my possession. (Or is this one a variation on a theme? If so the paintings are cousins and I’m still proud to own the one I have). Barns are such presences in our New England landscape. I like the old, slightly dilapidated ones. They inspire rumination of all sorts as to what kind of animals they housed, how many stalls were in them, did they have a big hay loft in which children could hide, how long did it take to build them, who kissed who in them, what kind of delectable scent did they emanate etc., etc. Of this lot, I really like the “Milking Barn,” its abstraction.

    1. Right you are about “Barn IX” — it is indeed the one you bought when I first painted it, not a variation on a theme. I love your imaginings of the interiors of barns. They give voice to our fascination with these massive, sturdy structures and the history they house. Thanks.

  2. “Barn IX” rocks!!!! Love the way it all comes to the window….looking out? looking in? Makes me wonder. Lots of great textures in many of the paintings. I also enjoy the weather and times of day so abstractly portrayed in each barn painting. Thanks Russ for sharing this large timeline of work with us. You are as ever, my inspiration to continue.

    1. Thank you, Jan! Fascinating how a theme emerges over time, without intention (well, until recently). I have a feeling I have not painted my last barn. I appreciate the kind words and feedback.

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