I grew up in a part of Ohio where, on a pleasant Sunday afternoon, you could soon be out driving rural country roads past scenes you normally only see in photographs. Many of those country roads would take you past farmland, crops growing in the sun and barns of all shapes and sizes – a lot of barns – both functional and derelict. To me a derelict barn is extremely beautiful as well as depressingly sad. Beautiful because of what that barn has added to the landscape through the decades. Sad because of the memories brought to mind. I think about what that barn once represented and contributed to the area throughout its lifespan. It’s a reminder that in a time well past there was a family, and perhaps generations of family, dependent upon that barn for their livelihood. A barn represents warmth and shelter as well as storage, whether it be harvested crops, farm machinery or livestock. It’s beginnings may well have been the result of a barn raising based upon community spirit and tradition, the sharing of time and skills in exchange for a satisfying result, a job well done and the feeling of belonging and contributing to someone else’s life. A barn, to me, is an image of the American spirit and of times long gone. As our country moves away from the individual farmer and embraces corporate farms these barns will rapidly fade from our landscape. Some may be razed and their carcasses picked over for beams to reuse in upscale housing developments, others are just left to decay and settle into the earth. Barns have always evoked a sense of closeness with the land. The beauty of their structure and landscape settings is something that the world will one day miss.
I know that the way to learn is to copy from the best but I have never been one who thought that was something I would like to do. Our last art class project was to use warm colors and paint a landscape using as a resource a photo of Richard Schmid’s oil painting of “Marjorie’s Barns”. I must admit that I am pleasantly pleased with my pastel results. I used a sanded paper and did an under painting with pastel and water before putting pastels over that. I believe the under painting gave the field a depth I would not have been able to achieve using only pastel. I have learned something new.