Artist Anne Barkley

Artist Anne Barkley in her home and studio. (The Leader/Gibb photo)
Artist Anne Barkley in her home and studio.
(The Leader/Gibb photo)

WILLIAMSBURG – “When I paint, the painting itself takes me places,” said artist Anne Barkley, sitting in her comfortable Caughnawaga Road living room, the farm house walls hung with many of her striking, exceptional works.

“I glance at a painting, after I have begun; I study it. I have a conversation with the work. And it is the painting which tells me when it’s done. If the work is not exciting, it’s not done.
Sometimes a painting is immediate. Other works have been painted over for 10 years or more,” she laughed.

Like several of the local artists in this series, Anne Barkley came to her art in something of a roundabout way.

“I could always draw,” she explained, “but I went to a two room school, where there was no art training. And there were no formal art classes in my high school, so you could say that I had no ‘training.’ It was the 1980s before I started taking lessons, and 1998 before I began painting full time. Now I hold a Fine Arts certificate from St. Lawrence College in Brockville.”

She laughs that she actually got her real chance to take up painting when her mother, retiring from work, was offered some art classes.

“She didn’t want them, but she said I should take them. My first teacher was Mrs. Ferguson of Chesterville, a member of the Ontario College of Art.”

Once started with art, Anne never looked back. “Painting is a passion for me.”

Over the years, this noted Williamsburg artist, who has shown her works in galleries in Hamilton, Elora, Ottawa and, just weeks ago, in a Toronto show, has explored many elements of art.

“I was intensely interested in oil portraits in the 80s,” she said. “But I’ve tried everything, oil, water colour – which is hard for me since I think like an oil painter – and acrylics.”

However, it was an unusual technique, an oil and cold wax process, that has shaped her work in the last years.

“I took a workshop in this technique in Guelph, and loved the style immediately. I still work some in acrylics, but this is my chosen medium.”

This technique mixes oil paint with a cold wax medium. There is no heating involved. “The combination gives a very unique effect,” Anne said.

This approach has allowed her to travel in directions that continue to interest and intrigue her.

“My art is based on a landscape format feeling, so it is not totally abstract. The style is intuitive to me. The painting takes me where it wants to go. I don’t do a preliminary sketch, I just start to paint.”

She stresses, however, that any serious artist must study form, design, colour, composition and structure. “You have to learn the basics of painting before you can let any painting lead you.”

A series that she began some years ago, is highly reflective of Anne Barkley’s style.

“I call the series Canadian Rhythms. The paintings are based on Canadian landscapes, but not any specific spot or scene. There have been 18 works to date, some of them very big canvases,” she explained.

“Texture is very important to me. I start with the medium or Oriental Paper. I do a layer of transparent warm colour, then there is a design as I start to paint that informs what comes on top. I react to that base. As I experiment with oil and cold wax, I use a silicon bowl scraper, an actual kitchen utensil, my favourite tool for that medium.”

She was inspired to begin her Canadian Rhythms series by artist Carla O’Connor, who did a show called Rock Rhythms. “The word rock took me to rhythms, and that word triggered 18 paintings,”  Anne laughed.

She rarely accepts commissions. “People see and fall in love with my work, or they don’t.”

For Anne Barley, her art is, and always will be, a focus in life.

“I can never know for sure what direction a painting will take me. But I do know that even if I can’t paint for a time, that painting will still be there, it will still be waiting for me.”