An interview with Paul Barnes…

An interview with Paul Barnes

1. Please give us a lil’ background info on yourself. Where were you born and raised?
I was born in the Highlands of Scotland to Scottish/Italian parents. We moved to the city when I was 4 for a few years, then back again to the countryside until I left home for art school at 18. After graduating, my wife and I headed to Edinburgh for about 10 years. We are now back in the place I grew up, raising a family.

2. If I came to your area, what would we do/where would you take me?
It’s really beautiful around these parts, so I guess we would enjoy some sightseeing. If you were into it, we could climb a couple of hills…there’s quite a few here, some have pretty cool monuments on the top, like towers and pyramids. I’d take you to a haunted castle down the road and later we’d go for a tour around the ancient stone circles and monoliths in the surrounding area. I hope you like old things! If you are a whisky drinker, I’d take you to one of the famous distilleries in north Scotland.

In the evenings we’d go and catch a band or two play in the city, which has an exciting scene going on. There’s a really amazing venue which is in a tunnel beneath the city streets, we’d definitely head there for sure. You’re welcome here anytime! Please come.

3. What are your thoughts on art school?
Overall, I feel that if someone is going to be a great painter, they’ll do it whether they go to school or not. But art school is great in terms of the time and structure it gives you to learn the foundations in whatever field. I also think socially, to be part of a creative group of peers/friends, is very important to the learning process, whether that’s in or out of art school.

4. What’s your earliest memory of art or creating art?
I remember when I was 5, my mother left my father and we went to live in the attic of my grandparents’ house. It was a big old house and they rented out the rooms. One of the lodgers was a Scandinavian girl who was an art student and she inspired and encouraged my grandmother to start painting, at 70 years old. I was intrigued by all the tubes of oil paint, palettes, and brushes around the place and loved watching them paint, always wishing I could have a go! They used to take me to the art school degree shows and tell me that one day I would go there to study.

I remember being amazed by the books in my grandparents’ bookcase….books on folklore, mythology, UFOs, nature, spirituality and magic. I used to draw all my favourite things from them, like giants, witches, castles, E.T.s, all the weird and wonderful creatures. Then when I was about 9 I got given a copy of ‘The Hamlyn Book of Horror’ and the following years were spent copying millions of vampires, werewolves and zombies.

5. When are you most productive/when do you normally work on art?
As I’ve always worked from the living room couch at home, I’ve had to wait until the family go to bed before I can set up the paints and stuff, so I’d work from around 9pm till 5am. It was an insane way of working, but I think I’m a bit nocturnal by nature anyway which is lucky. It sucked in the winter time as you’d see about 2 hours daylight a day and sometimes I would swear I was coming down with rickets.

I got a studio about 6 months ago! Where I can go and work during the day! It’s a whole new experience, it‘s amazing. But I still think I’m at my most creative at night, so I develop ideas and draw for a few hours in the evenings.

6. Tell us something about yourself that someone would never guess in their wildest dreams.
I have green fingers! I love gardening, it’s kind of like a form of meditation to me. Getting down in the ground, up real close to the earth, it’s wildlife, insects and plant life all doing their thing gives me good vibes and makes me feel at peace.

7. Are you reading anything right now?
I don’t get too much time to read these days, if I do it’s usually bedtime stories for my children.
But recently I did get the book ‘Into The Wild’, the story of Christopher McCandless, so hope to read that soon.

8. What’s your favourite color and why?
I like mostly warm colors, probably as it’s so damn cold here in Scotland!……Blood red….yum!
9. Do you listen to music while painting? If so, do you have a current favourite that inspires?
Yeah, always. Music is of huge importance to my creativity, a lot of the time it motivates me to paint. I like anything! Folk, grindcore, punk, electronic, metal….. lots of things to suit any kind of mood while I’m painting. The last couple of weeks I’ve been digging out old 80’s punk/grunge classics, stuff like Mudhoney, Sonic Youth, Big Black, L7, Butthole Surfers, etc. The energy in this music makes me feel like I can take on the world when I’m actually totally worn out! I feel like I’m 16 again.

10. If you had to explain your work to a stranger, how would you do it?
Ooooh, difficult one. I always find this hard when put in this situation. But recently, thanks to myspace, I’ve been enjoying hearing people describe my work as being like fairytales, creepy and evil but friendly and innocent at the same time. So I guess that’s the kind of words I’d use to describe it these days.
11. Talk a lil’ bit about the general idea/vibe behind your new series of works for ‘Come Wander With Me’.
I’ve been digging up and re-introducing creatures I’ve not drawn for a long time. Developing their characters and how they might interact with each other when I come to make larger scale pieces. I’m also always trying to get my work to have an ‘old’ feel about it, so I’ve been developing that further too.

12. Favourite artist (living or dead) and what makes them special to you?
My son! The art he creates is very precious to me. We bounce ideas off each other…I’ll do a drawing and he’ll copy it or vice versa. I feel lucky to share such an insight into the way a child looks at the world, I love the innocence and truth in the art of children. If they’re drawing a mutilated zombie or such like, it still looks endearing, friendly and playful, I love that!
My other favourite artist (out of many!) is Hieronymus Bosch. His work is a fascinating insight into the mind and imagination of someone who lived 500 years ago and I love the extremes of beauty, humor and horror in his paintings. They inspire me no end.

13. What are you doing right after this interview?
There’s a music festival going on in the field over the wall of our back garden! I can hear Bad Manners playing ‘My Girl Lollipop’, so I’m gonna run across and have a bounce along with the crowd!

To see more of Barnes’ work check out:

And add him as a friend here:

Paul Barnes
Come Wander With Me
Select new works on the salon wall in our project room
Opening Reception: Fri, Sept. 12th 7-11PM

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