Serena Barton is the author of Wabi-Sabi Art Workshop: Mixed Media Techniques for Embracing Imperfections and Celebrating Happy Accidents. She leads creativity and art workshops and group and individual art coaching at her studio in Portland, Oregon and at art retreats. Her greatest joy comes from providing an atmosphere in which her students can discover or rekindle their creative passions.
Q: What kind of art are you known for?
A: I was first known for Renaissance-inspired portraits and narrative paintings and for still lifes. Right now I am creating mostly wabi-sabi style abstracts in paint and mixed media. I think all my work speaks to the glories of light and color.
Q: What is on your workspace right now?
A: In the middle of the space is a still life set up for a student, acrylic paints, and a palette-knife landscape in progress.
Q: Why do you make art?
A: The usual answer artists give to this question is “Because I have to.” That speaks for me, as well as “Because I get to” and “Because I love to.”
Q: What’s your current favorite, can’t-live-without-it tool, supply, material, or junkyard find?
A: I love this vintage “treasure chest.” It was found in India and may have been used as a tea chest. It holds my inks, pens, vintage letters, and more.
Q: What is your least favorite technique that you still use anyway?
A: I don’t think I have any techniques that I use that I don’t like. Tasks like gessoing panels or removing pages for altered books are not very interesting, but they are necessary!
Q: What’s your favorite tool or material?
A: Favorite tools and materials vary from time to time. Right now my favorite material is oil mixed with cold wax and my favorite tools are scrapers for exposing buried layers of paint.
Q: What do you listen to when you create?
A: I like music I can sing along to (when no one else is there) or music that gets inside my heart. Right now it’s mostly cellist Jacqueline du Pré playing Elgar or the Mcgarrigle Sisters.
Q: What’s the best book you’ve read lately?
A: I read at least a book a day when I’m not away teaching at art retreats. So, it’s hard to choose. I just finished The Woman in the Photograph by Mani Feniger. It’s about Mani’s search for her mother’s past and for her own heritage.
Q: What’s the most inspiring trip you’ve ever taken or adventure you’ve ever had?
A: As I often mention when asked my bio, my first trip to Italy was the turning point of my life. That was when I knew I had to (re-)learn to make art.
Q: What’s the last thing you cooked?
A: Brown rice, vegetables, and chicken. Can you tell I’m on a special diet?
Q: If you could surround yourself with only one color, what would it be?
A: I love burnt sienna and ochres. Here’s a photo of our living room. I had the paint color copied from a painting by the Renaissance artist Piero della Francesca.
Q: Do you have a talisman/power garment/magical thing you wear?
A: Yes. It’s called a brassiere and it has the power to defy gravity.
Q: What’s your favorite place in all the world?
A: Tied for first place are Italy, Taos, NM, and the Oregon Coast.
Q: What one thing do you want to do that you haven’t done yet?
A: Visit my childhood friend who now lives in Denmark.
Q: What’s the best day you’ve ever had?
A: Too many to pick just one. If I could, I’m sure it would involve art, my family, and Italian food.
Q: What’s today’s Word to Live By?
Q: What is your guilty pleasure?
A: A little 85% cocoa chocolate.
Q: If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
A: The power to time-travel. I’d like to visit pre-eruption Pompeii, the Middle Ages, Venice in the Renaissance, Paris in the heyday of the Impressionists and in the twenties, and so much more.
Q: With whom would you love to spend one day making art?
A: The 19th century painter, Édouard Manet. His brushwork is stunning and I’d love to see him at work.
Q: When is your favorite time of day?
A: I tend to get a lot of energy around midnight.
Q: What is your earliest memory?
A: I am sitting in a highchair in a kitchen. The sun is coming in the window and my mother is feeding me Gerber Chocolate pudding from a can as another woman looks on. I used to wonder if this was a real memory as I’d never known baby food to come in a can instead of a jar. Then I saw an ad in an old Life magazine showing Gerber food in a can. Memory confirmed. Chocolate pudding, what could be better?
Q: What was your first job?
A: My first real job was as a proofreader. I proofread abstracts of dissertations on English literature. Frequently I got caught up in the content and missed some errors. I didn’t last too long, but I absorbed many interesting literature-related ideas.
Q: What’s your one favorite material thing?
Q:What’s your best piece of advice for artists?
A: Keep creating, even when you don’t feel like it. Get out and look at art, nature, and life. Share support with other artists. Be willing to experiment, and make mistakes. Laugh a lot.
Q: Is there anything we forgot to ask that you’d like to share?
A: I welcome readers to visit my blog and share your work, opinions, finds, and anything else to do with art and art-making.
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