Why Are Barns Red?

"Old Barn in Spring", pastel, 11 x17

“Old Barn in Spring”, pastel, 11 x17

It is February already! It is the month of Valentine’s Day when we hope someone thinks of us with tokens of love, the color red and flowers. January found me busy with this painting, “Old Barn in Spring.” The focal point of the painting is the red barn. The color of the red barn made me wonder why barns are painted red. They have been called “architectural poppies” that contrast with green grass. According to Catherine Bauer of Colorado and others that have researched the topic, early settlers in America painted huge barns that symbolized great hopes and plans for life in the New World. Farmers began painting barns after the 1700’s with skimmed milk, lime, and red oxide. Linseed oil and often blood was also added to the mixture. Some farmers thought that red painted barns kept them warmer inside in winter.

Red is the color of Valentine hearts. It is also symbolic of a zest for life. In design it is used to attract attention. In this painting I think the solidity and timeless quality of the weathered barn contrasts with the fleeting nature of the delicate pink of the fruit tree in the foreground.

Technical elements of the painting: I first blocked in the scene from a reference photo with pastel and set the under painting with a wash of water. The original scene did not have the pathway and foreground fencing which I added as a compositional element to invite the viewer into the painting. There were several vanishing points due to the various hills which made for a few challenges.

I hope the month of February brings you more symbols of the color red!

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California Gold

It was the discovery of gold in the hills of California that brought the 49’ers to seek their fortunes. There is still gold to be found at the Ironstone Vineyards in Murphys, CA .  The 44 lb. specimen of Crystalline Gold Leaf displayed at the Museum at Ironstone Vineyards in Murphys, CA  is the world’s largest of its kind. That is one reason to visit the area in addition to tasting some great wines paired with great food and viewing the art at the 16th Spring Obsession Art Show and Sale.  The Avocado, Tomato, and Marcarpone Stuffed Shells paired with the 2011 Obsession Symphony wine was my favorite pairing at the artists reception on March 2nd.  It was also fun to spend the evening with fellow East Bay Area artist Robin Leimer.

44 lb Crystalline Gold

44 lb Crystalline Gold

My painting “Daffodil Hill” was selected to be shown in the Theme Division and is on exhibit in the Alhambra Music Room through May 12th. While the vintners wait for the growth on the grape vines, the daffodils were beginning to show their own golden hues. I set up my easel by the miner’s shack where gold panning was offered. Instead of panning for flakes of gold, I shuffled through my assorted sticks of pale yellows, golden yellows, and bright orange yellows to suggest the colorful array of daffodils on the verdant hillside.

"Daffodil Hill"

“Daffodil Hill” on display – Ironstone Vineyards

On location at Ironstone

On location at Ironstone

It was great to have our friends the Nelsons stop by while I was painting before they went to the winery tasting room and the art show.  Here is my interpretation of the scene.  It was a beautiful spring day for painting at Ironstone Vineyards.

"California Gold",

“California Gold”, pastel, 11×14