Barbara A. Lewis - Artist/Naturalist

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Meeting Challenges

Posted on April 29, 2011 at 10:37 AM

While I someday dream of working “full time” in my dream studio (don’t we all) - I am currently working a full time graphic design position and juggling my fine art on the side. It is a challenge, but one that I enjoy. Since I have been in the graphic industry for so many years, I am used to working with deadlines and my home studio is no exception. I constantly set goals for my fine art and one of them for this year was to take more workshops and enter more shows.

I am delivering my first ever juried piece, “One Last Look” to the Dunedin Fine Arts Center this afternoon where it will hang in “Possibilities in Pastel V”  - a regional pastel only show through the end of June - I am so excited!

Currently in the studio I am finishing up several projects and working on my “homework” assignments for my Saturday watercolor class. I have always had a love/hate relationship with watercolors, but with the excellent teaching of Richard Jansen, my respect for the media is growing. I feel very confident with other media, but watercolors have a mind of their own, and are a definate challenge!

One of the things I love doing is painting on stones and tiles. So this week I completed a portrait of “Red” for a dear friend. Red has been her companion for many years and her love and devotion to her dog were obvious - what a blessing we have with our pets! I cannot imagine working in a pet-free studio - I have had everything from hermit crabs to cats and dogs to fish, and they often become available sketch subjects or models for my work.

"An animal's eyes have the power to speak a great language." ~ Martin Buber


First Juried Show

Posted on March 27, 2011 at 3:06 AM

I received notice that one of my pastels, "One Last Look" has been accepted into "Possibilities in Pastel V" an invitational juried exhibition of the Pastel Societies of the Southeastern States to be held at the Dunedin Fine Arts Center May 13 through June 26. This is the first time that I have entered any work into a juried show and I am thrilled to be part of such a wonderful show and among such outstanding pastelists! The show was juried/judged by Doug Dawson - an award-winning master pastelist who will be holding a 3-day workshop hosted by the Pastel Society of Tampa Bay in conjunction with the show.  

Pastels has always been one of my favorite mediums to work in - I love exploring all the various types, and recently at the Pastel Society of Tampa Bay’s March meeting was introduced to Karl Kelly, president of Mount Vision Pastels. He presented a wonderful demo on how his pastels are made and brought numerous colors for us to examine and purchase. His pastels have a wonderful consistency, nice buttery feel and with his range of 350 colors - plenty to choose from. For more info on Mount Vision Pastels please check out his website;

I attended my first watercolor class yesterday at Pinellas Park Art Society, taught by Richard Jansen - the president of PPAS and an outstanding watercolor artist - Watercolor is one of those mediums that I have always had a love/hate relationship with, so I am looking forward to learning how to make peace with it. Richard is teaching us the basics of watercolor, and brought samples of his work to show us along with various materials that he uses and recommends - paper, paints, palettes, etc. I can already tell that this class is going to be fun and exciting - and hopefully I will be adding watercolor to my list of favorite media when I complete it!

One of my goals this year was to take part in more workshops and classes, so I am off to a great start, and I am very fortunate to have so many opportunities in the Tampa Bay area. We have some of the best artists/instructors in the area, and several outstanding art societies/organizations to participate in. I am looking forward to learning more and exploring more!


Posted on March 5, 2011 at 6:11 PM

I finished my pastel portrait of “Nikki” this week and presented it to her new Mom - Kelli Chickos -  to donate to the SPCA’s 4th Annual Animal Affaire Gala - a fundraiser for SPCA Tampa Bay’s Save the Tails Medical Fund. The fund provides desperately needed medical and behavioral care to sick, injured and homeless animals in our community.

When I first heard of Nikki’s case in the news, it was absolutely heartbreaking. Nikki was a 3 month old Boxer/Pit Bull Terrier Mix. Someone had decided to “crop” or remove her ears by placing tight rubber bands around them. She was rescued and brought to the SPCA where she had to have her ears amputated - the damage too severe to save them. She spent several weeks recovering and was then adopted by Steve and Kelli Chickos. Kelli is a co-worker of mine and loves animals so much - I was absolutely thrilled to hear that she and Steve had adopted Nikki.

So I immediately asked her if I could do a portrait of Nikki. She provided me with some beautiful photos to work from, and despite her terrible injuries, Nikki has proven to be a very happy little pup and when I was deciding on which photos to use, I could see the love and joy in her huge brown eyes, and her unstoppable spirit.

She is beautiful and very loved, and I am hoping that the funds raised by my donation of the portrait will help the SPCA and I know that Nikki will be an awesome little ambassador to educate the public and hopefully put a stop to this cruel and horrendous practice.

Please support the SPCA any way you can. See the SPCA link under my Links section.

"Waya" Complete - On To Other Projects

Posted on February 8, 2011 at 4:37 AM

"Waya" is complete and currently hanging in the Pinellas Park Art Society February show, and hopefully will be accepted as my first juried entry in another regional show in March. So now I can get busy on other projects in the studio.

But next up will be a portrait of "Nikki" - a very special puppy with a very happy ending. She was rescued by our local SPCA after someone had cruelly tied rubber bands around her little ears - they were infected and had to be removed. I was thrilled to find out that one of my co-workers had adopted her and she will be a featured guest at a rundraiser for the SPCA. I will be donating a portrait of her for their auction and she is an adorable, playful pup and totally loved by her new owner. I will be doing her portrait in pastel and posting it here on my blog.

I have numerous art projects in various stages of completion in the studio, so I will have a busy few weeks in addition to my full time graphics "day job". One new project I am contemplating will be painting on leather - I have tried my stone paints on several surfaces: glass, metal, tile, wood, but not on leather. I have a very specific wildlife subject in mind as well, and leather will compliment him perfectly. Should be a fun and exciting challenge!

"Waya" complete:

UPDATE: "Waya" won first place in the Pinellas Park Art Society All Media Show, February 14, 2011. I was thrilled to place in this show!

"Waya" Nearly Complete

Posted on February 2, 2011 at 6:18 AM

I have made some nice progress on my wolf portrait, "Waya" which means wolf in Cherokee. I got some great critique from a fellow artist and made adjustments, which in pastel is tricky. But overall I am pleased with the piece and it is nearly done. I enjoyed working on this one as it gave me a chance to get really tight with the detail. I am currently working in pastel, but will be finishing up an acrylic painting next, then some more commission work. Juggling a full time graphics job and doing my fine art on the side is a lot, but totally worth it! I enjoy the challenges that each requires, and the creative process. I have a favorite quote from Thomas Hart Benton, "The life of the artist is the best in the world if you can get through the first 40 years". I am now getting into the best part - wish me luck!

Work in progress "Waya"

Posted on January 29, 2011 at 6:40 AM

Now that my studio is finally organized, I can relax and get some projects done. I have a few pet portrait commissions to complete and I am currently working on an entry for an upcoming juried pastel only show entitled “Waya” to honor my Cherokee ancestors.

Wolves are one of my favorite wildlife subjects and living in Wyoming in the mid 80s brought their plight into sharp focus for me. There was, and still is, a huge amount of debate about the reintroduction of the wolves into the Yellowstone ecosystem, but it was necessary. I will not debate it here on my blog, but suffice it to say, I am siding with the wolves. We as humans have taken over and destroyed so much habitat that there are not too many places truly wild in the U.S. And the wolf, as one of the last wild symbols of legend and lore, was nearly hunted to extinction and largely misunderstood. It is vital that we try and restore natural habitat as much as possible, and the wolf was a large part of that natural habitat. A balanced ecosystem includes predator and prey - removing one or the other has huge adverse reactions to the entire ecosystem and that includes us humans as well.


I am creating this piece using Ampersand pastel board and using Rembrandt soft pastels as well as Conte pastel pencils. I usually do a very light sketch first, then start working in layers, left to right, blending as I go. However, the first thing I do on all my animal portraits is the eyes. If the eyes are not right, then it is no point in continuing to work on the piece. I wanted to capture the wolf’s gaze - one of the most prominent features is his eyes. Then work in the fur - amazing textures and colors. Pastels lend themselves perfectly to capturing both rough and smooth fur textures. I will post up pics of the finished piece on both this blog and in my gallery section under “Pastels”.

“WAYA” in progress

Organized and Ready

Posted on January 19, 2011 at 6:32 AM

One of the biggest challenges in working in a small space is keeping everything organized. My studio is small (the second largest bedroom in our 3 bedroom home) and over the holidays it quickly became a “catch all” for holiday wrapping, storage, etc. As a result, I barely had room to turn around in there to complete my holiday commissions.

So the first item on my list for the new year was to totally organize my working and storage space. One of my holiday gifts from my husband was a new five tier black shelf that is the same dimension of my storage cabinets - sturdy steel, and each shelf holds 1,000 lbs. Since I work on stones, the strength of the shelves is very important. I was able to fit my two file cabinets on the bottom, which left plenty of storage room on the other shelves.

With the addition of the new shelves, I was able to fit my nature and art techniques library to one of the storage cabinets, and rearrange the second cabinet to house all of my art supplies. So the room is definately more artist “user friendly”. I look forward to working in my creative space!

In other news, I have recently joined the Pastel Society of Tampa Bay - a dynamic group of pastelists who show and promote education about the exciting pastel medium. Pastels was one of my first mediums and I love the various effects you can achieve with it. I am looking foward to learning from these professional pastelists!

2011 is shaping up to be an exciting year so far - I am looking forward to many artistic adventures!

Happy Holidays!

Posted on December 29, 2010 at 6:08 AM

I cannot believe another year has passed, but I am looking forward to an exciting new one! My husband and I enjoyed another awesome Christmas - visiting friends and family and making new memories! I enjoyed working on several Christmas projects, as well as making some homemade gifts from the heart. And I received some awesome gifts as well: my best friend in Wyoming sent me some homemade goodies from her kitchen, some sagebrush and greenery for wreaths, calendars, books and beautiful pictures of her family and Wyoming. She is an awesome artist and I enjoyed seeing pictures of her beautiful watercolors - just wished she lived closer!

In addition, I received some much needed art supplies for the studio from friends, a new easel from my wonderful husband David, and several art books: A book on Birds of Prey, a vintage book on birds with gorgeous illustrations, and Robert Bateman’s new book, “New Works”.

We are truly blessed to have such wonderful friends and loving family - the best gift is the time spent with them!

My goals for the new year include exploring new art techniques, entering more art events and doing more for conservation. Happy New Year everyone!

Back to the Brushes!

Posted on November 6, 2010 at 7:16 PM

  After being on hiatus for a few weeks, it is time to break out the brushes and get busy in the studio once more. I have several projects in the works - some commissions - so between my full time job as a graphic designer and my fine art endeavors, I have a lot on my plate… er… palette!

  I am looking forward to taking reference images outside as well, now that Florida has finally decided to get a little cooler. I love the fall… eventhough Florida has a very subtle one. The sweet gum and maple trees are starting to drop some colorful leaves, and the grass is starting to brown a bit. I have enjoyed seeing all the migratory birds coming in too - Canada geese, hawks, crows etc. making their way south for the winter. Lots of subjects to photograph and observe, and hopefully work their way onto one of my canvases this winter.

  When I lived in Virginia and Wyoming, most folks really got excited with spring weather, and rightfully so. After a long, cold winter the first signs of spring are a truly welcome sight! And it is a thrill to see new life springing up everywhere - one of the miracles of nature.

  But living in Florida we are sort of the opposite from the rest of the nation - at least I am. I get very tired of the super hot summer days of August and long for my Virginia mountains - the cool crisp night air and the brilliant splashes of color, fall festivals, pumpkins and fresh apples from the orchards. Florida is wonderful in the winter months: great for camping, nature exploration, enjoying warm beach weather while your northern counterparts are complaining about shoveling snow…

  Still… once a mountain girl… always a mountain girl - and I get excited when fall happens in Florida the same as I did when spring came in the mountains. I can finally get my lungs full of cool, crisp air - see awesome sunsets and see birds that normally do not live here come by in record numbers. I am looking forward to camping and painting out in nature again and seeing the stars at night, hearing coyotes… yes Florida DEFINATELY has coyotes! … and being a child of nature once again.

Environmental Outrage

Posted on July 6, 2010 at 5:10 PM

I told myself that when I added a blog to my art website that I would focus on nature, wildlife and art subjects and not get into politics and news of the day. However, as everyone is well aware of, the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is too disturbing to ignore. Like my fellow Floridians and residents of the gulf states I have been shocked, outraged and saddened by the continuing nightmare that has plagued our states since the Deepwater Horizon exploded and sank. The massive amounts of oil spewing, the botched attempts at stopping it, the sickening cleanup is impacting our lives and environment in unprecedented ways.

I remember all too well the horrifying images of oil-soaked shores and birds when the Exxon Valdez disaster occurred. It was surreal and terrifying and the aftermath is still being felt. I cannot imagine what the gulf oil spill will cost us in wildlife, loss of habitat and ruined lives. Or the decades it will take to clean it up AFTER the well is finally sealed.

It is easy to become overwhelmed when facing such disasters, but as Floridians, we are already well versed in recovery from hurricanes, but we have never faced anything of these proportions. But I also know that each of us will roll up our sleeves and work tirelessly to preserve and reclaim our shores. We are a tough bunch of folks down here and pitch in whenever and wherever help is needed.

When the disaster first struck, one of our frontline wildlife rescue groups, the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary immediately started taking in supplies for the cleanup and their efforts are ongoing. And that is just one organization ready and willing to help. Whatever you can afford, donate, or volunteer to do in your area is most appreciated. I know that there are people working daily to clean up the beaches in record setting hot temperatures up north of us in the panhandle and the other states. This will take a very long time to clean up and will leave a painful legacy, but we each can do our part and make a difference.