The (Water) Colorful Life of artist Bari Federspiel

Playful, sentimental, flowy, or tight, watercolor artist, Bari Federspiel can do it all. Quick to smile, or laugh, this bundle of energy is a member of Mensa as well as an accomplished artist. She is sweet, humorous, kind, and courageous, and I believe this spunky septuagenarian could run circles around me!

Keep reading to learn more about the colorful life of Bari Federspiel.

SnS: Hello Bari, and welcome to the SquidandSquirrel. Let’s start with the easy stuff. Where are you from?

Bari: Well, my parents were attending college in Russellville, Arkansas when I was born. Dad had just come home from the war, and they met in the school band. Dad went back into the military after he got his degree, which means we moved around a lot. I’ve lived in many US states; even Germany for a while, but I’ve been in Spokane since 1991. That’s when my first husband, who worked for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, got transferred here. When we moved to Spokane, I knew that I was home at last.

SnS: All right! So did you attend art school abroad or in the US?

Bari: Both my parents were artists, so living with them was like going to art school. There was always pens, pencils, brushes, Scripto pens, india ink, watercolor paints, and paper. No coloring books, but all sorts of art supplies. 

At first, neither of them had a career in art, but Dad painted lovely watercolors. Mom eventually took up oil painting and ended up teaching for 18 years. So that was my art school. I did take an art class in high school, and one semester in college. But I was a very conservative, very naive young lady, and when the art teacher asked me to be a nude model I thought, “This is freaky.” So I changed to a music major, right there on the spot. I then taught piano for 15 years.

SnS: So you are multi-talented!

Bari: Well, I’m not talented at piano. That’s why I don’t teach or perform anymore. It was nerve wracking. Art came more easily to me, plus I liked it. I do make gourmet pastries, and decorate cakes though. Does that count?

SnS: Absolutely! Where do you find the inspiration for your art?

Bari: Oh, from all over the place. For my ‘Remembering Dads’ exhibit, I took inspiration from what they did. And what they loved. Like dogs, fishing, playing instruments, etc. Because of how this one turned out, I may just do another series. Maybe moms?

I also take photos constantly. 

SnS: Wow! So tell us about your process. Do you walk the garden? Down a quad-shot espresso? Play Tiddly Winks?

Bari: I drink Dr. Pepper. **laughs** Just kidding. I have to clean the room. Before I start a painting, the art room has to have the clutter gone, because as I paint, I make more clutter. Now, if you saw my art room you’d say, “My gosh, she thinks that’s clean?” But everything is in its place, and I know where it is.

Once I have things ready, I draw from the hundreds of photos I have, for paintings. Sometimes combining several photos into one painting, and making some of it up.

SnS: What drew you to watercolors? Do you work in other mediums?

Bari: I just love looking at it. Ironically, most of the paintings I do are not like the ones I’ve admired. Most of them are loose and “juicy”, pastels, and lots of white. Mine are tighter, but I think that comes from 28 years of sign painting. In my ‘Remembering Dads’ series, there’s a painting with pencils in it. They all have lettering on them. That’s the kind of stuff I probably do best. But I really enjoy the chickens.

SnS: I LOVE your chicken paintings! It was one of your chickens that first caught my eye, made me want to interview you.

Bari: Oh good. Chickens are my favorite. They are just hilarious, stupid, and funny. 

To answer your question though, I did oil paintings for several years because my mother taught it. But I only did one or two paintings a month. I hated it because of the smell, and they never turned out looking anything like the watercolors I had always admired.

SnS: Have you always worked as an artist, or have you held other jobs?

Bari: For 28 years I did graphic art, window and sign painting. I even painted a billboard on I-40, and a few gymnasium walls. During those years, I also worked in a bakery, taught at a pre-school, subbed for an elementary school, and was an executive assistant at a small software company. When my husband died in 2003, I decided to do what I’d always wanted to do. That’s when I started taking watercolor lessons. Painting is legally my business now, but I’m 70, and I’m taking care of my mom. I’ve got enough to keep me busy. So next year I’m going to turn painting into a hobby, and back off somewhat.

SnS: So should we all rush out and buy your art while we can?

Bari: OF COURSE!!! **laughs**  I’ll still be painting. I just won’t be as aggressive about it. 

SnS: Do you have any artists you admire, or emulate?

Bari: Stan Miller. I took lessons with him for years, and still consult him for critiques. He’s my mentor. I’ve learned a lot about value and composition, the things that really count, from him. 

I do like to take workshops from other people though, because I always pick up new techniques, and different ideas. I take away something from everyone of them, and incorporate it into my style. It constantly changes. You can look at my earlier works, against those done more recently, and they don’t even look like they are done by the same person.

SnS: Change is good. So do you have a philosophy of life, or art?

Bari: I strive to glorify God in all that I do, and that’s basically it.

As far as a philosophy of art. . . I like to do what I like. I do what I’m familiar with, and I want to continue to learn and branch out. I think I’ll grow old and die if I don’t.

SnS: If you could travel to anywhere, in time or space, where would you go?

Bari: I would probably choose Australia and Great Britain first, because I can speak their language. Second, our church supports another church in Russia. I’d like to go over to visit, but there are some hurdles to clear. Third, I’d also like to take a cruise down the Rhine or Danube. Ocean cruises don’t interest me. I don’t want to just sit around playing shuffleboard. I’d rather be off the ship looking around at castles, towns, shops, and things. I’d like to go back and visit Germany, and France too.

SnS: Nice! For those of us staying in Spokane, where can we find your art?

Bari: Right now, until the end of September, my Funky Chicken exhibit is hanging in the William Grant Gallery in Kendall Yards. In October I’ll have a painting in the MAC with the Spokane Watercolor Society juried show, and will have work hanging at the Liberty Building. I’ll also be teaching a workshop that month. Then in November, I am showing in the Hillyard Library.

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SnS: Wow, busy lady! Do you have any charities you support?

Bari: My husband and I both support the United Blind of Spokane because my husband’s daughter is legally blind, and my grandfather was completely blind. We give to our churches, World Vision, and Wyran Youth Missions. I’ve also sold a few of my paintings to help raise funds for friends who were fighting cancer, or were going on mission trips.

SnS: All right! Thank you for interviewing with TheSquidandSquirrel, Bari. 🙂

If you would like to see more of Bari Federspiel’s art, you can find her at: Flootie.comSpokaneWaterColorSociety.com, or on facebook  as Razzlebari Watercolours.

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