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.
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. 🙂
I must make an admission here, at the start. . . I was nervous to meet artist, Linnea Tobias. Having seen her work for the first time over a year ago, I was immediately drawn in. The world created by her art is layered with colorful details, whimsical creatures, and a depth of vision that I thoroughly enjoy.
Since that first exposure, I’ve seen her art work in more and more places: coffee shops, galleries, small businesses, and even a friends home! After a while, finding her art became like an Easter egg hunt, a thrill to spot. As I became more familiar with her works, I also became curious about the artist. So while waiting for her to arrive for our interview, I was both excited and a little nervous to meet her. Of course, a low dose of panic set in when I realized that my phones wifi wasn’t working and I couldn’t access a picture by which to recognize her. Thankfully, Linnea found me.
Immediately putting me at ease with her gracious good humor, I found that Linnea is quick to smile, very kind, open minded and just generally fun to talk to. I had promised to keep our interview to 30 minutes, but over an hour later we were still chatting. Like her art, she is absolutely engaging.
Keep reading to learn more about this amazing, intuitive artist.
SnS: Linnea, please tell us who, or what, inspired your love of art?
L.T.: My grandfather used to take me to a little art supply store where he lived in Hot Springs, South Dakota. I loved going there – art supply stores are like candy stores for me! I would take my new supplies, hang out in his basement workshop, and draw. He made wood furniture, but he also liked to talk about drawing. My cousin is an artist and I remember as kids he would always have a sketchbook filled with amazing drawings and cartoons that he had created. I was fascinated by them.
SnS: Are you classically trained, or self taught?
L.T.: I always drew as a kid, but I also took quite a few classes as well. I studied art at Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA and spent my senior year in Europe, at the Aegean Center for the Fine Arts on the island of Paros, in Greece. I also took classes at Humboldt State University in Arcata, CA, a few years later.
SnS: So how long have you been in Spokane, what drew you here?
L.T.: After graduating from Evergreen State College in 1991, I moved to Mendocino, CA and lived there for a few years before moving to Arcata. I moved to Spokane about three and a half years ago, when my husband landed a job here. I have a sister who lives here too, so this area wasn’t completely unfamiliar to me.
SnS: What mediums do you work with, and which is your favorite?
L.T.: I have worked with almost everything you can imagine, and I have liked all of it. I’ve worked with pastels, watercolor, oil, acrylics, encaustic, gouache, collage, colored pencil, printmaking, and clay.
Currently, I love fluid acrylics, watercolor, and experimenting with a combination of encaustic and pyrography.
SnS: For folks like me, who are not artists, please explain encaustic and pyrography? I’m guessing pyrography has something to do with fire.
L.T.: Yes, it does. Pyrography is wood burning. Encaustic is a mixture of pigment, beeswax, and varnish. You heat the mixture up and use the resultant colored wax to “paint” with. It isn’t precise, but is fun to work with.
SnS: How would you describe your style, and which artists (if any) influenced it?
L.T.: I’ve always found that a hard question to answer. I love color and nature. I paint intuitively, starting with an idea or drawing that inspires me. I add pattern to it, or abstract imagery, and I put it together going with what feels right. It’s like putting together a puzzle, and only my intuitive self knows the answer.
Quite a few artists inspire me. Paul Klee, Pierre Bonnard, Gustav Klimt, and Odilon Redon are a few.
SnS: Where else do you find inspiration / motivation for your art? Do you listen to music, hike through the woods, drink herbal tea while watching Syfy or Nat Geo?
L.T.: I love to spend time outdoors taking long walks with my dogs, or in my garden. Nature gives me the most inspiration. When I lived in California, I lived next to a redwood forest. It was amazing, and I loved the light. Now that I’m in Spokane, the light is different, darker, but I’m still close to nature and enjoy many of the walking trails and parks throughout town.
I often meditate before I paint. It puts me in a calm, receptive mood. Puts me in “the zone” so to speak. The zone is where I find my flow, transcend self imposed limitations, and let creativity lead me. I also love to travel, and find lots of inspiration from that.
SnS: Travel is always good. Do you have any destination goals?
L.T.: Oh, so many! I’d like to visit Denmark, Norway, Spain, Vienna, Prague, and Japan. Here in the states, I’d like to visit New Orleans, but not during Mardi Gras. I don’t enjoy crowds that big.
SnS: Me either, but I do enjoy how layered and detailed your paintings are. How long does it usually take you to complete a project?
L.T.: It depends. Often I work in a series of three paintings that relate to each other, and work on them simultaneously. Those can take a few days, to a week, to complete. Some paintings take longer. I may put a layer of paint on them and then let them sit for a few weeks, or months, while I contemplate what to do next. Sometimes I complete something within a day or two, when I can visualize clearly what I want it to look like.
SnS: Has your art changed over time?
L.T.: My art was much darker when I was younger, probably due to residual teen angst 😉 It changed as I grew up, and when I got married, but one of the biggest changes came after I had my daughter, not long after 9/11. My art became lighter, more joyful, and more colorful as a result. I guess it was my way of pushing back the darkness for myself and my family, and to create a positive atmosphere.
Moving to Spokane changed it again as I had to get used to the difference in the light. Spokane is darker than California, and has an actual winter.
SnS: what do you think of the Spokane Art scene?
L.T.: The local art scene is small but good. I see a lot of enthusiasm here, and I’d like to think that means that we’ll keep moving forward, keep growing, spreading beauty and hope.
SnS: Well you are doing a good job of that. 🙂 Did you / do you have a day job?
L.T.: This is my job. In the past I have worked for art galleries, non-profit art organizations, and I’ve done some graphic design work. I worked at a summer stock theater in Custer State Park for six years, during college. I painted sets, ran the box office, whatever they needed. I had lots of other boring jobs in between.
Fun fact: my first job, at age 15, was as a tour guide in a commercial cave in the Black Hills of South Dakota where I grew up.
SnS: Obviously, you’ve been working on, around, art and artists a while now. What are your goals as an artist? Have you reached or surpassed any previous goals?
L.T.: One of my goals is to keep trying new techniques and ideas, to stretch myself as an artist. I’m always searching for new ways to express my ideas.
In the past year, I’ve been experimenting with encaustic, and that has been really good for me. Working with beeswax and pigment forces me to give up control over the end result, and let the materials take over.
SnS: Speaking of control. . . If you could control space and time, travel through it to enhance your art, where would you go and why?
L.T.: I love to visit beautiful places like national parks, gardens, the ocean, lakes, etc, and this past week I went to Palm Springs to see the desert bloom in Anza Borrego State Park, and Joshua Tree National Park.
As for going back in time? When I spent that time on a Greek island, I was fascinated by the ancient ruins and old marble mines where they found the marble to use for sculptures on the Parthenon in Athens. I’ve often wondered what it would have been like to live in ancient Greece, so I’d visit there.
SnS: Nice! Would you ride along with “The Doctor”, H.G. Wells, “Doc Brown”, or “Bill & Ted”?
L.T.: Probably none of them. I’d rather bring my dogs instead.
SnS: Well that sort of answered my next question of, which would you prefer as a companion: a dog, cat, squid, or squirrel?
L.T.: Beside my dogs, I do have a cat I adore, so she’d have to come too.
SnS: Okay, final question. Do you have any causes or charities you support that you’d like to share here?
L.T.: I love PBS and NPR. I support local public radio stations and television. I’ve donated to the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and the Humane Society in the past year.
If you would like to see more of Linnea Tobias’ work, you can find her locally at: Pottery Place, Artemesia in the Women’s Club on South Hill, Lindaman’s, the Chocolate Apothecary, and during the summer, Entree Gallery in Priest Lake, ID.