Category Archives: Joy

The Joy of Going with the Flow at l’Atelier Galerie & Cafe

This is the first of several exhibits Stephanie will do over the course of the next year. Each exhibit will explore different themes from her work over the last six years. This one starts with her earlier paintings and explores the themes of Joy and Going with the Flow.

Details of this exhibit in September are as follows:
Location: KunstGalerie Cafe, Heinersdorferstraße 34, 13086 Berlin
Vernissage: September 16, 2017, 5pm – 8pm
Finissage: September 23, 2017 at 5pm – 8pm

Facebook event links:

Like it or not

This is a blog post about some recent experiences I have had receiving feedback from other artists about my work. In one case the feedback was negative and criticized me and my paintings, the other was overwhelmingly positive.

In both cases the feedback was unsolicited by me, although in the first case I had asked the artist a question about his experience in the art world, I did not, however, ask him to critique my work.

I did not know the first artist.

The second artist is someone I have known for about 6 years. I trust her and respect her as an artist and a person.

In the first case, the artist’s comments seemed inconsistent and I wondered if he even looked at my work before providing his unsolicited feedback.

In the second case, the artist congratulated me on the evolution of my art and complemented the professionalism of my work (her word, not mine).

Not everyone likes my work, and that’s fine, there’s lots of art that I don’t like too; I am not offended by people who don’t like my work. I am often curious about why and will often engage in a conversation about my art and what it is that they don’t like about it. Often it is too energetic or colourful or they want to “see” something in it, or they just don’t like abstract art—it’s not my paintings in particular, it’s a whole style of painting. And that’s okay, they’re allowed to like or not like things, that’s what makes this world a wonderful place: the diversity of thought and likes and dislikes.

I do think it’s important to keep an open mind when looking at other people’s artwork. If they are sharing it either publicly or privately, it is clearly something that is important to them, something they are passionate about, it is a story that they feel compelled to share in whatever way they are able to. I think you should show and interest in that, out of respect for the other person and their journey, and because you might learn something that informs your own thoughts and experiences (and creative practice, if you have one).

My paintings tell a story of personal growth and development, and have become more confident and complex as I have continued with my practice. To me they illustrate the complexity of life. Where they started out simply as an expression of joyful chaos, they now combine that joy and chaos with heartbreak and loss. Such is the nature of life.

Either that speaks to you or it doesn’t. In the case of the first artist, I would suggest that it didn’t, in the case of the second artist I would suggest that it did. Neither is right or wrong, that’s just the way it is, given their own individual life experiences.

Am I going to stop painting because someone doesn’t like my painting? No. I paint because I find it to be the best way to express things that I can’t put into words. I paint because I have to. I have stories to tell, that can only be told through my paintings.

I paint, therefore I am.

Passage through the Opposites: Stephanie Barnes’ Reconciliation Painting

The following essay was written about my art by an art critic who reviewed my work here in Berlin. The critic wishes to remain anonymous.


I long to be heard.

Words and pictures; not words or pictures.

I long to be whole, not half.

My struggle is to be…


                        –Stephanie Barnes

In 2014, the year that Germany celebrated its 25th anniversary of reconciliation, Stephanie Barnes knew in a single instant that she was going to move to Berlin. In this AHA moment, she was united between her fated pathways of opposites, as a twin born under the sign of Gemini, seeking reconciliation in her art.

“In December, it was a feeling of being home, even though I was standing in a kitchen filled with someone else’s belongings, and only two suitcases of my own with me,” she recalls of her visit to Berlin, just a month after the reconciliation celebration. “The other moment, in February 2015, it was feeling homesick for Berlin after being away for 2 days, on a 16-day business trip.”

The artist being at home in a city representing division and reconciliation for the world comes with a feeling of wholeness and integration. Barnes sees a parallel between her emotions expressed in painting and that of the German nation. This inner/outer composition between her inner feeling of reconciliation and the external reconciliation in her new environment is a theme working its way through her art.

“In Germany and in Berlin, the reconciliation is between east/west, communism/capitalism, homogeneity/diversity–­the group versus the individual,” Barnes muses. “On the personal level, the reconciliation is between left and right brain, knowledge management and creativity, business and art, standing up for myself and belonging.”

For Barnes, the journey to integration extends from her birthright as a twin born under the Gemini sign of the Twins. “Who am I?” is the question she asks, and seeks to answer, with her painting. Her passage between the opposites as businesswoman and artist has led to the discovery of a language to access the energy built up from the tension of balancing life in the corporate world with her life in art.

Paradoxically, the process of working the image through this eternal question of identity has brought her into a rediscovery of words: “The integration and reconciliation of my logical business half and the creative, painting, artistic half is my own. I am not half a person, I am not only business/knowledge management/process; I am not only a creative/painter/artist. I am not half a twin. I am a whole in a set of twins.”

Yet, she sums up her passage of reconciliation through the opposites that is her birthright with a single word: JOY.

Do not buy my art

Do not by my art if:

  • you want it to match your sofa
  • you want it to match your carpet
  • you want it to match your room
  • you normally buy landscapes
  • you are looking for something in it: a bird, a flower, a tree, an animal; it’s not there

Buy my art because:

  • it moves you
  • it speaks to you
  • you are drawn to its colours
  • you are drawn to its energy
  • you are drawn to its power
  • you are drawn to its strength
  • you are swept away by emotion when you look at it
  • you can’t stop looking at it
  • the messages it conveys touch your heart

Do not buy my art because:

  • you think you should

Buy my art because:

  • you can’t live without it.

Stephanie Barnes: Passion, Process, Inspiration

I am over joyed to be able to share these new videos with you, I created them (with the help of Chockablock Media, Allyson is a friend) to help me share more about my motivations for the painting that I do.

There are three videos, passion, process, and inspiration.

I hope you enjoy them as much as we enjoyed creating them!

(If you are in the Greater Toronto Area you can come out and meet me in person and see my art at Artscape Youngplace, details here

Art at Leaside Public Library

I installed my show, “The Masks We Hide Behind” at Leaside Public Library today, it hangs until August 31, 2015.

Artist Statement for the show:

The paintings in this exhibit were completed in 2013 – 2014, and were an evolution from the unbridled joy and sense of going with the flow of my earlier paintings to a recognition of the masks and layers of expectations that we hide that joy behind. These paintings are about starting to reveal/show that joy to the world; breaking through the masks and expectations.

I hope you’ll go take a look, if you get the chance.

Leaside Public Library is at 65 McRae Dr, Toronto.

Some pictures of the completed hanging:


Too Much

I started a new piece today, after taking a break for a few weeks; I NEEDED to paint TODAY.

As I started my latest creation, which in actual fact is 4  8″ by 8″ panels, I thought about my idea, blobs of acrylic paint mixed with molding paste, 6 different colours. This was something different than what I have been doing, and was inspired by a few different things that I have been looking at over the last few weeks.

I am usually all about big, big gestures, big loops of fluid paint or strokes with a big paint brush. Bigger is better, more is better. This was very methodical and rhythmical, and tedious as I created, yet I held firm to the idea that I had for this piece, thinking about what ties it to the rest of my practice.

It wasn’t spontaneous, like my earlier works, yet it definitely has a flow to it.

It was, however, TOO MUCH….too much, that’s what ties it together with my other pieces, I like a lot of paint, paint that takes days to dry, paint that drips and puddles and oozes. This doesn’t puddle and oozes, but it is too much: big globs of paint, messy, irregularly formed blobs of paint. It makes me smile just typing the words.

I am too much, at least that’s what I have believed about myself for a long time: too loud, too opinionated, too smart, too overwhelming, too much to handle, too much, and too many (there were after-all two of me (I’m an identical twin)).


I’m not really, I’m perfectly imperfect, like everyone else. I am the most perfect one of me there is, and there is only one, not two, despite being an identical twin.

The idea of too much, informs my art practice…too much paint…too much movement…too much energy…too much…except it’s not too much, it’s JOYFUL energy exploding all over the canvas and I can’t have enough joy, can you?


Running out of Too Much (work in progress)

Running out of Too Much (work in progress)

Running out of Too Much, completed

Running out of Too Much, completed


Realistic vs. Abstract

I went to the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition (TOAE) on Saturday (July 6, 2013), it wasn’t as hot as last year, which was a good thing. As always there was lots of art to look at, in all kinds of mediums: painting, sculpture, textiles, jewelry, photography, drawing, etc. The Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition is where I bought my puzzle piece lapel pin, that 10 years later would inspire the name of my consulting company, Missing Puzzle Piece Consulting, but I digress.

While I was at TOAE I spoke with several of the artists about their art, their process, and motivation, because as much as I dislike people asking me those questions, mostly because I have to think too hard to describe my art in words, I am curious about other artist’s practice.

In particular I had a good chat with Brock Irwin and his art. As you can see on his website he sometimes paints realistic pieces, and sometimes abstract. I asked why he goes back and forth between the two types, he said he gets tired/bored of doing one style of the other, so switches back and forth. What also intrigued me was that he said he thought the abstract was much more difficult than the realistic. He explained that the while realistic pieces were much more technically difficult, there was typically a model that he was working from e.g. a landscape, a bowl of fruit, etc. whereas with abstract pieces it was all coming from inside him. The abstract pieces demanded much more knowledge and attention to colour and composition.

I think I mostly agree with him, in the details of what he said, but for me, the realistic pieces are hard, I don’t have the patience to do them. I also feel like, for me art is about expression, and emotion, and the reaction I have to either looking at a piece or creating a piece and the thoughts of me doing something realistic is something mind-numbingly boring and tedious. I can absolutely appreciate the dedication and skill involved, but it’s not where my interest lies.

To me the abstract pieces that I create are the easiest thing in the world to create, they bring me joy and balance and I enjoy creating them like I enjoy nothing else. I enjoy going into myself to decide on colours and shapes and composition, and doing what speaks to me. That is not to say that process is easy, it definitely takes time and courage. I have had many people tell me they could never create abstract paintings like I create, they would be too worried about “getting it right” and “making a mistake.”

To me that is the best part, there is no “getting it right” or “making a mistake” there’s nothing to compare against, it’s pure, unadulterated, me.

The Plasticiens and Beyond at the Varley Art Gallery

It was the end of a long week, not a bad or good week, just a long week and I needed to recharge. I had seen the posting about an event taking place at the Varley Art Gallery, a Panel Discussion: Painting Today, Beyond the Canvas in a couple of different places, so decided to venture out and check it out. I am so glad I did!

I arrived early enough to see The Plasiticiens and Beyond:Montreal 1955-1970 on my own as well as take part in the guided tour before the panel discussion started. The exhibit is exquisite, I found myself smiling and feeling better within a few minutes. The colour, the shapes, the energy of the pieces, recharged me, almost made me giddy with the joy of it all. I wondered why an exhibit like this wasn’t at the AGO, although I suspect I would have enjoyed it less at the AGO, because it would have been crowded and I couldn’t have easily stood mesmerized by the works, in my own world.

The panel discussion was interesting, reinforcing many things that I have heard from other corners about the creative process and the state of contemporary art in Canada. One of the things that came out of the panel was the question of why people outside of Montreal/Quebec don’t know about The Placticiens or The Automatiste or in fact why there is so little understanding/knowledge outside of Canada (or I would argue inside of Canada) about the Canadian art scene. I suspect there is at least one book in that topic, and I am certainly not going to tackle it in this blog post, except to say that I think that it goes along with the rest of Canadian Culture.

Another thing that I found interesting, and I have noticed this before at other art talks/presentations, is the use of the word practice in describing the artist’s work activities (not the actual works of art, but the process of creating them). I know practice gets used to describe a law practice or a medical practice, but I don’t think it has the same connotations in those instances as it does when it’s being used in an art/creative process. When someone talks of a practice or their practice, I immediately think of meditation and I group an art practice with meditation practice. I’m not sure that’s what anyone else does/means, but for me art is meditative, whether I am creating it or looking at it. I have to clear my mind of all the noise and focus on creating or looking and tune into what I’m feeling: the emotion of the piece I’m creating or the emotion that the piece I’m looking at is creating in me. That’s what draws me to pieces and drives me to create the pieces I create: emotion.

Anyway, back to the panel discussion, I would have loved to have sat and listened longer and learned more about not just the panelists, but the audience members, who seemed to have a wealth of experience and knowledge behind them, but the room was stuffy and hot and it had to end sometime–all good things must come to an end.

I am sorry to have missed The Automatiste, when it was at The Varley 3-4 years ago, I understand it is in Saskatchewan right now, but I don’t think I’m going to be able to get out there, so I will have to be happy with the catalogue I bought.