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Work of local artist featured in February library exhibit

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Artist, arts instructor, arts innovator, Edward Barker has been named the January 2023 Artist of the Month by the Nature Coast Art League. His work is currently on display at the Spring Hill Library, located at 9220 Spring Hill Drive, Spring Hill. This exquisite exhibit was coordinated by the Hernando County Public Library System and the Nature Coast Art League.

The Nature Coast Art League shared, “His beautiful, extraordinary original one of a kind watercolor painting is done with extra fine artist quality transparent watercolor paint on 140 lbs acid free paper. You are invited to see it at the Spring Hill library, it will be displayed during February 2023 and it is for sale!”

Barker presided as the speaker and demonstrator on January 30, at the first meeting for the season of the Nature Coast Art League in Spring Hill, where he delivered the demonstration “Loose Watercolor for Fun & Success.”

“Ed did a great workshop; everyone who attended enjoyed his approach to creating a lovely landscape,” said President of Nature Coast Art League, Linda Graves.

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Barker is endlessly inspired by the wonder and possibilities of watercolor art. “Every painter or artist has the dream of that one great work,” Barker stated. “Not for awards but for the joy of creating something for their own enjoyment. I’m still looking for new materials and new ideas.”

Barker has received numerous art awards, starting in his native Wisconsin, locally at the Blueberry Festival in Brooksville and in Tarpon Springs Paint and Photo events. His work has also appeared in several galleries in New Port Richey and Brooksville.

But in Barker’s eyes, the greatest reward lies in the creation of fine art. He shared, “I work in watercolor and acrylic but watercolor has a spontaneous nature, is a lot freer,and sometimes produces a surprise. I like a number of subjects: portraits of my grandchildren, still lifes, but landscapes are the subject that lends itself to loose free-painting.”

Art is a lifelong passion for Barker. “I have always drawn or painted,” he said. “I was encouraged by my mother to try different media, be it drawing or painting.”

The soothing tones and divine applications of watercolor soon became a favorite interest and course of study for Barker. “In the early nineties I bought a small watercolor and a few months later my wife told me the artist was conducting classes nearby,” he said. “I took a few classes, unfortunately they were on Wednesday nights and because I traveled so much, I couldn’t get to as many as I wanted. I was hooked on watercolor. While working my job required a lot of mental work at a computer so working with my hands provided a way to relax.”

Aside from his exhibit at the Spring Hill Library, Barker also has taught Introduction to Watercolor courses at the library. He explained, “My wife, Karen, started volunteering at the library shortly after we moved here 19 years ago and through her I was asked to teach a class on watercolor. It started out small but I quickly got out of hand and I had as many as 28 students and developed a following. I had always enjoyed teaching with the idea that if I taught someone to do what I did I could go on to do something new.”

Aside from NCAL, Barker also participates actively in the “The Shadow Chasers: Plein Air Artists.” “Shadow Chasers is a great experience of getting out and creating art with some talented people,” he said. “I would encourage anyone to come out and paint or sketch.
NCAL is a fantastic opportunity to learn new techniques or share ideas.”

Jana Withers, a prominent Hernando artist, admires Barker’s artistry. “I first met Ed over 10 years ago when he came out to paint with the plein air group, “The Florida West Coast Plein Air Painters,” she explained. “It was a Friday morning on Bayou Drive in Bayport when Ed joined us, and like anyone new to a plein air group, he was reluctant to share his work. That didn’t last long. As he joined us more frequently on our Friday outings, it was evident to all of us Ed was an excellent painter and he soon began sharing with us his acrylic and watercolor techniques along with the tools he made for plein air painting. Those tools involved palettes, easels, brush holders, and more. It was obvious Ed enjoyed creating plein air tools as much as he did painting.”

“Over the years, we continued painting together in groups and in plein air events: Shadow Chasers Plein Air Artists, Tarpon Springs Paint & Photo events, ‘A Brush with the Blues’ Florida Blueberry Festival plein air event, and the ‘Uptown Art Gallery’ Paintouts,” Withers continued. “Ed created the painting for the tee shirt promoting the 2018 event.”

“The biggest thing Ed and I have in common is our spouses,” said Withers. “Ed’s wife Karen and my husband Larry, often accompany us on our plein air outings and they are our biggest supporters.”

Barker invites all of those with an interest in art to experience his exhibit, ongoing through the end of this month at the Spring Hill Library. “Come to the library to see my work but look at the other work hanging by talented artists,” he urged. “And while you’re at the library, check out a book and sign up for a class.”

Library Services Director of Hernando County Public Library System, Cindy Loftis-Culp, feels that both the library system and participating artists benefit greatly from its art exhibit program.

“The Hernando County Public Library System invites local art groups to display their art in various designated spaces throughout the library,” Cindy explained. “Artwork like Ed Barker’s provides an enjoyable atmosphere for those visiting and can help transform the understanding and appreciation of the world in all its cultural diversity. This is another way for local artists to showcase their artwork for the community to enjoy. Mr. Barker has taught several classes at the Hernando County Public Library over the years and as an award-winning artist, his classes are appreciated by the patrons.”

Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey is a features journalist and author who is the winner of Florida Press Association honors and a certificate of appreciation from LINCS (Family Support Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention Task Force) and Sunrise Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center for her newspaper coverage of these issues. She graduated cum laude from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., with a journalism major and English/sociology minor, and previously wrote for publications that include the Pasco editions of The Tampa Tribune and Tampa Bay Times. A native of Indiana, she lives in Florida.
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