By Gina Malone
As a child, Barbara Remensnyder’s favorite treat was a new coloring book. “Color is my thing,” she says. “It’s part of me.”
Throughout her growing up years in New Rochelle, NY, she paid attention to all of the creation going on around her. She found it fascinating to watch her two brothers construct model airplanes out of balsa wood. Her mother taught her to knit, crochet and draw.
The outdoors was a wonderland for a budding artist. “We always had vegetable and flower gardens at home where I spent many hours with my mom,” she says, “nurturing, learning and exploring each new bud and bloom. I loved the whole process of the miracle of a tiny seed producing something so delicious or beautiful.”
Art was a favorite subject in grammar school, but other pursuits got in the way during high school. “I was busy with classical piano lessons, studying and, of course, there were boys! I met my husband when I was a junior in high school and that was that. I made the right choice,” she adds, “as he has been my first and constant cheerleader, always urging me and encouraging me in whatever I want to do.”
Her first job was as an executive secretary in the copy department of a NYC advertising agency. “It was an exciting job with very creative people involved in the print and photographs and videos that make up television commercials.” When her three children came along, she stayed home, finding ways to be creative there with sewing and decorating.
With the children off to college, she returned to the classroom herself to complete her business degree. “I took art as a filler class and a whole new world opened up for me in my early 50s,” she says. “My young teacher inspired me, became my mentor and encouraged me to take every art class available. I ended up with a minor in art and I was hooked.”
She took a Life Drawing class, dabbled in pottery and tried woodworking. “All I wanted for Christmas was a skill saw,” she says. “With it, I created puzzles, children’s toys and small decorative pieces that I painted and sold at local craft shows. I loved talking to people and answering their questions. I still enjoy ‘show and tell’ at art shows with people who are really interested in the creation of a painting.”
She began painting in watercolors. “No one told me it was hard,” she says, “so I just jumped in and by trial and error, reading and workshops, I started learning to paint.” She then moved on to acrylics. “I enjoy both mediums equally and move from one to the other as my subject or my mood dictates. I tried other mediums, but always came back to watercolors and acrylics.”
In keeping with her habit of creative exploration, however, Remensnyder is still open to new forms of expression. “My newest fascination is with alcohol inks. Inks are so unpredictable and that’s one of the things that draws me to them.”
Some unexpected tools supplant brushes as she works. “Toothpicks, plastic straws, cotton swabs, plastic stirrers and old credit cards are some of my choices for moving the ink around on the paper, tile, glass or metal that I create on.” She enjoys the freedom of working with inks. “There is no right or wrong method, no pressure because you can’t make a mistake. It is very calming if you really just go with the flow and watch the inks do their thing as they dry.”
Painting, as do all forms of creativity, involves discovery for the artist as well as the viewer. “I love the surprise of looking at a finished work several weeks later,” she says, “and feeling satisfied, saying ‘how did that happen?’ I do know the rules of painting, but mostly I just paint what I feel is right for that subject, and for me. I feel so blessed to be able, in my small way, to convert what I see to paper or canvas, hoping others feel pleasure when seeing it as much as I feel while painting it.”
Barbara Remensnyder works in a studio at her home in Flat Rock. Her work may also be found at The Gallery at Flat Rock at 2702A Greenville Highway in Flat Rock and at the Dragonfly Café downstairs from the gallery. Websites featuring her work include etsy.com/shop/barbararemensnyder, fineartamerica.com/barbara-remensnyder and Pinterest.