We had the good fortune of connecting with John Barney and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi John, any advice for those thinking about whether to keep going or to give up?
I was invited to this discussion a a visual artist, but my first passion was music. I had my own original rock band (“The 11th Floor Band) for many years. I disbanded it about three years ago. One reason was that years of loud music negatively impacted my hearing. The other, and relevant to this question, was that it became more difficult to book gigs as an original band during an era of cover and tribute bands – and our audience wasn’t really growing anymore. It came time to reevaluate the “fun factor,” as well as the the psychic stress of knowing that it was a different era in terms of music style – and that maybe our time had passed us by. The question becomes, “will I miss it too much” or “will the peace that I gain from no longer worrying about it” make up for it. In my case it was the latter. Also, whether you have a company or a band, you need your team to be positive, goal-oriented, and on the same page. If that isn’t happening, then it may be time to pursue other dreams. Yes, I still miss it…but no, I wouldn’t go back.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I think what stands out about my art is the emotional connection people make with it – especially with how I use color, texture, and psychologically-based themes (In my other life I’m a school psychologist). I’m fascinated with people who are working something out or looking for answers in their own life. You won’t find a lot of happy smiling people in my work – rather… distant, contemplative, and curious. Artists such as palette knife painter Christian Jequel, American icon Leroy Neiman, and visionary Bill Martin influenced my work through their use of color, texture, and escapist qualities. I’m probably most proud of the fact that I became a successful professional artist in my fifties – not giving into fear or ridicule – but embracing the challenge against all odds. One advantage of getting older is that you develop the ability to let go of the baggage you’ve carried in your younger years – and not “sweat the small stuff” as they say. I hope other older people embrace their passion without reservation – I mean, if not now, when? Don’t worry about what other people say – if you want to dye your hair purple and sing in a band – do it. Write that novel. Travel to that far off place. If that sounds like “old people self-help cliches” so what. I’ll end with a final one – The truth about who you are will set you free…
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’d start with the best margarita around – at Amore Tacos in Cerritos. Then I’d pound the pavement of downtown Long Beach by eating at one of a hundred good restaurants, Afterwards, take in a play at the Performing Arts Center. We’d stretch our legs walking around our under-rated Long Beach Marina, pick up some ice cream at Shoreline Village, and then drive the coast between here and San Francisco (Big Sur–yes!!!). Be sure to do the 18 mile Drive near Monterrey, CA.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
For me, I didn’t become an active artist until my fifties! My biggest support, besides my wife Amie, was the fellowship of my fellow artists – and the camaraderie we’ve developed in the shared struggle. And it’s crossed all age barriers – I have close artist friends my age as well as 35 years younger. To this day, we share ideas, swap stories, revel in individual successes, compete, and encourage each other. Although there are many others, local Long Beach-based artists Alex Diffin, Amelie Simmons, Benjamin Johnson (Mr. Benja), Joshua Tann (and husband Richard Nehls), and Jim Helminiak are of special note. Also a shout out to many others who supported us as gallery owners, event sponsors…and , of course, our collectors!
All image credits belong to John Barney