ARTS & EDUCATION
work. “When my husband and I moved here,” explains Bärbel, “we found this great big house with plenty of room for a large studio. But in February of 1990, we walked into Chelsea’s in downtown Greer and I said, you know, I could have a little studio here.” Soon after, Bärbel opened Magnolia Gallery, where she did custom framing, sold fine art, and taught art lessons. After about a year, Bärbel moved her studio across the street (where the Greer Heritage Museum is now) and stayed there for almost ten years. When her husband retired, Bärbel decided to close her business in town and work out of her house, where she still does framing, teaches art classes, and sells her wonderful work. Bärbel’s watercolors are amazingly vivid and detailed. “With watercolors,” she explains, “you need to really think about what you’re going to do. You have to build layers. If you paint with watercolors right out of the tube, you have an opaque look, and that’s not what I want. In order to get the deeper color, you just build on it. It has to be totally dry in between to get it as dark as you want. Not many watercolorists paint this deep, but I’m a real color person. I love rich colors.” From her playful painting entitled “Big Mama Sunshine” after a street performer in New Orleans, to “Cotton Barn” and “Picking Cotton,” loving tributes to her new southern written by SHERIL BENNETT TURNER & photographed by JOHN FOWLER home, Bärbel captures the spirit of her environment in rich color. he first thing you notice when speaking with local Bärbel has always enjoyed doing watercolors, but after artist Bärbel Amos is her accent. Originally from a class at the University of South Carolina in printmaking, Berlin, Germany where she received her training she also fell in love with etchings. “It’s an old craft that in art, Bärbel married Louisiana native Russell Amos, and started in the 1400s,” Bärbel explains. “The process is very lived for a time in Baton Rouge where she operated an arts involved. The copper plate has to be beveled 45 degrees all & crafts shop. In the mid 1980s, the couple moved to South the way around so that it does not cut the paper. You start Carolina, eventually landing in Taylors. Although Bärbel’s by putting a layer of wax on top of the plate, then you draw original Germanic clip is still there, it has been softened by a your design into that, and by doing that you’re removing the subtle layer reminiscent of the Cajun bayou, along with just wax where you’re drawing. Next, the plate goes into an acid, a tinge of the twang that is uniquely Upstate Carolina. Like which eats the exposed lines into the metal. Then you take it her speech, Bärbel’s beautiful watercolors and engravings are out of the acid and you clean everything, rub printer’s ink all also multi-layered and strongly influenced by the love of her over it, rubbing off the excess so only the grooves retain the surroundings. ink. I have a printing press, so I put the plate on the press, Locals might already be familiar with Bärbel and her
Layered with Love
GreerNow JANUARY 2009
ARTS & EDUCATION
put a piece of damp paper on top of it, and roll it through the press. The heavy stainless steel roller presses the ink into the paper.” Sometimes Bärbel will manipulate the paper for different effects. “If I want the etching to be darker, the plate goes back into the acid, or sometimes I will use watercolors to color the etching.” Bärbel also uses her press to do wonderfully fanciful monotypes. Starting with a piece of Plexiglas, Bärbel puts paints on top, puts a piece of paper on top of that, and rolls over it. The colors and shapes that emerge suggest objects like flowers and butterflies, which Bärbel then brings to life with her brushstrokes.
Pictured on Previous Page: Watercolor painting, “Spring Beauties” Pictured Above: Bärbel Amos Pictured to the Left: Print of “Butterfly Fantasy” Pictured Below: A street performer in New Orleans, “Big Mama Sunshine”
Bärbel’s family and friends are often the lucky beneficiaries of her artwork. “I do a series of etchings for Christmas,” Bärbel explains, “which I started in 1984. As a gift for my family and friends, I do a completely original etching on a Christmas card and each one is hand watercolored. I don’t know how many people around Greer now have my original work,” she laughs. These cards are often various depictions of “Father Christmas,” with a delightful old-world European feel. Friend Debbie Dobson Moore tells of another heartwarming gift from Bärbel. “My father was raised up near the fire department, that’s where my grandmother’s house was. My great-grandmother’s house was right next door, but all I had were two separate pictures of the homes. When my parents died and I moved into my homeplace, Bärbel took those two pictures and did a watercolor of those two houses side by side, including the mimi in front of one of the houses holding my daddy as an infant. I wake up every morning and see that painting, and think about my dad and his roots. It’s was a special gift because it’s from her heart to mine.” As an artist, Bärbel knows a lot about heart. “When I teach art,
42 GreerNow JANUARY 2009
unningham-Waters Construction Company, Inc. has served the construction needs of Greer and the surrounding area since 1949.
Pictured Above: “Picking Cotton” Pictured Below: “Cotton Barn”
ow in its third generation of leadership, the company specializes in commercial and industrial construction, with special expertise in renovation and preservation of older buildings.
people always say I don’t think I can do that. If you’re interested enough, it’s like any other thing in life. Of course it helps to have a little talent, but you can learn so much if you’re interested. My motto is art comes from the heart. It just comes to you.” Bärbel’s Studio is located at 314 Tumbleweed Terrace in Taylors, South Carolina. For more information, please call her at (864) 8792273, or email her at Barbelsstudio@aol.com. Bärbel Amos’s work can also be seen at Aabstract’s Gallery in Fountain Inn.
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113 C BERRY AVENUE, GREER, SC 29652 GreerNow JANUARY 2009