Artist finds inspiration in local landscapes

Apr 22, 2018

Barbara Healy’s studio above her garage in her North Dartmouth home is filled with painted portraits of landscapes – the sun setting on the water, a sailboat cutting through waves, a group of hydrangeas framing a bridge. But every piece and every scene is painted for a reason.

“You have to have a reason to paint it,” Healy said. “I always ask myself, ‘Why am I painting this?’ It could be the shapes, or the way the light is hitting it, or maybe I’m drawn to the color.”

Colorful landscapes are what Healy said she’s most attracted to painting.

“I like capturing a moment in time,” she said. “I like painting how the light looks at that moment.”

Healy is currently a full-time painter. After growing up in South Windsor, Connecticut, she attended UMass Dartmouth, where she majored in textile design. It was in college that she met her husband Shaun, and she moved to Dartmouth permanently.

After college, Healy took a bit of a break from art.

“I was a mailman for 33 years,” she said.

About 15 years ago, Healy said, she picked up painting again seriously. She's been painting full-time since retiring five years ago.

Weather permitting, Healy prefers to paint en plein air, or outside.

“I’ve only painted once outside so far this year,” she said. “I can’t wait to get out there and paint more. You can capture it better in paint than in a photo.”

Though she tends to prefer to paint landscapes, there is an assortment of paintings of people on one wall of her studio.

“I take a lot of portraits classes,” she said. “I’m always trying to learn something new.”

One portrait stands out – two young girls sit on a dock, based on the sky behind them, the sun is likely setting. This painting is displayed more prominently than the other portraits.

“Those are two little girls I met on a sailing trip to the British Virgin Islands,” Healy said. “They looked so happy. I paid them a dollar each to take their photo so I could paint them.”

Despite using a photograph to paint the portrait, the painting doesn’t look like a picture. That, Healy said, is intentional.

“I see people who do very careful and photographic painting, and I can do that,” she said. “But it’s not as much fun for me. I like to do big, juicy brush strokes.”

Because of this, Healy said if she happens to come across an area she thinks might make a nice painting, she’ll take a photo of it to remember, but will go back to the location with her supplies to paint it.

“I’ll wait and get good light,” she said. “I’ll bring paint stuff when I go to the Cape and look for places. Sometimes I have plans and then something else seems so much better, even halfway through a painting.”

Now with more free time, Healy said she likes to teach other aspiring artists. She’ll be participating in ArtWeek at the Marion Art Center, where she will walk people step-by-step through completing a painting.

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