Paint runs through the veins of Atascadero artist John Barnard. When he wakes up in the morning, he heads to his studio and paints. And when he dreams at night, he sees ideas for future art.
“I like to paint every day,” Bernard said.
For Barnard, who turned 92 on Sept. 29, art has been part of his life since he was in the second grade. After high school, he studied at Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles, served in World War II in the Pacific, and then attended the University of Georgia because of its fine art department, according to his biography online. Besides painting, he worked many years in the electrical industry.
Barnard is participating in this year’s Arts Obispo Open Studios Art Tour — although family and friends will greet guests since he is convalescing from a blood infection that hospitalized him for several weeks. He recently moved from the hospital to Vineyard Hills Health Center in Templeton.
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Barnard and his wife Barbara raised five children and have lived in Atascadero since 1973. His daughter, Barbara Proctor, said art has always been central to his life.
“As my dad has aged, his paintings have become freer, happier, more vibrant and demonstrated his enjoyment of life,” Proctor said. “He loves to share his art. The day my dad cannot paint will be the day ‘he shuts it down.’ He has to paint like the rest of us have to breathe.”
Barnard works in watercolor, oil and acrylic, often catching outdoor scenes on the Central Coast. Some of his paintings offer more expansive views like an oil of the Cayucos Pier, swimmers dotting the beach. Others highlight a moment in time, as in his oil, Santa Margarita, which shows the downtown’s old West-style storefronts and people walking in the street.
“I’ve been addicted to painting, really and truly,” Barnard said. “It’s been the most important thing, outside of my family, extremely important to me. I never thought business was very important to life; what is important is art, music and literature. The creative part of our life is what makes us different, I think.
“The people I admire most are the real creative people,” he added. “I don’t admire Napoleon, people like that, as much as I admire (Leonardo) da Vinci and modern artists too.”
Proctor said she remembers her father working all day, then coming home to paint in the evenings.
“It was just part of our lives,” she said. “And my mom would read aloud to him while he painted. I have posed for my Dad throughout my life.”
Barnard said he is eager to return to painting as he recovers from his illness.
“I just miss doing it,” he said. “I have a whole lot of things I still want to do. Every time I paint, it’s a new painting. It just never has been boring. I change styles. Right now, I’m thinking of the small, decorative watercolors.”