A Woman For All Seasons

A package arrived for me last week.

Well, I don’t actually have an address but it was mailed to me c/o my sister and was postmarked from California.

barbara's package

As I started to tear open the cardboard box my sister suddenly screamed, “BUGS!”

Sure enough, the wrapping paper on the inside was playfully decorated with butterflies and insects. So delightfully original that I immediately stopped ripping and tearing and began removing the paper more reverently and less traumatically.

Sparhawk wrapping paper

What a treat to finally hold in my hands a painting from Barbara Sparhawk!

Harper’s Ferry Dawn

Harpers Ferry Dawn

Harper’s Ferry Dawn… I painted it from the front porch of the log cabin one morning. The sun came roaring into the grass out front (Spring, so wet there all the time).
It really is a wonderful painting. A triumph of concentration and looking looking looking… I spent hours and hours, several mornings getting the color of the sun hitting the grass right. There was such intensity to it, totally thrilling, a very particular yellow green, and off to the left shadows cast by trees and bushes darkened just a bit, and it was angled off the more intense trajectory.
There was an arched red wood bridge over one of many little creeks, off on the left. I strung a clothesline (to the right) to hang out stuff too big for the dryer, and nothing ever dried, even outdoors in days of sun, where you could find it, and rain about daily for a bit, too.
I loved that view. The trees on the farm grew fast enough but between storms and wind and being anchored in very wet land they frequently toppled before they reached real girth.

Barbara Sparhawk is a citizen of the world currently living near Carmel, California. I have never met Barbara in person but I have been privileged to “know” her online for about a year now. And I would be remiss if I didn’t sing the praises of a very remarkable woman.

The Artist

Expressionist painters “express” feelings by distorting lines & colors. And Barbara is surely the premiere American female artist working in that vein today.

My favorite of hers is the visually stunning “Pfeiffer Beach After Storm”.

Sparhawk's Pfeiffer Beach

I was so smitten by this painting that I immediately inquired about its availability but unfortunately (for me) it had already been sold.  She has a rich portfolio of others, however.  See and judge for yourself Barbara’s diverse collection of portraits and landscapes, posters and cards and drawings at her RedBubble site:

Barbara’s Portfolio

The Writer

Last summer while in Yellowstone I read Barbara’s “The Gandy Dancer & Other Short Stories.” I would get up at 4am, drive an hour and a half into the National Park for sunrise, hang around chasing bears and wolves until 2:00 or so in the afternoon, then rush back to the motel to read another chapter.

The Gandy Dancer I was enthralled by the magic of her words and the magnitude of her quest.

Episodically, in a kindred spirit to “On The Road” & “Tropic of Cancer,” she recounts the joy and the terror of leaving Brooklyn on a solo-odyssey to embrace the mysterium tremendum et fascinans of the creative Life.  Along with six cats and a chocolate lab, she slept in her rusty blue 1974 Suburban and set up canvases by the side of the road months at a stretch before finally settling down and opening a gallery in the hinterlands of Big Sur.

Her adventures along the way are equal parts amazing and inspirational, and can be found on Amazon if you care to take a peep:

The Gandy Dancer

The Person

If ever there were a biography as yet unwritten I would love to read, it would be Barbara’s. Hers is a life well-lived that just keeps getting better & better.

I can’t resist posting a few tantalizing biographical tidbits:

  • First commissioned to paint a portrait at the age of 15 in Laguna Beach; went on to paint many notables, including William F. Buckley, Jr.Wm. F. Buckley portrait
  • In Times Square in the 1970s became USA’s only female billboard painter, swinging back & forth on scaffolds 10-25 stories high
  • Speech writer to US Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro
  • Newswriter for CBS, ABC & FOX TV in NY; Radio Producer for various talk and rock shows
  • Cameraman’s Assistant for TV’s “Survivor Africa” in 2001
  • Lived all over the United States plus Mexico, England, France & Russia
  • Traveled extensively throughout Europe at the height of the Cold War, once leaping into a snow bank off a train headed in the wrong direction only to be confronted by hostile soldiers with rifles and bayonets


sparhawk portraitA life lived on the edge where the risks are greater but the rewards are priceless.

A life spent saying ‘no’ to compromise and ‘yes’ to distant horizons.

A life bristling with the ‘courage to be’ and practiced in the art of joyful engagement.

These days Barbara Sparhawk struggles to maintain her small art gallery in Carmel Valley, California.

Visit her at The Hawks Perch.

6 Replies to “A Woman For All Seasons”

  1. It’s always inspiring to read about a modern day Renaissance woman. You’re right, she creates a beautiful magic in the canvas!


  2. I’ve only “known” her (of her?) a short time, but there’s an amazing spirit that shines through and sparkles in the bits I’ve come to know.


  3. Pretty flabbergasting stuff, John! How incredibly thoughtful and fine of you (neither out of character). What a woman! I can’t stop reading. I am totally aglow from your praise. Thanky so very.
    I am so pleased, too, that you liked the Harper’s Ferry Dawn painting. It was the first spring of the large, desolate Civil War ghosted farm I rented and (despite likely betting from the locals) I’d made it through the worst winter in 200 years to spring. that spring, all finely warm and wet and buggy, birds of every description, land profuse with wild flowers and berries, and an abandoned six foot high patch of asparagus which, plucked on walks, may be the best thing I ever tasted.
    I’ve made a more interesting life for myself than I ever expected it to be. I conclude that there are a lot of risky things tempting off the path that always end up worth the detour.


    1. Splendid, Barbara, that you have always had the courage to yield to temptation and take the detour worth taking. Thanks for sharing your words & images with us! 🙂


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