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Artful Energy

Kristi Kates - September 15th, 2005
Kevin Barton’s art accomplishments began as early as 9th grade, when he won the award for Best Artist of the Year at Harbor Springs High School. “I was surprised by that,” Barton laughs, “but that actually may have been what started me out.”
High school would hold more surprises for Barton, especially in his junior year, when he transferred to Florida for a short time to get a change of pace from Northern Michigan.
“The school in Florida was a lot more serious about art,” Barton remembers, “and I was again surprised to see that I was getting graded better than a lot of people who had been there for a while. That’s when it
kind of dawned on me that art was what I wanted to do.”
From trying a variety of different art mediums, including acrylics, to working primarily in oils (“I sometimes draw in pen and ink, as well,” Barton adds), Barton has, in a very short period of time, developed a style that has garnered him fans across Northern Michigan.
“I was lucky in that I started off selling my art right after high school,” he explains, “and it was always the oil paintings
that sold.”

ALIVE & BREATHING
Now 28, Barton’s works are showcased across the region - -including Petoskey’s Gaslight Gallery and Crooked Tree Art Center, Cedar Creek Interiors in Harbor Springs, and The Gallery On Main in Bay Harbor. Barton is sure to find that fan base widening even more. And he’s
already developed his own personal methods of painting that have definitely served him well so far.
“Well, I usually work outdoors, on location,” he says of his post-Impressionistic paintings, “and I like oils because they don’t dry quickly, and I like the richness of the colors. I enjoy working with oils, also, because I can push the paint around the image - they’re great to work with.”
Barton’s works definitely favor strong color and lines - his subject matter, usually landscapes, is perhaps the only thing he really has in common with other area artists. He works in bold strokes that give even his interpretations of the much-painted Little Traverse Bay a compelling energy and a different feel that’s even reminiscent, at times, of anime backgrounds.
“I’m not striving for realism in what I do,” Barton muses, “I don’t want my paintings to be like a captured moment, or a photo, but more like they’re alive and breathing and moving. I like to think I’m transforming what you see with paint into a more accented, more bold scene.”

TRAVELING BONE
And the critics, so far, seem to agree. Barton’s honors range from a First Place ranking in the 2001 Petoskey Art in the Park show to a First Place finish in the recent National Masterpiece Interpretations Contest, and he’s also been accepted to the National Impressionists Society through yet another juried show.
But he’s still a hometown boy at heart.
“One of the things I’m actually the most proud of to date is the Dining Guide,” he says with a laugh, referring to a Little Traverse area guidebook. “I did the cover art for the Northern Michigan summer edition of the Dining Guide, and I’m also doing the winter one. That’s pretty cool.”
Barton will be able to make use of that Dining Guide this winter - but only for part of the season, as he’s off to get inspired in different climates.
“I’ll most likely go somewhere to paint in the fall,” he says, “and, over the winter, I’ll continue painting from small studies I’ve done on site over the warmer months. I might do a few winter landscapes, though - I do have a special heater that helps keep my hands and the paints warm. I especially enjoyed painting in Sedona, Arizona - but I also like the diversity of Northern Michigan, even though I enjoy traveling.”
And, from the looks of things, Barton’s paintings might end up “traveling” a lot further than he ever expected.

Kevin Barton’s works can be viewed at the various art galleries listed in this
story, or by appointment at Barton’s Art Loft in downtown Petoskey by telephoning
231-439-0829.

 
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