December 2012 Featured Artist – Barbara McLean

Barbara McLean is a graduate of Graphic Design (Sheridan College) and has a BFA with a major in fine art (NSCAD University). She teaches painting courses for the NSCAD University Extended Studies Division and conducts workshops for art associations throughout Nova Scotia.

Her work has been purchased by the Nova Scotia Art Bank, GPI Atlantic, and most recently Shannex Corporation. Her paintings can also be found in many private collections across Canada, USA, and Korea.

Barbara’s large abstracts and landscape paintings are charged with energy and optimism. They engage the viewer with confident intuitive brush strokes. Dynamic gestures often lead into areas of more subtle investigation. There is a sense of mystery in many of the pieces hinting that a discovery is just beyond view, perceivable if only one could look long enough

Barbara believes that life’s darkest moments are to be experienced, learned from, and made use of. Underlying all is courage and a zest for life. It is a compelling personal philosophy presented through the medium of paint.


I believe I rejoined VANS (after having been away in Korea) in 2003 and acted as the South Shore Regional Representative on the Board of Directors between 2006 and 2010 (a very rewarding experience).

I feel that VANS plays an important role in informing artists of the provincial art scene both online and through Visual Arts News. I am delighted to find that recently the magazine has included interesting articles from beyond the province of NS.

Secondly, VANS provides opportunities for education and forums to discuss issues important to the art community. As members, we participated in the information gathering that resulted in the establishment of Arts Nova Scotia, the new arms length arts council.

The VANS E-studio enables artists who might not have other means, to present work on-line in a professional way, and through the regional representatives members can present work in a regional show every two years.

The soon-to-be-launched Artists Emergency Fund will help some artists who have very limited resources and find themselves in a desperate situation through accidents or failing health. Finally, VANS provides us with a link to the national arts body, CARFAC.

Plugged In

The push to build an exhibition around a chosen theme is important for me (most recently Markers and Tracings) and keeps me searching for the clearest means of self expression that I can find. Right now that is definitely through abstraction. I also try to stay abreast of what is going on in galleries here and across the country. I can’t travel much so I count on information from providers like Akimbo. I also collect on-line images of artists I most admire – Ann Laure Djaballah for one; I look at her images a lot. I also think that Wayne Boucher has influenced me quite a bit and I can see his wonderful work in the flesh.


I began as a landscape painter then gradually my landscapes became more and more abstract until I realized that representational forms only inhibited my personal expression.  My most recent challenge has been finding a space large enough to allow me to paint as large as I would like. My home studio is just crammed and can be very frustrating to work in. For the last 3 years, however, Peer Gallery has come to the rescue. In the winter months, when the gallery is closed, I use it as my studio space and that has been wonderful.

I love teaching and have been doing more and more over the years. At the end of November I will be completing an Abstract 2 course with NSCAD Extended Studies and as enjoyable as that is, I am looking forward to having more time to do my own work. There is a LOT I want to do!

As for successes, in January 2013, two of my very large abstracts will be installed in the Shannex Parklands, The Gardens complex in Halifax. That’s pretty exciting.

Nuanced Expression

My work is primarily emotive. There is an intellectual component, and I do research my themes as much as I can but expressionism is definitely at the core of what I do. That is not to say that the expression can’t be subtle and nuanced. That too is important for me. I work in mixed media and sometimes in oils on a variety of surfaces but primarily on canvas. Colour can be the chief means of conveying the message but just as often muted tones with mark and line-making are crucial to what I want to express.

Markers and Tracings

In May of this year I presented Markers and Tracings in ARTsPLACE, Annapolis Royal. I think that is my best work to date. In fact, it is being reviewed by Tila Kellman for upcoming issue of Visual Arts News and much of that same show will be exhibited at Harvest Gallery in May, paired with Heather Lawson’s stone work. I did another body of abstract landscapes in oils that were presented at Harvest Gallery in Wolfville in September.


My current goals stretch into 2015. I hope after an exhibition in Peer Gallery in fall 2013, (The Prevailing Primitive) to be able to expand that collection of work and present it the following year in St. Johns Art Centre, NB, at a yet to be confirmed date. I also have some goals for 2015 but these are just in the gestation stage at this point. Art continues to be a joy as well as an occasional frustration and shapes my day-to-day life.


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One Response to December 2012 Featured Artist – Barbara McLean

  1. Maggie Fleming says:

    Barbara’s work is thrilling. Her sensitivity is moving and the depth I experience in her work profound. I have watched her growth for several years and I am very proud to own a McLean

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