By Jeff Martin
This past year has been a banner one for Barbara Fox.
Not only as the California native opened her own gallery, Mill Street Art Gallery at 42 Mill St. in Ellicottville, but also after 25 years in watercolors, she’s now dabbling in oils.
“I’ve always wanted to try it,” Fox said. “People are responding to it well, too.”
It shouldn’t come as a surprise. One look at her work shows her unmistakable talent, one that she began cultivating at the University of California. While her main source of income is commercial work, specifically illustrations for green cards and for the United States Mint, Fox has perfected a medium that showcases a wide variety of subjects.
Newcomers to Fox’s work can come see for themselves during the East Otto Country Holiday Open House on Nov. 2–3, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. The open house is part of the East Otto artist series, which also includes watercolorist Robin Zefers Clark and pottery maker Elliott Hutten.
Originally, Fox wished to be a veterinarian, but that wasn’t meant to be. Like all artists, Fox desired one thing and found a talent, a skill, in another.
“I just found that I was an artist, that it interested me,” she said.
When she and her husband and son moved to Western New York, where her husband grew up, Fox found that sustaining a career in graphic arts and commercial work was more difficult than she imagined.
“We moved to the country, and there was no email, no technology, like there is now,” she said. “So I started to paint, really put myself into it.”
During the last five to six years, Fox has been employed by the U.S. Mint. Work there includes commemorative coins and, recently, a Congressional Gold Medal.
But it’s her paintings, oil or watercolor, that move her most. Inspired by photographs, general observation and what she describes as “intuition,” Fox begins each painting with a pencil drawing. She adds colors and thus value, multiplying the layers until she achieves the desired realism.
“They’re moody and intense,” she said.
One watercolor, displayed on her webpage at www.barbarafoxartstudio.com, is a brilliant example of how precise watercolor can be. At first glance, it appears as if it’s an oil painting, perhaps even a photograph, but it’s a watercolor.
And yet for all her success, Fox admits that it’s difficult selling art in Western New York.
“I don’t think many people in the area understand how much pleasure can be felt by having art in the house, especially original works,” she said, adding that most art hanging in WNY homes is art that has no emotional connection to the inhabitant.
“I just don’t think people here are used to buying it,” she said.
To combat that, Fox offers a wide variety of prints in a wide variety of price ranges. It’s her way of ensuring that she’s doing her best to introduce art to an otherwise cautious audience.
Opening her studio earlier this year, Fox also hopes to host shows at the studio. She’d like to switch the shows and displayed pieces in order to keep it fresh.
“I want to have a place where artists feel at home, and where people can come to appreciate art,” she said.
Until her dream is realized, people can come down to the gallery on Nov. 2 and 3 and see what she has to offer.
More information about the East Otto Country Holiday Open House and participating artists can be found at www.eastotto.com.