Artist Barbara Travell may not have known it at the time, but her creative process is very ancient Rome. Romans believed creative genius lived in the walls to assist an artist. For Travell that inspiration is a gnome, or at least a cut-out of a gnome from an old book she glued to the bottom of her art table. She lets her imagination run wild into fairy tales and allows mermaids, moths and Buddha to take shape in her vibrant oil paintings. While she hasn’t taken formal lessons, Travell needs only a paintbrush and a little man in a pointy hat to delve into the fantastic.
Q. What was your approach to painting on a viola for the Charlotte Chamber Music Gala (held June 15)? I had to figure out how do you paint on a varnished musical instrument, so I sanded down the varnish and gessoed (plastered) it and put primer on to prep it. I decided it should be a city scene and have Queen Charlotte as the statue of her and maybe her face on the other side. I actually did a violin also and a guitar, plus I did a two-piece painting of a woman playing a viola.
Q. Where do you go for inspiration? Into my mind. I tend to daydream a lot. A lot of times it’s early in the morning when I am coming out of sleep and in my mind I will have an image and colors or a feeling. I’ll get up and sketch it a little bit, just so I don’t lose the idea, and then come back to it. I might not use that idea until weeks later. I don’t like to plan my paintings too much, so I like to have a little spark of something and see where it takes me.
Q. How did you come up with your “Luna” painting? (Luna) is a friend of ours, and she has a really bright, outgoing personality. I had a Luna moth in my garden and seeing that moth made me think of my friend Luna, and I just put her with the moth because she’s generally dancing and making people happy. She’s really a great, vibrant person. I knew I had to use really bright colors, really wild brushstrokes and much more intense colors.
Q. How have Buddha figures and mermaids become your new art inspirations? I’ve done Buddhas before and they’re always very popular. I have a meditation corner where I keep a Buddha. I have made Buddhist friends. For mermaids, I have a friend who is really, really fond of mermaids, so I always do them with her in mind.
Q. Why is your website called Ugly Stepsister? My husband and I have a blended family. We have one child together, and I have two daughters and he has a daughter, so our children are stepsisters to each other. They are all beautiful and so that’s where the joke is: Who is the ugly one? No one is ugly. They are all beautiful in mind, body and spirit. It’s self-effacement.