Songstress Spotlight Artist: Kristi Barnard

Lyrical Abstracts Artist:  Kristi Barnard

Lyrical Abstracts Artist: Kristi Barnard

It’s been awhile since I’ve written a Songstress Spotlight, as summer seemed to get the best of me steering me away from highlighting amazingly talented artists who are worthy of recognition.

All summer long I watched children and parents walk around the Tucson JCC escaping the desert heat in the wonderfully air conditioned building casually spending time in the facility and seemingly never wanting to leave.  It is such a happy and inviting place and a hub of summer socializing for both children and parents alike.

It was during all of that activity that I found myself talking to camp mom, Kristi Barnard.  I kept hearing all of these incredible musical tidbits from her.  In one week, this lucky lady saw both Fleetwood Mac and Mumford and Sons in concert.  I also learned that she used to follow the Grateful Dead.  I had found a kindred spirit, and though I knew I liked her before, she seriously stepped up a hundred notches on my coolness meter.

We became Facebook friends, and that is when I really learned about Kristi.  I was overwhelmed to learn that Kristi is an artist.  She is not just any artist, however.  Kristi paints lyrics.  Kristi paints music.  Her website is even called “Lyrical Abstracts.”  I was floored…and fascinated.

My Songstress Spotlight articles are meant and designed to be about musicians.  When I started going through the art on Kristi’s website, however, I knew that I must write about her.  She is an extraordinary artist, and seeing her work really touched my soul.  I just knew I had to share her with my Tucson Songstress community, and though Krisiti Barnard is not a musician, she is definitely worthy of recognition in a music blog and in the music world.  So, Tucson Songstress friends, I proudly must introduce you to an incredible human being and artist.

The Interview

Kristi was more than willing to answer some questions when I approached her about a Songstress Spotlight article.  I know you will all love learning more about her as I did, too.

Tucson Songstress (TS):

When you hear music, is it the music itself or the lyrics that inspire you?  Are you painting sounds along with the lyrics?  Is every nuance of your art thought out and planned….the colors, the medium, the shape of the canvas, etc?  Please tell us all about your process from hearing a song to the completion of a painting.

Kristi Barnard (KB):

It’s both…but my paintings in most recent years have been inspired mainly by the lyrics…the fact that the music behind them is transcendent is a bonus. I have always loved music and identified with it in such a physical sense. I love the crescendo of certain pieces, even if it’s low key. For example, Old Man by Neil Young-the chorus in that song just breaks me every time. When I first hear a song I love, I know pretty much right away that one day I will try and paint that piece. I get a vision of what I’d like it to look like, but it always ends up morphed in some way. I let it become what it’s going to be in the divine sense. The background is my favorite part to create and it’s often many many layers that one can’t see at the end. The application of the paint for the background is very random at best, but so therapeutic for me-this part actually takes the longest and I’m the most critical of it.

So if there’s “spare time” (ummmm…what?) what happens is, I have to be home alone. We have a tiny little “art room” in the back of the house and I paint on a tarp on the floor in my favorite t-shirt that’s printed with all of my most cherished lyrics printed on it. It’s hot, or cold, depending on time of year because that room isn’t heated or cooled, but I don’t care. I have music on…not even always the song, or feeling that I’m painting. Music choice ranges from Led Zeppelin, to Mumford and Sons, to Adele, to Neil Young, to Loreena McKennitt (celtic) to reggae, and old shows from the Grateful Dead of course…I have some old bootleg cassettes that are awesome.

I get my materials out, attempt to convey my vision…I would say about 40% of the time the first try gets thrown in the dumpster out back. But I usually come out with at least one that I like, and sometimes even one that I love, and if I love it I can’t stop looking at it, and it has to be named and framed immediately. None of them are complete to me until they’re titled and framed in a frame that compliments the content.

TS:          In your bio, it said that you used to go to Grateful Dead concerts and do pen and ink drawings of their lyrics.  What was it about GD’s music and/or lyrics that prompted you to draw their music?  Were these the first lyrical drawings that you tackled?

KB:         These were the first lyrical drawings and I am definitely a confirmed “deadhead”, but the community and the spirit of the concerts back in those days (late 80’s early 90’s) was what drew me in. I am an addict…and therefore I have always kind of been an island trapped in my addictions and in my own head, so doubtful of myself. The Grateful Dead family allowed me to feel like I was a part of something that I didn’t have to fit into…I was just Ok to be me.

TS:          It’s impossible to talk about your art without talking about your fight with addiction.  Obviously, your art has become a therapeutic outlet for you.  What advice would you give to other artistic addicts who use their art in their recovery?

KB:         I wasn’t able to connect with this part of myself until I had a good experience with a great therapist and cognitive talk therapy. I was so closed off, and I had no way of identifying my feelings, there was no way I could have shared these parts of me prior to that…I didn’t know they were there! I’ll never forget one doctor telling me I was angry. I was like, “Angry?” what do you know, I go along with everything just fine. Well that was it, I had always kept my mouth shut, and I was angry, and resentful that I’d felt I had to do that! Awareness. Awareness of oneself is the number one motivator. My tagline for my paintings is Awareness : a Gift that allows one to turn a weakness into a strength. We all have positive and negative character traits…I am an addict, I have crazy OCD and I’m not good with free time. So I learn about addiction, I am ridiculously organized and a great planner, and if I have free time I try to put a smile on someone else’s face. Look…all good things! So my advice to other addicts: Don’t deny it. Embrace itjust because you embrace it doesn’t mean you have to fix it. That is your choice to do in your time. But if you embrace it you can start living as a real flawed person, in all of your glory. And if you’re inspired, pick up paint brush and let the feelings dance. Don’t keep them bottled up. When I’m stressed about eating, the stress makes my throat all tight. A very wise woman once told me, let those feelings dance…imagine it has legs and arms and it can dance so it unravels and you are freed.

TS:          You have an affinity with Mumford and Son’s album “Sigh No More.”  The title of the album comes from Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” and there are other lyrics from that album that come from this classical piece of literature.  It seems you draw on their lyrics in the way that they draw on Shakespeare’s play.  Have you ever spent time reading Shakespeare?  What do you think it was about “Much Ado about Nothing” that Mumford and Sons could relate to?  Tell us about your relationship, if any, to Shakespeare or to the feeling and mood of “Sigh No More.”

Timshel, Based on the lyrics "Timshel", Mumford and Sons; "...and you  have your choices - these are what make man great, his ladder to the stars..."

Timshel, Based on the lyrics “Timshel”, Mumford and Sons; “…and you have your choices – these are what make man great, his ladder to the stars…”

KB:         I’m embarrassed to say that I have not read Shakespeare since I had to in high school! I didn’t know this about this album! But what I can say about this MINDBLOWING Godsend of an album-it changed my life and the way I look at myself. It taught me SO much about myself, and it made it Ok to be who I am. In much of the lyrical content it seems like he’s addressing maybe an old lover, where things went wrong, and he was hurt. For me, each song, and every word is what I would like to say to my eating disorder. It’s taken it all, it’s hurt me more than anything else ever has or ever could. It has a power over me that is completely indescribable and unfathomable. I can be actively aware of my disease, in the midst of the madness and know logically how destructive it is, yet continue on that path. Who does this? Hopefully at some point, not me, and I can say goodbye. I can quote the lyric from the end of Dust Bowl Dance on Sigh No More, and say….” I went out back and I got my gun, and said you haven’t met me, I am the only son.”

Blog readers, Kristi Barnard is definitely a hidden talent and a force to be reckoned with.  Below is her website information, and I strongly urge you all to check out her work and read all about her.  If you’d like to meet Kristi in person and see her art up close and personal, she has a show and opening reception coming up.  Details are below.  It has been an honor and a pleasure getting to know Kristi, and I know you all will be as drawn to her as I am.  If you are a musician or a musical artist as Kristi is and would like to be featured in “The Songstress Spotlight,” contact me! (  The world is waiting to hear you!


Information About About Kristi Barnard


Upcoming Show:

Tucson Jewish Community Center/Perlman Gallery
3800 E. River Rd./Tucson, AZ 85718
(520) 299-3000
August 15 – September 15, 2013/ Opening: Sunday, August 18th, 2-4pm

Online Galleries:              

(Early Works)
 (Sigh No More)




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