Barbara Will-Wallace, My Life and My Art

I was born at the end of WWII in 1944, and a few years later my family moved to a spacious old farm house on twenty acres of vineyards. The rolling hills and valleys of California with its walnut orchards, rows of grapevines, fields of strawberries, and bountiful gardens formed the backdrop of my life which turned with the seasons and the work of the farm, fruit trees, and caring for animals. Many happy hours were spent roaming twenty acres with jack rabbits, birds, wild turkeys, beetles, and bees, or riding horses with Grandpa on his 600 acre ranch of beef cattle.


This intimate tie with nature taught me the powerful tool of close observation where line, shape, and color became close friends. Observation and perceiving accurately are the first act and work of the artist. Drawing hones this skill which I began early on.


Fashioning my own clothes, arranging large vases of flowers, and planting flowers for color combinations added to my tool box of artist skills. My clothes earned first place ribbons at the county fair.  From my father I learned about composition and light as he practiced his hobby of photography.  We had an entire family history recorded with one of the first “moving picture” cameras which included a professional set-up of lights if the filming was indoors.


In high school I began experimenting with paints and abstract pictures, mostly playing with color combinations and shapes to form interesting designs.


My formal art education occurred at Sierra College in Northern California with drawing, design, and watercolor painting classes. I realized while executing art projects that I wanted to spend more time engaging in creativity.


A few years later in 2001, I took a job in Cairo, Egypt for two years where I taught Fine Art and Design for the first time to high school Egyptian students. As a trained educator, this job was a perfect fit, and I learned a great deal about teaching art and developing projects.


I began to paint in watercolor, committing to this pursuit on a regular basis, when I was 54 years old. I soon found that each day needed to include painting: mixing paints, discovering blending and shading, forming lines, and producing interesting designs.  At the age of 62 I joined the Watercolor Society of Colorado Springs where I could compare my skills with others, learn new techniques, and share ideas. I began to sell paintings in a gallery. I also taught painting to groups of adults.


While in Colorado Springs, I benefited greatly from the classes of professional teachers. The most important influences to me were Lorraine Danzo, Bob Gray, Martha Manns, Lorraine Watry, and Patrice Filler.  Lorraine  Danzo had developed a style that was similar to mine, and she was a trained teacher. I spent many happy hours in her spacious art studio, amidst a group of aspiring painters.


I moved to Boquete Panama with my husband in 2015 when I was 70 years old. In this beautiful tropical paradise, I was surprised to learn there were few serious artists sharing their expertise. I formed beginner classes and then intermediate classes, all of which were very well attended. I now also exhibit at a local upscale restaurant and the local library where my paintings are well received.  I belong to the local Plein Air group — a group of outdoor, watercolor artists.


I continue today to pursue my work in Boquete, always learning and growing, sharing, and improving. Teaching and creating art gives a completeness to my life and makes me happy. In retirement, it provides a platform of purpose.