A Day at the Beach

Barbara described herself as an ‘Expressionist’ painter, harking back to the international art movement known for bold colors and exaggerated forms that flourished in the early 1900s.

Expressionist artists were not interested in how the world looks, but how it felt. Toward that end, Expressionism stylistically employed:

  • intense colour
  • agitated brushstrokes
  • disjointed space
  • primitivism & fantasy

Expressionism, which came to prominence in Germany & Austria in the years leading up to (and during) WWI, tended toward darker moods, mimicking the widespread cultural anxieties of their era, but Barbara typically exploited expressionist technique to celebrate the joy of life.

AUGUST – The Woman, The Horse, The Dog, The Birds, The Sand, The Ocean, The Sky

Although, by contrast, note a beach scene portrayed less enthusiastically, more cautiously.

Life is Dangerous


Rescue Dogs of 9-11 (Updated)

We recently observed yet another anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks, and a previous post by Barbara on 9-11 rescue dogs received a spike of over 200 views.

Barbara knew one of the handlers, and it seems appropriate now, five years later, to re-post her blog.

Lest we forget ~~  THE RESCUE DOGS of 9-11

A rescue dog is transported out of the debris of the World Trade Center, September 15, 2001.  (REUTERS/HO/U.S. Navy Photo by Journalist 1st Class Preston Keres)

“The last surviving 9/11 Search & Rescue Dog has died. Porkchop was only one year old when he heroically aided the search at Ground Zero. After the World Trade Center attacks, 13 Search Dog Foundation teams were deployed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help search for survivors. These teams offered hope in a world that felt somber and hopeless.  Over the intervening dozen years, the dogs have passed away from old age.  Porkchop was the last.”

I got to meet Erick and Porkchop when I lived in Yosemite in 20002-3.

RIP Splendid hero, all the heroes, the dear departed innocent Americans.



This made me weepy. The look of tragedy in Porkchop’s eyes is almost unbearable.


I think it’s a kind of overwhelm and exhaustion, too, the same their humans felt. Erick said they’d rushed there like so many to rescue, and it turned out to be something very different. There were vets on hand, masseuses for animal and people, and so much love extended, endless abundant caring for precious life. Erick told me a fireman got very angry at him, and Porkchop for a lack of expertise in an arduous search for a fireman in an area they were sure he’d be found. Porkchop fixed on what looked to everyone like nothingness. Erick trusted Porkchop and insisted. The fireman (his frustration understandable) shouted at the “stupid dog”….until they realized the confusing mass of steel and cloth had indeed contained the twisted body of their friend. The emotional toll on the rescuers, and their ability to come through it years later, is heroic in itself. And the dogs were fearless and always ready. Darling Porkchop, yes, what a face, what a look, saying everything.


I managed to get thru the whole day without crying … Until I read this.


I cried through the entire posting, I had to force myself to stop so I understand. I didn’t know until this morning that Porkchop was gone, fabulous doggie, and more about their story another time. But briefly, Erick had just gotten him, started Yosemite EMT, trained Porkchop for search and rescue in Yosemite for its lost hikers, and 9-11 happened. When Erick heard they were in his car headed for NYC in 24 hours, people buying his gas on the way, paying for his meals the minute they knew…what a country united. The handlers were all so worried about the health of the search dogs but none were affected. Erick stopped at Cabella’s along the way. First they said, Sorry mister no dogs allowed. Then he told them his destination, the owner appeared, he GAVE Erick and Porkchop 300 pair of doggy booties for the 9-11 dogs, which they needed badly. God Bless America that today we passed unscathed by hateful savages.



The Mystery of Plants

“Now I am becoming a gardener and every day is a revelation.”

 I had another splendid garden day. I’m in a place that has risen and fallen via occupant, and they have been legion. What’s stayed are some brilliantly designed for the place fifty years ago, very old established plants. The huge Pride of Madeira, the very old gnarled lavender which were trimmed into trees, huge patches of tall reedy African Lilies, dozens of plants I’ve never seen. And every couple of days, something brand new rises out of the ground, stirred to life, introduced long ago by some former planter and which lay dormant. Now here is me, clearing out the underbrush, ridding old bushes of dead branches, exposing the soil to light and air and water that was held captive, and everything in sight starting to cry in a unisonous voice of exuberant joy.

The Mexican Aztec destroyer gardeners have done a nasty job of such severe pruning it’s heartbreaking. I mean, you see the base of things like a jade plant that is so huge it has to be maybe fifty years old and only allowed to grow three feet high! The cherry tree with a ten inch plus trunk was maybe seven feet when I got here. I’ve forbidden the gardeners to come back down here (very sweetly, “Oh, I’ll Do That!”) and the cherry tree, like the others, is now reaching for the sky, some shoots up to eighteen feet, waving deliriously in the sun and wind.

The hedges which are all flowering were reduced to short boxes. And now it’s all hoopla and blooms. The gardeners must be very annoyed when they look down here.

And John, I look around me now and it’s only been a few months, less than a season, and I say aha, that’s me. There I am, in greens and reds and yellows and blues. Time to start painting it.

I’ve landed somewhere I didn’t intentionally head for. It’s taken me more than a decade to begin to unravel the mysteries of plants. I had one garden experience as an eleven- or twelve-year-old somewhere. My mother introduced me to flower seed packets and I dug up a patch of land and grew fabulous zinnias and somethings. But never picked up on it in Brooklyn, except for house bound geraniums I loved, some spider plants and ferns, and nasturtiums I had growing year-round in my studio window, street-level, that used to stop passersby in their tracks routinely.

Now I am becoming a gardener and every day is a revelation. So there’s something more than I knew in being led here, to this place, where gallery is important, house too miniscule to consider much, and garden is critical to life. I never know where the hell I’m going or why but learning to trust myself that there’s an attached purpose in it.


The Pig Who Loved Plums

“It was so tragically romantic . . . wild pig all poet. I was training myself to think, ‘Bad wild animal, dangerous wild animal!’ so I wouldn’t care . . . and it turned out he was in love with the plums.”

There are coyote packs out here who howl to each other at late night, moon nights. It’s not scary. There can’t be much other than the occasional mountain lion in the way of predators here – [The Holman Ranch] – 400 acres of a lot of wild land, canyons and hills, beyond the modest cultivated places and few houses and stables and the horse pastures.

Before I had the studio/apartment in the barn on the hill I lived in the peasant housing, the Bunkhouses, a row of about eight on the last stretch of road before the big house. Lousy housing, about 12X12 feet, everything leaked, the walls, half underground in front, seeped, a long communal porch facing west and hills, but oh my God the property was free range and spectacular. The big house had a pool nobody used but me, set off in a mountainside, blue/green tile, condor and hawks overhead, sun-heated.

Opposite the bunkhouses was a little house with the washers and dryers. A fence below that and a big sloping lot of land into a canyon. And Patty and Chris who lived in the one full house next to the laundry. They had a fantastic garden filled with extraordinary plants, flowering vines, fruit trees in flower, a pond, chickens and roosters, cats and a really old cocker spaniel, and they did underwater landscaping for ponds, including for Monterey Aquarium, and pretty much took care of the ranch.

Slow to start, but with increased passion each night one summer, one of the pigs in a wild pack began trying to break through that back fence. Chris, a well-armed Texan, would charge out at 1 or 2 am and fire in the direction of the pig and scare it off.  But the insistent pig returned, every night, making more need-to-repair holes in the wood fence, not getting through but upsetting the Holman Ranch balance of nature, our natures anyway.

These things run about 3-400 lbs, and are all muscle, near blind, and aggravate easy. They charge at whatever appears to be a target.  And they are dangerous. So there was general worry and specific annoyance and between the crashing wood and Chris firing nobody was sleeping any more.

Except me now up on the hill in the barn. The ruckus woke me around 2 am one morning, a lot more shots fired than usual, and voices shouting and screaming and I threw on clothes and ran down the hill.

Chris (and of course it’s the dead dark of night except for some badly placed electric lights) had heard the wild pig break through the fence and he’d gone out with a rifle and shotgun and handgun. Seven or eight or ten shots fired. As the pig charged him! The flashlights from all the woken tenants honed in on the dead pig’s body, still heaving its end of life, Chris panting not more than five feet away, it had come right at him. It was pretty sad along with a relief that the enemy was stilled, Chris unscathed.

But the story, the real story, lay in the aftermath. Here was this grizzled huge thing, they are enormous, and they do attack, bad eyesight and generally peeved at the world, and it lay dead now on the path, and of course I’m in the wild west and everyone here grew up with doing this so they cooked it later that day.

So all this is going on and I’m trying to adjust to the thinking. I’m in a different country, five years out of Brooklyn, one year out of Virginia (where they cooked and ate everything with great fanfare on complex homemade equipment, and often) and I’m talking to the Texan and his wife about the rampaging wild pig and it turns out that the pig kept breaking into the back yard in order to get at the very full post-blossom fruit-filled plum trees that bordered Chris and Patty’s yard. 

My God. The succulent plums. Here was wild pig all poet. He had risked his life for the sweet plums just out of reach and I could not get over it.  No other pig before or after him had thought the plum something he would not live without. No other. It was so tragically romantic, too much to stand. It had never occurred to me. I was training myself to think, ‘Bad wild animal, dangerous wild animal!’ so I wouldn’t care about the rest that followed and it turned out he was in love with the plums.

This was some special creature whose heart must have been filled with exceptional poetry and the stuff dreams are made of.  All the pig wanted was something beautiful and wonderful with that alluring perfume to it. I tell you, it so affected and crushed me, I cried and cried, and for months, and still.  And no I couldn’t bring myself to be part of the feast that followed. And it gave me a new respect for the souls of what is called wild.

Which of course you’ve seen, you’ve known, from among others, your wolves.


What did I want?

“As far as I could see a checkered career was about the best thing on earth. I could live my life as I saw fit to live it and the more checkers the better!”

Many years ago I presented myself with choices about conducting my life. I was in NY and witness to, friend of, working with a lot of driven, influential people. I could see caution at certain turns with them, thinking of the big picture, the future stardom, the decision not to be careless about . . . something. I could watch it take place; fascinated me. It played out in ways like, I’ll get you a cab vs come upstairs. Or carefully, pointedly, leaving a room when discussions were headed a particular way. That’s most especially political. Sometimes a candidate has to be directed. Sometimes they get it on their own but there are conversations inappropriate to hear because of what might come up later if events go south.

Well, as I’ve said I grew up in an emotional desert, and when I started finally allowing emotional content to my life I couldn’t bear the thought of not letting it all hang out.

So that decision, choosing how to conduct my life . . . it was very simple and very fast.

I asked myself if I ever wanted to run for political office. No, I did not. I had no interest in power, or governing, or sticking to one job more than two years tops.

What did I want?

Writing. Painting and Art. Endless Experience. As far as I could see a checkered career was about the best thing on earth. I could live my life as I saw fit to live it and the more checkers the better! Launching into any creative field provides enormous license to behave well or badly, then write a novel or screenplay about the process! I didn’t want so much to behave badly as to not prevent myself from heading around just about any corner that looked good. How I looked in the doing did not matter a whit.


When Will My Time Come?

“I had a rare and precious independence in all this isolating exclusion from convention. That I knew”.

Many years ago when I was in my twenties, a time long in the rear view mirror when I think of all the life since, I interrupted a walk with my dog Princey to sit down on old border barricades of an empty lot in Brooklyn. It was past midnight. Intensely quiet. A moonless early spring night of impossibly bright stars and a night I have never forgot.

Princey was a collie shepherd mix. I found him months before, racing on the city streets from some cruelty with a bum’s old rope for a leash around his neck, scared and cowed and desperate and starving, and took him in.

Somewhere in the dark behind me by many blocks was my apartment on Atlantic Avenue. I lived on the second floor of a 3 story walk up, small building. There was no heat, the newly widowed Greek landlady drove in from Jersey to collect the rents but never filled the boiler. I used to run the hot water in the shower to make steam, somehow there was endless hot water. Turn on the oven and open the door. It was bone cold that place.

A Puerto Rican family lived above with two beautiful daughters. The father worked in the Ex-Lax factory half a mile away. The Black Panthers rented the store front on the ground floor below, filled with black uniforms, army boots, guns, bullet filled bandoliers, pot and incense in the air, secretive 24 hour conspiring, meetings, music, muscle and talk of revolutions.

The apartment was a good size, most were in those days. Lots of light from Atlantic Avenue through big windows. In the back the kitchen window could be opened onto the bit of roof of the room on the ground floor that extended into the crusty back yard. My apartment was filled with rescued cats, sequestered in what would have been one bedroom and a new room of chicken wire I constructed in the kitchen corner, and three dogs. And my child, less than six months old, my Trevor, left sleeping in his crib this night, so many nights, while I finished the endless day.

Mornings came early and nights ended late. I waitressed, tended bar, went to Coney Island on weekends to earn sign painting money. I’d wake my little boy from sleep before dawn to dress and bring him sometimes unfed to the babysitter and picked him up, hot against me from sleep in a strange crib by ten or eleven at night to bring him home. And lucky to have that in an age unknown to day care. There were clothes to hand wash in the sink, his and mine. Animals to feed, the dogs to walk. I’d even found a rooster on the sidewalk, a refugee from cock fighting and was trying to keep him alive in a closet fronted by a door I’d made of chicken wire. And it was during these months in that place that I started and finished a commission of a life size portrait of William F Buckley, Jr. in the front room that doubled as my bedroom and my studio and my everything else. Because of the animals, to not be found out, have them seized and killed, and us evicted, I kept the whole place clean and odorless as possible. That was its own career I’ll tell you that.

And through much of those early years like that I never understood my child’s crying because I did not allow crying for myself. The life I was in I had somehow made and was I in it. And the child with me, in it.  And I didn’t know why I hurt when I hurt, or was angry or confused, or happy when any of those things hit. I’m not sure I questioned it. I had no idea how to care for either of us. I only knew I wanted to learn it for myself and being taken care of or married was not what I could stand, not deep in me, not that sacrifice. But I had put myself in therapy to reach it all, a slow grueling and liberating process. I had a rare and precious independence in all this isolating exclusion from convention. That I knew.

And in that night out under the benediction of starlight on that empty Brooklyn square feet of dust and quiet with Princey sitting beside me and welcoming my hugs and thoughtful of my agony I cried out to the universe

When will my time come.

When will my time for painting endlessly with all the supplies I need in a wonderful studio and house all safe and warm, a busy kitchen filled with food and color and life, a wonderful man who loves me and will raise my child with me, when will MY time come to paint and draw and write my books. How do I make that happen. I don’t know how to make that happen.

And weep I did.



“Isn’t being alive wonderful?”

Yes, we all take our own pathways, some very purposeful, and the more surprising and alarming: oh what the hell why not. But you know John, something both of us have worth keeping in mind are the frightened and incapacitated who have not moved from spot one to spot two in a lifetime. And blahs or hallelujahs, neither of us has been much thwarted by fear or conventional thinking. Worth celebrating. Yes. Really it is.

I suppose I am some evangelic about really living. I witness too many people stretching endless days into complacencies that kill them. You can’t always turn that around. And it breaks my heart. And keeps me at the trying

Oh John. Isn’t being alive wonderful. What on earth went wrong with those who are not and could have been. Well, we know that too. You have to make your happiness. I bet more than one of your students, including the one you nudged into Art History, are looking at your life and getting smarter with their own because of it. Many of them must have loved you.

I wish I had realized decades ago how much choosing was my own province.

Living Wild

“Wild, unruly, and mystical is good.”

It’s a steady job rejecting the conventional illusions, planted so young in us and reinforced continually. But only if paid attention to and not ignored, which is all the standards deserve. The friends I’ve lost to early deaths who clung to doing what was expected of them, horrific.

Don Quixote had it right, dear adventuring heart, but forced to cloak himself with insanity to be an explorer, a free spirit, instead of a dangerous challenge to the conventions of his times.

Observe the limits of those you meet or knew who ground to a halt in fear. Wild, unruly, and mystical is good. I do the best I can in it, glad to be here. Sometimes even proud.

I’m not sorry for the years I spent in cities but I stayed too long.

There is nothing to match living wild.


Make an Offering

“Make an offering of ourselves, like you said, to the life force.”

This business you mention of artists giving, it’s true, that impulse. Somewhere in my very youth when I was starting to know I was heading into a life of doing artwork and was standing in a museum, I recognized in myself the heart throbbing connection to beautiful paintings, the artists who meant so much to me. It didn’t cow me that I could never equal what the great ones painted, I don’t think I spent much time on that. What I decided very clearly was that I could do that for others like me. Make paintings and drawings that would do as much for strangers as these fine strangers did for me, and by doing so, reciprocate some part of what I was taking in because of them. I thought, look at what I’m being given.

I think I kind of forgot about it for years.

I was still very young, early 20’s and had started a portrait business. Some gallery owner I can barely remember had a couple of my paintings and actually sold them. And came one day with a photograph of a young man, a policeman, who’d died in the line of duty. His wife, from Germany, was heading back home and had stopped in and asked for her husband’s portrait to be painted. Well, so I did, and delivered, and went home with whatever was earned. He called a few days later and said the wife had picked it up. She had, he said, cried when she saw it.

That was pretty much life altering for me. I even asked him why she’d cried. I had no idea I could do work that would move other people and elicit that reaction, tears! And I hadn’t consciously been heading for it, I hadn’t planned it, I hadn’t remembered as a chosen path the insight in the museum long before that, but here I was on it, and it’s been important to me ever since.

I will get to a point with painting about anything when my eyes start to water. It’s not quite crying but it is I suppose, is.  And it’s become a kind of signal to me that I’m reaching something crucial in myself, and that it will transmit to strangers.

The Barbara Sparhawk Memorial Art Show

My work is focused on inspiring individualism, personal responsibility, and an independent spirit.”


Expressionist artist and published author Barbara Sparhawk passed away unexpectedly on September 4, 2018.

The public is invited to a Memorial Art Show being held in her honor at The Wild Goose Bakery & Cafe, 18 E. Carmel Valley Rd., Carmel Valley, CA.

The exhibit will be open throughout the month of August, 2019. Cafe hours are 6:30 am to 6:30 pm, although they sometimes close early on slow days.

Ph: 831.659.5052. 

We would like to invite you to submit pictures as well as video of your visit to oops.john@gmail.com, who will attempt to edit them into a short documentary that can be viewed here on The Hawks Perch.



Let Us Not Forget

My name is John Hayes, and I recently received the following sad news which I would like to post for those who have noticed Barbara’s absence from these pages:

“Alas, your fears are justified. Barbara died in early September (2018) from complications of surgery. . . She had survived radiation for tumors behind her eyes, and her sight had improved. She was in the middle of chemotherapy. Evidently, however, her cognition and balance led to a fall and immediate hip surgery for the break. She aspirated during surgery.”

I “met” Barbara online in 2012 while reading her book, The Gandy Dancer & Other Short Stories. We shared a love of art and writing, and over the next half-dozen years our email correspondence would grow to ¾’s of a million words.

From the beginning it was obvious that Barbara was special. Her observations and insights, her paintings and drawings, her bohemian life as an artist – in so many ways Barbara defied the norm and approached greatness.

In 2013 I described Barbara’s life in a blog as:

  • A life lived on the edge where the risks are greater but the rewards are priceless
  • A life spent saying ‘no’ to compromise and ‘yes’ to distant horizons
  • A life bristling with the ‘courage to be’ and practiced in the art of joyful engagement

If ever there were a biography as yet unwritten I would love to read,” I noted in that same blog, “it would be Barbara’s.” And toward that end I urged her many times to sketch her life in words, as well as to let me photograph and document her canvases. An artist of her caliber should not be forgotten.

“The only impulse I’ve had is to try and organize and solidify my papers and work, to make it easier on historians to keep alive, and still have some control over what gets selected out. Whoosh. I want some legacy, I think about it.” 

– Barbara Sparhawk

And yet, two months after Barbara died her body still lay unclaimed in a morgue in Carmel, California. I do not know if the situation has since been resolved.

If anyone has more information or thoughts they would like to share, please do.


“So we shall have at it and write for the sake of, and see where it leadeth and be happy and full in our souls from the splendours of the language, shall we not.”

– Barbara Sparhawk


Jim Jensen












Returning Customers

I write about few of my gallery customers, though the experience warrants pages of description as the transferring of my art work from my hand to the far-off stranger is always full of meaning. The buyer’s privacy must be considered, too. But this is a noteworthy exception; the fine patrons of art who entered my gallery deserve celebration by all artists. This is hope personified.

On the first of July this summer, a wonderful couple from the Bay area (San Francisco environs) bought a large painting I’d done called Wild Blue Iris by Riverbank. I wrote about it then on this blog.  Their reaction to my work was memorable and divine to hear.

Wild Blue Iris by Riverbank

Well, they came back on the 26th of August, and bought 4 more paintings!

Stunning! Collectors of Sparhawks!

The first canvas in July, Wild Blue Iris, was destined (immediate decision) to go over their piano.  What a stunning thrill for this painter to see this couple return for more of my work! After the second visit, their house must be filling up with Sparhawk oil paintings. Their enthusiasm sure stayed with me; boy oh boy, it cancels out every despair.

That was quite a day. The sale itself is part of it, but even better is a confirmation that I’m on the right track, I’m painting in a way that moves people!

Wahoo! THAT’S success.

These are the new paintings they took back north with them:

Calla Lilies Against Blue Wall

Calla Lilies & Leaf Interior

Calla Lilies Against Red Wall

Flowers Against a Frozen Windowpane

To you lovely people: I hope these 4 new pictures make a splendid addition to the first one! and to your lives, and that I’ve given you interesting work to look at for decades.

Thank you, once more, for doing so very much for my heart.