Barbara’s Biography

All three Volumes of Barbara’s biography are now available.

Included under one cover (318 p.) are over 150 color reproductions of major artworks, dozens of ‘fire-side’ chats, and a lengthy annotated timeline of her life.

Read online, download pdf to your computer, share with friends – all for FREE!

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Barbara Sparhawk: Expressionist Artist & Writer



Stormy Weather

Road conditions according to Kate Woods Novoa’s chronicle of “Big Sur News & Events” seem to be deteriorating along Highway One, Barbara’s old stomping grounds.

photo by Cal Trans

Barbara lived & operated a gallery in that area, and frequently painted her surroundings.

The Bridge Is Out

11×14 Oil on Canvas

Artist’s Description

“Not sure where this came from, maybe the perpetual thrill of Highway one and all its marvelous danger. I think the pickup truck has been there a long time, and nobody got hurt.”



With Silver Bells & Cockleshells

I’m accidentally on purpose in just the right place. Everything grows here.

In the garden all morning, I admit to realizing that I made this and it’s good!

Especially now that so much is taking shape and filling in blank places. There are new things popping up that haven’t seen the light of day in ages, ancient transplants, accidental seeded soil. A small-headed but tall daisy suddenly made itself known out of weedy looking foliage (which I have learned to leave be and observe because some surprise is always in it). The center of the bud was very dark, almost black, wispy little pointed projectiles out of it. It’s starting to bloom now, one main flower and several new buds, and it is deep purple with lighter near fuscia dots on the inside, I still don’t know what the petals will turn to but WOW.

Birth of the Garden

Oil on Canvas

The gardens, the old cabin of the Jardine Ranch was a miracle to live in. Probably the most beautiful place I’ve ever lived. The bed was set into a bay window, quite high up, Cecil Bruner pink roses lapping and climbing the cabin redwood, a pond only a dozen feet away with waving grasses and yellow iris and cattails, a river behind me, Pfeiffer Beach five minutes down the road. They had exquisite, roughhewn but spectacular landscaping. My God the color and variety! An orchard with pears and plums and cherries, and all of at the road bordered by the huge famous black green cypress trees. The horses, cats, dogs, pig named Wilbur. I miss so much of it. But the intrusion, the sense of excluding was pervasive. I thought of all that this morning, not a new thought, that I have more privacy here than anywhere in California so far. And I can do whatever I choose to the landscape, not so with the rock and roll legend [Al Jardine of the ‘Beach Boys’] and his family. I’m beginning to see as well that this is probably a very special climate and land for the kind of garden I want. Farther east to the mountains it is dry and hot. You struggle with gardens and the flowering varieties are limited. I love thinking of your video in that field of yellow flowers, way to go!

I’m accidentally on purpose in just the right place. Everything grows here. Wet enough from ocean fogs, the air heated by the big open meadow just beyond my garden and moisture in the air from the Carmel River at that border. Carmel-by-the-sea has exquisite, old established gardens. We’ve the same climate as the Riviera, as South Africa’s coast. Plants grow here that do not in other parts of America. I’d still like a house on the coast and maybe someday will again.

Carmel is a crappy snooty place to live in, but finds can be had. It’s dreadful that some of the most beautiful places are populated with idiots.


War of the Roses

You see what gardeners go through. It’s a whole fucking planet whirling through the solar system and I can only hope for daily gravity.

I have two of the most interesting trees here, they are evergreen, never shed, slim black trunks -so rare- growing like a kind of Aspen but in one tight group. They reach about twenty feet or more, one at the corner of the side wall by the rock wall, below the general walkway. The other by the same rock wall across the patio, about fifteen feet apart, sweet sentries. The second is also alongside the steps leading up, lightly touching the banister. The leaves are like a spearmint shape, pointed, but green inside, a kind of yellowed pale green, with a full white border on each leaf!  They’re very unusual, I have no idea what they are and can’t find them referenced.

Well like most things here they’d grown down to the ground in a nightmare of dead branch and bramble inside.  I’ve been working on clearing them out. They’ve been trimmed and pruned previously to a huge elongated barrel shape, which, with clearing the bottom, I am changing. In the process the beautiful stone wall is revealed and exposed to sun which makes for more plantings! So the tree shape is changing. Sort of round popsicle-y stemmed. They’re very round. I pruned to about three and a half or four feet up from the bottom, in a kind of swaying, gentle curve, but primarily flat across on the bottom. Then I thought I’d see how high the top went if left to its own devices, but wasn’t liking it much. The tops are visible from the walkway and parking lot. I’d say up to a good twenty feet so far and spurting higher.

Well I got back to the bungalow and Caesar was leaving with all his tools looking pleased with himself and we said hello and I went down the steps and I’m seeing all the green and white leaves and thinking what the hell!!!  Like previous mentioned raccoons, or rutting deer at war in my garden!  Leaves and branches everywhere! What the hell….and then I look at the tops and Caesar had cut them — flat off.

Now a gardener, I have discovered or anyone fitting the bill despite qualities, is no more someone to have truck with than a chef before dinner is served.  You have no idea what you might be in for after starting a war. So I recovered from the invasion, which had me screaming YOU CAN’T DO THIS HOW DARE YOU to nobody at the top of my lungs, and which offended me greatly, swept up and took another look.

I’m very fond of Dr Zeus’s landscapes, they are in fact all over this area, trees pruned into balls and pyramids and inverted who knows, and all delightful. And I was looking at these trees over the past year, knowing I wanted some whimsy to them and had decided about a week ago I’d go for the African veldt silhouette, that kind of wide spread oval high up where growth stays beyond the reaching neck of the giraffe and its large teeth.

But I hesitated doing anything quite so dramatic at the walkway, because the tops of my trees kind of, well, belong to the property in general more than my own garden. (Let anybody try telling ME that). And then tonight Caesar did the work unannounced.

The funny thing is there’s already a history, a delicate first week boundary war.  I saw what he did to everything in the place, square cut and Mohawks, and FORBADE his entering my garden.  I knew it ruffled but I stood my ground and I am quite sure it ruffles every time he’s here when he looks down and instead of geometry sees rambling chaos he cannot understand or like.  In trade I am solicitous, warmly greeting, and sing his praises to all who’ll listen including the landlord with whom he is very close.

So here as if by magic it was almost as if I’d asked him, or whispered the thought. He is now wearing a sense of triumph, and I will be quiet about mine, which arrived sans repercussion. And sweep up the rest of the mess in daylight. And not ask for my bicycle back. I might even try looking slightly wounded for effect.

Caesar and crew are ruthless in gardens. They just trimmed back a daisy hedge near Saddlemaker Bob’s, the size of three buffalo and filled with yellow daisies to the limit. It’s now a smaller green ball. THE FLOWERS ARE GONE. So I don’t even know how they think except as a tenant here said, These are more Aztec invaders than Mexican gardeners.

If he TOUCHES my cherry tree, which he had sawed down to a five foot collection of six and four and eight inch stubs and which, left alone at last, has, since last summer, sent out twelve foot shoots. If Caesar touches that he will pay dearly, et tu Brute all over again.

I may be up to asking Moses to describe to Caesar in their native tongue that I am doing drawings and paintings of the garden, my garden, AS IT IS!!!!! and it greatly disturbs my artistic nature and temperament when things are altered or moved about.  But I’m not convinced Moses could pull it off, he has a limited artistic eye, and then they’d be talking the mother lingo which I could not amend or adjust to my specifications, and it might start a war after all.

You see what gardeners go through. It’s a whole fucking planet whirling through the solar system and I can only hope for daily gravity.

Cradle of the Sun

This painting is a real treat.  I’ve kind of headed into it the way Trevor’s Treasure Island developed, more every day and in an odd direction.  With absolutely no foreground but rocks going into darkness I have all of a sudden added a chair and desk on the top of a peak, some kind of Greek ruins on a sandbar, a turquoise-lavender pool, stone gargoyles and seahorse, a writing desk, and steps…many steps.  I’ve decided to go with it, do not know what the hell I’m up to but up for the adventure.

It’s the sort of freedom I felt with your portrait which is a rare experience. Certainly possible with what you allowed, and unique in that only with historical portraits of my own devising have I ever moved into such a myriad of things.  Yours is the first portrait I let myself and you let myself do that with, and I am liberated from previous constraints as a result. 

It IS getting interesting.  I keep moving the waves and clouds around.  The very clouded sky reveals a reticent sun.  I’m calling it The Cradle of the Sun, or The Sun’s Cradle, which I find very exciting in and of itself and not sure what I’m up to.

The Cradle of the Sun

There’s a storm coming in from far away places ~~ sweeping up water, spray marking its path ~~ dark and fierce on a gentle cove.  Still visible inside fast-moving formations, the Sun is cradled by its cloudy banks. The golden strength hits boulders and quiet foreground pools which will be next to feel the crash of wind and sea. Large birds take frenzy flight. And a viewer’s ready chair says ”Come to me”… a kind of magic seating  … a match to the heady seascape beyond, and below, and around it.

Maybe I Can

I only made ten bucks all weekend.

Now I have to tell you, this has been a day of miracles.  Absolute miracles. 

I woke in great distress about a handful of troubles. Washed the Miata, which meant facing the bumper but the car needed a wash, and even used Bob’s vacuum cleaner. So worried about what might fall off though.

Then I bit the bullet and wrote the landlord about being late. I only made ten bucks all weekend.  I worry a lot about the landlord’s feelings toward my tenancy.  He had been stunningly thoughtful, the gallery rent has stayed HALF since I’ve been here and I will never find any place to live so sweet and cheap as this, plus my garden. Or as benevolent an owner.

I went to the gallery to paint.  I thought, I will WILL WILL sell paintings. Went back to the bungalow at noon and landlord had not responded to my email. Increasing gloom and despair. I went back to the gallery and thought, okay, this is foolish, I just have to give the gallery up.  I’ll figure out something somehow, but it’s depressing and extravagant and I just simply do not have a business anymore. Well that was pretty emotionally tearing me up.  I went outside to the mailbox for some air. At that very second a couple drove up who have been keenly interested in Trevor’s Treasure Island but had decided against it about a month ago. And there they were!

And they bought it!!!

I had lowered the price a couple of hundred bucks in emails back and forth the past two weeks but they hadn’t responded.  And here they were! They’re Chinese Americans I think. They’ve bought a lot of paintings from me, I even did a blog on them called The Returning Customers.  Mostly Calla Lilies. And C____, the wife, really loves my work.  (M____ is more circumspect and less effusive.) C____ is reserved but speaks about her feelings. And she was so moved, even the first time, at Trevor’s Treasure Island. 

She said, There’s a child’s playground, immersed in nature and no computers or distractions. Something for her grandchildren to inherit, to see now, to learn from. 

Oh John.  Well I was awash in tears.  It’s not only going to someone who loves it and understands it.  It’s almost as if it waited for them. And I’ll know where it is.  It really is a beautiful painting. I was pretty sure it needed to leave me though I’ve been concerned about where it would go.

And C____ also bought the new one, the orange/yellow tulips in the blue vase with the blue background.  Incredible. 

Tulips in Blue Glass w/ Fruit

I think I was in shock most of the day. I emailed the landlord, saying he should ignore the pathos of the previous email because the ship came in. I stopped in at the local gas station run by two Sikhs who are very Americanized and like Brooklynites and one of them fixed the bumper in a second with a baggie tie! Tight as new! For Free!! What a time I was having.  I ran to the bank in Carmel. The post office with the rent checks. Then groceries at Safeway, and man I was out of EVERYTHING.

I should have more faith. And just so you know, your faith in me has been justified. Everything changed in a matter of minutes.  And the landlord wrote back, thanking me for keeping him up to date on what’s happening, wishing me well, and hoping the rest of the year is just as good.

It’s the only thing that really has ever been missing from here, actually having a going business to support me.  It really doesn’t require keeping up with anything like the overhead in Big Sur, and who knows, maybe I can actually do this now.

Maybe I can.