Barbara Sparhawk

Writing, art, journalism, politics, buccaneering & adventuring. Goddard College (Vermont), St. Martin’s School of Art (London), Art Student’s League (NYC). Here’s the short version. How do you do at long last.

Having met the indictment in grade school that I would have to make up my mind what I wanted to be when I grew up, and finding no use for specializing in light of myriad choices that kept appearing, I instead proceeded to test myself in many careers, doing and learning much in the process. I recommend it.

  • First real portrait commission was a command from the ferocious Laguna Beach Playhouse stage manager. I was 15, an apprentice. “Harvey” was the play of the week. “Paint Harvey” he said. “I want a rabbit in a tux over the fireplace by curtain time.” I painted, to critical acclaim.
  • Teenager leaving art school in London, then Paris, then by train across Europe to discover Poland and Russia at the height of the Cold War. Leapt off a moving train headed in the wrong direction, landed in a snow bank ten feet from soldiers who turned toward me, raising their bayonetted rifles to their cheeks.
  • In the Seventies, the only female outdoor scaffold climbing billboard painter in the USA, swinging 10 to 25 stories in the breeze over Times Square with four inch brushes, linseed oil, turps, Japan dryer cozied on a scaffold. Murals, signs, portraits, carousel horses followed. Animated cartoons and short films.
  • My old carriage house in downtown Brooklyn was a spontaneous rescue operation for cats & dogs, one seagull, one monkey. Forlorn, lost, abandoned, wounded & wonderful crowded in.
  • Politics, yes. NY mayoral campaign. Handling press, speech writer to US Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro.
  • Newswriting, so hot for news, at CBS, ABC & FOX TV in NY. Radio Producer for talk and rock.
  • Dozens of my own businesses, signs murals portraits sculpting. Learning trades on the hoof by reading volumes, listening endlessly, looking til bleary and mostly hardwork experimenting in new skills in terrible places without enough material, daylight, or food. The usual story.
  • I taught myself how to write short stories and novels, two published “The Gandy Dancer & Other Short Stories”, a children’s book, “CoCo NO!” 6 more to come soon.
  • I left the city behind me to take my measure in wilderness. Up Weather Mountain in Virginia, blizzards, ice storms, thunder that shook the planet; eagles, condors, mountain lions, bears. Joined the Blue Ridge Volunteer Fire Brigade.
    Moved to a log cabin before it became the worst Virginia winter in 200 years, 20 below zero, a woodstove; candlelight writing & daylight painting. Spring. Fall.
  • Bought my 1974 Suburban “The BLUE THUNDER” (in 1996), packed in my last six Brooklyn cats and the chocolate Lab (Rodin) I’d met & fallen in love with in the Blue Ridge, stored & gave away what was left over, turned south, turned right, headed west to California. Camped out in the forests of Big Sur.
  • Hired on as cameraman’s assistant for CBS TV’s “Survivor Africa” in 2001. What a hooooooot.
  • Coastal California horse ranch barns and bunkhouses, north to Yosemite to write & paint in a gold miner’s shack next to granite sheers, lavender skies and sleepy black root-bound ponds. Headed back to Cachagua.

My work is focused on inspiring individualism, personal responsibility, and an independent spirit. I’ve lived all over this splendid country, (Vermont to Brooklyn to Missouri to Yosemite) crossed it by car four times, lived in Mexico, England, France & Russia.

I mutter it often and in wonder at every new surprise I get into: OH WHAT A LIFE I LEAD! All of us get to walk the planet, few of us choose to really live. I’m not the first to say that but I like whoever said it first.

I advise anyone who isn’t already knee deep to find out what thrills the hell out of you and leap in. It may not last. It will be different than you expected. But you’ll be roaring on all cylinders, and if you intend to lead a virtuous life…that’s a virtue.

That’s all I want. A taste of it all. What IS out there? Let’s go have a look.




17 thoughts on “About

  1. Hi, what an amazing story, I have the painting that is your own portrait you did in 1967
    and it is fantastic. You are wearing a hunters hat and looking to your right with the beautiful big blue eyes.


    • Thank you, Steven. Who are you? I don’t remember the portrait you describe, or how you might happen to have it? Did you buy it so long ago? Write and let me know, please. And hello.


  2. Hello from Memory Lane. Barbara I don’t know if you remember me, from Pacific St. Anyway this year John and I moved from Brooklyn to Kansas City Kansa, with our Collie Ter. You can read about the move and house and garden we’re doing here in an article they did about us in the Kansas City Star: http://www.kansascity.com/living/home-garden/article7783413.html#/tabPane=tabs-b0710947-1-1, I also have a blog on WordPress, which you can look at if you like, about making the gardens here: http://www.timshalagardens.com. It was fun reading about your adventures.


  3. Pingback: The Twin Ontological Motives | giblets & flapdoodle

  4. What a story! Your energy is inspiring. Thanks for visiting and commenting at my blog – I may be able to see your paintings in CA, I have family in Marin and get out there fairly frequently.


    • Thanks very much, Tom. You do my heart good. Marin is really beautiful too. Hope you get a chance to drive down the coast and visit my gallery. I’ve probably sold more of my paintings to people in Marin and San Francisco than most other places on the coast, we share some of that seascape drama.


  5. HI; I read yr. Trouble in Paradise and can relate to a similar experience…. you brought it all back to me … almost like a rheumy cold that won’t go away … ahh, living, or at this point in life I must say : ah, having lived ! no regrets, like Edith Piaf .


  6. Thanks for visiting my blog! you are obviously a woman of many accomplishments and easy to admire. That is my first impression, so I will start to follow your blog.


  7. I came across your work while looking up some site seeing ops for a friend who is traveling near you. Your art work pulled me in. Im in Michigan…but will be uprooting soon to travel…without a plan…and with a tenative nature. Your story resonates with me – sans your talent. Really captivating writing and beautiful art! Thanx for sharing!


    • Thanks for your wonderful complements, and for your visit, Patti, and hoorah for the uproot to new horizons. No need to be tentative, your heart and mind will lead the way. Take all the backroads and have a ball. And ignore everyone who’s calling you impulsive, it leads to fabulous adventures. Hope you or your friend get close enough to visit the gallery, too.


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