Tangible Joy in Abstract Art: Cover Artist Natalie Barker
by Sarah Spencer
While applying for her Master’s degree, she felt a tugging, an indication that this wasn’t the path she was meant to go on. “I felt like I was chasing a dream that wasn’t mine. Something felt like it was missing and I couldn’t quite pinpoint it,” she muses.
“I painted my first abstract painting in 2014, and decided to make an Instagram account and post it. Then, I started to receive order after order, commission after commission. It was quite mind-blowing, actually. Once I started to see that I had a pretty decent and steady income coming in, I then kind of questioned God, ‘Is this what you want me to do?’” She moved back to her parents’ house after college and painted in their sunroom upstairs, finding inspiration.
Her process is deeply personal and religious, tapping into a place that allows her creativity to flow through her. “Before beginning a painting, I always bring it to prayer. I do my best to collect as much information from the customer as possible, but at the end of the day, God gets the reins,” she remarks.
The thick texture that acrylic paint creates is integral to her art. Natalie also works with modeling pastes, soft gels, cement, and gold leaf, which brings her works to life. Since many of her paintings are done on commission, she uses prayer and other personal inspiration to bring to life the outline already given to her.
Her Catholic faith inspires most of the subjects of her paintings. “Jesus is always the center of everything I paint, but I love painting images of Our Lady, the Saints, Catholic imagery, or tradition,” she says. Many of her abstract paintings have hidden scripture or song throughout them, as well.
As a busy wife and mother of three young children (three years old, two years old, and four months old), Natalie appreciates that her time painting is one-on-one time with God. “I’d like to say I blare my favorite jams and go nuts, but, truth is, I paint in complete silence. Nothing is more soothing to my creative brain than the sound of silence.”
She also recently hired an employee, Leah. “She’s my right-hand man,” Natalie laughs. “With her help, we branched out into the world of merchandise and have had our art printed onto notebooks, coffee mugs, blankets, garden flags, stickers, magnets, coasters—you name it!” Natalie has also expanded her brand on Etsy with Leah’s help.
As a native of Houma, Natalie has displayed her work at Southdown Market twice a year for the past three years, but she’s branching out to other markets soon. “With Houma being my home town, my client base there is huge and extremely supportive,” she notes. “Southdown has been such a gift to my business because everyone in my hometown can come to one place to view and purchase my work in person twice a year.”
While her dream is to open a storefront on Magazine Street, for now, Natalie is happy painting in her spare bedroom and cherishing time with her children. Still, she remarks “I have big plans for Colors by Natalie and I cannot wait to see what God does with them down the line.” She tells her customers: “His way is the best way. I never in a million years would have believed that I could support a family as an artist for as long as I have. But because it was His plan, He made a way and continues to do so.”