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Barbara Counsil Interview

How long have you been making art?

Since I was four, but professionally for 12 years

Where do you find inspiration?

In the woods – from the colors and shapes of plants and animals, and from other artists who work with good humor.

© Barbara Counsil

Artistic accomplishments you’re proud of?

I received an honorable mention for a portrait I did of my brother. I was proud that the curators and judges could see the feeling I was expressing in the image, saying they felt “like it was a person we’d like to spend time with.” 

Where have you shown?

Mostly in Michigan and Oregon, near where I was living at any given time. I hate shipping artwork to far off places. Galleries, cafes, breweries, restaurants, concert halls, art markets, even Comic Con once. Anywhere working artists can sell work to pay the bills. Some favorites are the Maude Kerns Art Center in Eugene, the Coos Art Museum, Off The Waffle Portland, and the DAAC in Grand Rapids, MI. 

Have your studied art or had training?

Yes, under Scott Rice in Roscommon Michigan, and at Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I have a BFA and learned a lot from working artists like Jon McDonald, Molli Allicki-Corveau, Gypsy Schindler, and David Greenwood.

© Barbara Counsil

Please describe your workspace or studio.

I rent a space from metal fabricator and artist Matt Burney, who is also my fiance, in the industrial district of Springfield. It is essentially two connected offices next to his shop, which gives me plenty of desk space, wall space, and freedom to create. 

What’s your favorite place to work away from your studio?

Outside; painting a plein-air landscape in front of a mountain or next to a waterfall. 

Why make art?

Most times it’s not a choice for me. If I’m not making art I become terribly depressed. I believe that it is an important part of the human experience – to reflect culture and create beautiful things and give purpose to the world. Making art is extremely healthy – for individuals as well as whole communities. 

© Barbara Counsil

Do you have a routine when you’re working?

Nope. I do try to clean up well though, regardless of what type of art I was making. Starting the day with a clean and organized studio space is a very positive experience for me. 

What are your strategies to get un-stuck creatively?

Go to a museum. Research other art-makers. Go for a trail run, preferably at sunrise. Have faith that artists’ block is only temporary. 

What are your tips for someone who wants to make art?

Pay attention to what inspires you the most. 

Who inspires you?

People who are devoted and totally in love with what they do. Masters of their trade, from painters to welders to cooks and gardeners. 

© Barbara Counsil

What’s a piece of art you’ve seen/experienced that’s had a lasting impact on you?

When I was in college, about 20 years old, I visited the Detroit Institute of Arts in Michigan. I saw Frederic Edwin Church’s painting of Cotopaxi erupting in Ecuador. It was the most beautiful painting I’d ever seen. In the same room on display was Syria By The Sea. I realized that if I committed my life to painting, I might be that good one day too. 

How did you get connected with Moss Hollow Gallery?

John Holdway and I have painted together a few times in Eugene. He invited me to display some work at the gallery when I was working on a self-guided tour map of Eugene galleries. 

What are the media you use in your work?

Oil paint, mostly, and watercolor when I’m illustrating books. I’ve also used ink for drawing, screenprinting, and linocut printmaking. I’m slowly learning how to weld with steel, and have begun to assemble artwork with found objects.

Is there something exciting that you’re working on currently?

I’ve been studying the grisaille technique and sometimes can’t sleep because I wake up thinking about the glow of the paint. I’m now using the paintings to construct altars as installations, which consist of floral displays, found objects, candles, and hand-printed flags. 

© Barbara Counsil

What can followers look for from you in the future?

These altars, which are taking me years to develop in between paid work. Also, two more illustrated books this summer – You Are a Great And Powerful Wizard by Sage Liskey and Have A Good Roam by old Slug Queen Joan Cypress. 

How can our followers connect with you?

They can visit my website to sign up for a bi-annual newsletter, or e-mail me at

What are your social media handles?

IG – barbaracounsil FB – barbaracounsil

Do you listen to anything while you work?

Mostly music, sometimes podcasts or the news. I love instrumental stuff, and particularly enjoy Andrew Bird, Mozart, Yo-Yo Ma. Silence is nice too, but the sound of quiet things outside.

What beverage do you need to start your day?

I drink a glass of water followed by coffee with a dash of vanilla soymilk.

© Barbara Counsil

What would be your superpower if you could choose any one?

I’ve always wished I could fly, to move around like a weightless thing and access the treetops and secret places. 

What would be your superhero name?

The Sparrow

What did you want to be when you grew up when you were eight?

A marine biologist

Favorite place in the world.

The Olympic National Forest in Washington.

Favorite place in Eugene?

The Ridgeline Trail

Complete this sentence: Art does ________for the world.

Art does wonderful things for the world

Your best vacation?

Hiking up to the Three Fingers Peaks in Washington with my sweetie, camping in the historic fire lookout, and then riding scooters through Tacoma to see Iron Maiden two days later. He is a brilliant artist and makes every adventure an extraordinary experience, but that week I will especially never forget. We also explored a botanical garden, completed a scavenger hunt at a hotel, and talked about big sculptures we want to build the whole time. My face hurt from smiling. 

Your dream vacation?

Riding my bike across Europe with Matt, painting things with my travel-size watercolor kit and making new lifelong friends. 

Do you tend to live in the past, present or future?

I aim for the present, dream about the future, and try to ignore the past. 

If you could design and build a dwelling or a studio what would it be like?

A cobb house with a lot of windows and personal touches throughout. My studio would be in the greenhouse surrounded by plants, overlooking rolling hills or forests. A wood stove would be extra cozy in the winter. 

If you could visit one time period, when and why?

I’d really like to know what the impressionist painters were going through after the camera was invented and accessible to the mainstream. In the early 1800’s people thought the impressionists were crazy before they accepted the new movement of painting. 

© Barbara Counsil

If you could have one talent or ability, what would it be?

Public speaking! It can be a powerful skill and sometimes looks fun but I consider myself pretty shy and awkward. 

Let’s play word association!

Moss Hollow -The Holdway family

Dessert – Banana Split

Oregon – Mountains

Art – Inspiration

Home – Safety

Rain – Cool air

Sun – Playing at the beach

Hike -Trails

Community – Friends

Partner – Trust

Peace – Dove

Love -Commitment

Solitude -Silence

Vacation -Traveling