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ABOUT ARTIST BARRY CONNER
1975 MAGAZINE FEATURE…
Copyright 2014 by Barry Conner
It was a really cool thing to have been the subject of the feature magazine in our local newspaper. I was very excited about it — but I had mixed feelings too.
At the time, it was frustrating that the reporter got some things wrong.
For example, those occasional, post-mortem animal studies would have been those which had died through attrition — and were not killed for dissection, as he seemed to think. Although I rarely did actually go hunting, I was constantly catching critters for my ongoing zoo-building efforts. I was a zealous kid conservationist, and wouldn’t kill anything I’d caught.
Also, as a hopeless perfectionist, I couldn’t bear for any of my damaged or inferior-quality work to be showcased. In anticipation of this reporter’s visit, my mom had done a whirlwind renovation of my “studio”. Among the “unflattering display items” were the piranha sculpture, badly broken, the butterfly collection, severely damaged, and the battered taxidermy of the American Coot. (Looking closely, you can actually see a wire in its neck.)
In retrospect, I do appreciate and understand what Mom was trying to do. But at the time, I was horrified and humiliated. I wanted the feature story to feature only the best examples of my work, and certainly not anything which was badly damaged, or which misrepresented my ability or artistic standards.
No worries, though. It was a nice little landmark along the way, both for my childhood, and as an artist.
Special thanks to my childhood mentors, Michael Whitley (of the Whitley Bird & Butterfly Museum in Huntsville), and my artist mom, Gwen Conner. I’m grateful also for Adele Horne, who welcomed me as the youngest pupil in her art class, and to all of the teachers who had been providing me such tremendous encouragement in art classes at my kindergarten and elementary schools.
Flashback, 1975… At age eleven, Barry Conner was the subject of this feature magazine article in the Huntsville Item Newspaper:
Painting, sculpting, being a kid…
The Huntsville Item, Fun Magazine,
Sunday, March 23rd, 1975
text and photos by David Lindsey
“Barry Conner is a young artist-naturalist who produces amazingly detailed acrylic paintings of a variety of birds, including the ones shown here. His work was recently exhibited at an Audubon Society meeting with other nature artists. For a look at the young artist and his work, see pages four and five.”
See related story pages 4/5
You name it, Conner’s going to be it…
“Barry Conner wants to become ‘a naturalist, an artist, a geologist, a scientist, a chemist — just about everything that you can name.’
“And if he continues the way he’s going, nothing’s going to stop him, either.
“Barry, 11, paints very detailed acrylics of birds and other animals. He’s also tried his hand at clay sculpture of fish and portraits, and he’s worked on [lifelike] mounts of birds and butterflies.
“The young artist naturalist recently showed his work at a meeting of the Audubon Society here, and his paintings of the birds drew just about as much comment as his older and more experienced colleagues.
“The birders (that’s preferred over bird watchers) immediately recognized the various species.
“He’s been painting for more than half of his life, and started with tray watercolors and drawing, then moved on to pastels and oils, and now basically works in acrylics.
“The paintings are often based on full-color pictures in wildlife magazines.
“Young Conner is also a football and basketball enthusiast and likes to read ‘all sorts of things’. But still, a bulk of his leisure time is spent observing and painting birds.
“He noted he likes to climb on the roof of his home and watch birds come to the family bird feeder.
“Barry’s ‘studio’ is really his bedroom, but that mild [term] doesn’t come close to describing the environment that Barry works in.
“The room is really more of a museum, chock full of everything from Barry’s paintings on one wall to an aquarium habitat for kangaroo rats and another tank with a number of guppies in it.
“His parents, Bob and Gwen Conner, encourage Barry’s inclination to the graphic, and help augment his allowance for buying his paints
“Mrs. Conner said that Barry was more or less of a self-starter when it comes to painting. It’s just something he’s always done.
“When he was very small, Mrs. Conner continued, he would draw pictures to help express himself, and would also draw an object if he wanted to figure out how it worked.
“Anything he saw, he related to art somehow, she said.”
“Barry has been known to catch [and keep] snakes and frogs, and [if they happened to have died while part of his home zoo] ‘take them apart’ to learn about them. Then he would draw the animal with the intestines, the bones, and then the skin, Mrs. Conner said. Or he would create the animal from the inside out in clay.
“He said he’s painted all sorts of animals, but he always returned to birds. Barry noted he learned colors and shades by studying birds, as well as the details a lot of other people might miss. And, because of his interest, Barry had learned to identify a variety of birds
“Barry is not exactly a professional artist yet, but he’s contemplating going to the open market with his paintings to help support the hobby. If he does sell his paintings, it might be a good investment.”