Soul Stories: Jonathan Barnett

You can typically find Soul Studio Artist Jonathan Barnett making repetitive, gestural brushstrokes on a large canvas. These abstract, vivid patterns are what make Jonathan’s art so enthralling to viewers. 

For Jonathan, Soul Studio is a place where he can be his authentic self and enjoy making art. In his early days at the studio, Jonathan exclusively worked in self-portraiture, consistently entering himself into his paintings, drawings and silkscreen prints.

“His artwork blossomed tremendously over the three-year period that I worked with him,” says Nora Barron, a Soul Studio volunteer who has closely shadowed Jonathan and helped to guide his creative process.

In his time at the studio, Jonathan’s subject matter has transitioned from self-portraits to pictures of animals and machines and more abstract shapes and patterns, with the help of Nora Barron. 

“If he had a large sheet of paper, he might do circles or triangles over the whole thing. I would encourage other shapes or colors, to make them overlap — whatever seemed to catch on with him at the moment.” 

Art Through Exploration, Not Limitation

When creating his artworks, Jonathan is distinct in the materials and colors he chooses. After picking from the studio’s yarn wall or determining the exact color of paint he’s imagining, he uses his carefully selected materials to articulate the idea in his mind.

“As an artist and a person, Jonathan has always been open to [trying] something new as long as he could form the materials to his ideas,” says Brian Kavanaugh, a former Soul Studio facilitating artist who has worked with Jonathan since the beginning. “Whether by taking up the strenuous work of creating countless silkscreen prints of his self-portrait, or cutting and gluing bits of thick rope to outline a massive shape on canvas; he is excited by how he could utilize new information to articulate the things he loves.”

 Jonathan exerts the new information and skills he obtains at Soul Studio to depict what brings him joy and comfort. His most recent artworks involve repeating shapes and patterns, verging further abstract. 

“He is a highly skilled artist — defining the studio through exploration, not limitation.”

A Kindhearted Soul

A proficient and diligent host in the studio, Jonathan greets all studio visitors and remembers everyone’s name. He will even triple-check to make sure he got it right. Jonathan is a kind and helpful presence in the studio. He is happy to show off his work to others but needs time to warm up to strangers. 

For Nora Barron, her experience working with Jonathan changed over time as he became more comfortable expressing himself. 

“I think the relationship for me has been extraordinary,” says Barron on her time spent helping Jonathan with his art in the studio. “It’s been something I’ve looked forward to every week, something that’s helped me grow as a person. I look forward to working with him more.”

For media inquiries, please contact Melanie Barnett at [email protected].

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