Kent Barton is a scholarship-honor graduate of the Layton School of Art in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Following graduation he became the Art Director of Ave Maria Magazine, published at Notre Dame University. He moved to New York City and was Art Director of Newsweek Magazine’s Special Projects Division for several years before moving to South Florida, where he became a designer and illustrator for the Miami Herald. He was Chief Artist at the Herald for eight years, building the Art Department to a total of fourteen designers and graphic artists and directing all graphics and illustration for 30 various sections and editions of the newspaper. During this time his scratchboard illustrations won numerous awards, and were nationally syndicated by News America Syndicate. Barton became Art Director of Sunshine Magazine, the Sunday magazine of the Sun-Sentinel newspaper in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. As Art Director he was involved in all story and headline conferences, worked with the editor in planning the weekly magazine, assigned all illustration and photography, and designed all cover and editorial pages. He also illustrated an occasional story. In the early 90’s, Barton moved to the North Georgia Mountains to pursue freelance illustration full time. His scratchboard illustrations appeared in every Graphis Annual for eight years and have been featured in Communication Arts, American Illustration, and Society of Illustrators annuals as well as several books on scratchboard. Awards include two Silver Awards for Illustration Excellence from the Society of Newspaper Designers and two merit awards from the Art Directors Club of New York. In 1995 Barton’s artwork for Partnership For a Drug Free America garnered a medal in “The One Show.” Barton also received two Addy Awards from the Advertising Federation of America for illustrations used as promotions by Pepsi. His Illustration clients include The New Yorker, Time, The Wall Street Journal, Reader’s Digest, The L.A. Times, Crain’s Chicago Business, The Weekly Standard, Pepsi Co., The Franklin Mint, Saatchi and Saatchi, Parker Brothers, Clorox Inc., and Audi, among others. In 2003 Barton completed work for the Wright Dunbar Interpretive center, culminating in life size figures of the Wright Brothers for an interactive exhibit in the museum. He was also commissioned the same year to illustrate six portraits of sports figures permanently displayed as metal plaques in the University of Oregon football stadium. In 2005 and 2007 he was commissioned to execute several murals for Liberty Pointe Bank that were installed in NYC and New Jersey. Barton currently lives and works in Virginia.
The New Yorker
The Wall Street Journal
The L.A. Times
Crain’s Chicago Business
The Weekly Standard
The Franklin Mint
Saatchi and Saatchi
In the beginning stages of an environmental work, I try to find out as much as possible about the space it will occupy and how people will move through that space. Historic timelines are often involved, and I try to obtain all the visual material that inspired the client. I begin my own research, both visual and textual, immersing myself in the fashions, furnishings, materials, fabrics, crafts, artists of the period, anything and everything that may spark an idea. My wife, a teacher, writer, and family historian, is an invaluable aid in this process.
Once I have all my visual reference, I begin sketches. If there is a timeline, I organize the flow of the visual elements to take the viewer through the progression of years in a clear and easily understood way. Mixing portraits of pivotal or iconic individuals with scenes and architecture from the period, I try to move viewers into the art through varying perspectives, guiding them around the entire composition as they follow the order of the timeline. For example, The Settlement of The West mural flows from right to left, or East to West as the points on a compass, and all the visual elements are composed to move the viewer’s eye in the direction followed by western migration over 150 years ago. The Gunfighter mural does the same thing. Both may be viewed either from left to right (most recent to oldest), or right to left. Elements are grouped in sections, inviting viewers into the art, encouraging them to linger in one period or another as they choose.
My sketches are made up of many layers of tissue paper, as I alter sizes and move elements around until I achieve an effective balance and composition. Once I have a rough idea of the overall flow, I render tighter tissues of all the elements, taping them together for final approval by the client. I try to resolve everything in the sketch stage, as scratchboard is not a medium that lends itself to changes at the finished stage. In working into the board I always attempt to convey the look and ‘feel’ of the surfaces I am rendering. I enjoy trying to convey the differences between metal and flesh, silk and wood, soft and hard, shiny and dull, etc.
The line work of the scratchboard, usually done in black or sepia, becomes the foundation for the color, which is applied at the final stages of finishing the art. I often tend to mix media throughout the entire process, scratching, painting, fading back and ‘aging’ with steel wool, drawing and inking, pasting in type, even resorting to collage at times. When I’m finally satisfied, the finished piece is brushed with clear acrylic.