Kent Barton

  1. narrative
  2. vignettes
  3. bio
  4. work process

Kent Barton is a scholarship-honor graduate of the Layton School of Art in Milwaukee, (now MIAD). After graduation he became Art Director of Ave Maria Magazine, published weekly at Notre Dame University. Moving to New York City, he Art Directed Newsweek magazine’s Special Projects Division for several years. He freelanced in South Florida, then became a designer and illustrator for the Miami Herald. As Chief Artist at the Herald he tripled the size of the Art Department while directing all graphics and illustration for 30 sections and editions of the newspaper. His scratchboard illustrations won numerous awards and were nationally syndicated by News America Syndicate. In the 80’s he Art Directed Sunshine Magazine, the Sunday magazine of the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel

        In the 90’s Barton moved to the Georgia Mountains as a full-time scratchboard illustrator. His art appeared in every Graphis Annual for eight years and has been featured in Communication Arts, American Illustration, and Society of Illustrators annuals as well as several books on scratchboard technique. He earned two Silver Awards 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. In 2003 Barton completed life size figures of the Wright Brothers for an interactive exhibit in the Wright Dunbar Interpretive Center. He was  commissioned that same year to illustrate portraits of sports figures permanently displayed as metal plaques in the University of Oregon football stadium. In 2005 and 2007 he executed several murals for Liberty Pointe Bank that were installed in Manhattan and New Jersey. In 2017-18 he collaborated with fellow scratchboard artist Bruce Hutchinson on a series of large murals for the Texas Historical Commission, depicting the settlement of San Felipe. The San Felipe de Austin Museum opened in May, 2018. Barton currently lives and works in Virginia.    

Client List

The New Yorker
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. / Burt’s Bees
Leftie Wine Co.

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.

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