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Delta Artist Cristen Craven Barnard Paints Large & from the Heart

Barnard's Mississippi Mockingbird
Barnard’s Mississippi Mockingbird

Cristen Craven Barnard began experimenting with her artistic talents at the ripe old age of 4. Her parents owned a grocery store right outside of Clarksdale and she always had her own special space in their store to sell her artwork.

Barnard's 12th Annual Juke Joint Festival poster
Barnard’s 12th Annual Juke Joint Festival poster

“I would draw my pieces on butcher paper and then sell them in my little spot in the store,” she said. “I was four years old and started out drawing, but quickly learned that painting was so much faster. I still like to do sketches today, but I just love the fact that painting can produce something so rapidly. I’ve always loved arts and crafts too, but painting has always been my main interest.”

Barnard has become a leading artist of blues festival posters since her first one back in 1997, which she painted for the King Biscuit Festival. Her festival posters are always in high demand; she has done six more for the King Biscuit Festivals and also created the artwork for the Notodden Blues Festival in Notodden, Norway, along with many other festivals all across the Mississippi Delta. She painted a massive hanging mural for the 25th Anniversary for Notodden as well.

“The mural is 177 ft. long and 33 ft. tall,” Barnard said. “I painted it here in a smaller version, shot it and they sent it to a printer in Oslo for the Notodden Blues festival that they have over there every year.”

Occasionally, she paints traditional southern portraits done in oil, but her poster artwork that she does for the festivals is done in acrylic.

Barnard's oil painting she did of her granddaughter, Ava
Barnard’s oil painting she did of her granddaughter, Ava

“The really bright colored pieces that I’ve been doing lately are done in ink,” Barnard said. “I love color and I couldn’t quite get the brightness that I wanted with the acrylics, but I saw that I could achieve that brilliance and luster with ink.”

Barnard is from Clarksdale, but she and her husband have been living in Senatobia for 8 years. In the past, she’s held many creative jobs, from window designer for McRae’s many years ago, coordinating mannequins for the window displays and also doing the set-ups in the front of the store, to creating and making jewelry and shirts which she sold to shops all across small towns in the Delta.

“We lived in Tutwiler for quite a while,” she said. “In fact, that’s where my children grew up. After my stint at McRae’s, I began participating in arts and craft shows all over, which I enjoyed. But as my children began to come along, I knew I had to find something different, another outlet for my creative nature, so I started making jewelry and shirts and selling them to shops in the Delta.”

Barnard said she sold to those shops for many years and absolutely loved it and the merchants who owned the businesses, who always treated her as a member of their team.

Barnard's Mississippi Magnolia
Barnard’s Mississippi Magnolia

“But I just wanted to go bigger,” she said. “And I don’t mean ‘bigger’ as in having a lot more business; I mean bigger as in paint bigger. I’ve always loved to paint large canvasses and even murals.”

As much as Barnard loves painting ‘large,’ she’s also in the process of designing a line of greeting cards that she hopes to get off the ground and into the market very soon.

“I just started a card line called U R Loved Cards,” she said. “I don’t really have anything major going on it yet, except for a small test market right now, but the people in that group are buying them. I’m working on building the infrastructure of the business up so that I can do more with the card line. I’ve painted the cards small, of course, but I’m finding that people want bigger prints of my card designs, so I may print some of the ones that sell well into an 11×14. I won’t go as big as my festival posters, which are 18×24’s. I have an Oxford series of cards with different designs on them, such as Faulkner, The Walk of Champions marker on Ole Miss Campus and the Square; I have a series called ‘He Is,’ which is Biblically-based on Jesus and a Mississippi series also.”

Barnard's Oxford Series of Greeting Cards
Barnard’s Oxford Series of Greeting Cards

For more information on Cristen Craven Barnard’s greeting cards check out her Facebook page.

Angela Rogalski is a HottyToddy.com staff reporter and can be reached at angela.rogalski@hottytoddy.com.

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