“With my sun in Gemini, I feel like that’s why I always have ideas constantly running through my head and even if I put all of those ideas down on paper and have them prepared to color in, if the challenge/motivation isn’t there, I’ll probably ditch it,” Visual Artist Dominique Barlow explained.
“My process is more like catching one of those ideas that flows through my head and immediately putting it down on paper physically.”
Barlow, who hails from my same hometown of Beckley, West Virginia, started painting and studying art around 2011 during his junior year of high school. It was around this time that Barlow stumbled upon Jean-Michel Basquiat, one of the most notable artists of all time. Barlow said he instantly fell in love with Basquiat’s art and form of expression.
“He was able to convey messages with colors, repetition of words and current situations without spelling it out, even with words in his pieces,” Barlow explained, “Even if you didn’t know the specific message, you still walk away with your own interpretation, no matter who you are. He was a perfect example of someone who learned how to correctly break the “rules” of art and design.”
Born in 1960 and dead by the age of 27 in 1988, Basquiat had a unique way of showcasing the black experience, painting around concepts such as black art, music, poetry and religion as well as the restriction presented by white supremacy. His work is complex and layered like jazz compositions, leaving much interpretation up to the viewer.
Immedietly after learning about Basquiat, Barlow received an assignment to combine two artists styles from a given list and he was on the list. Barlow said this “coincidence” really spoke to him.
“I took this as a sign from the universe,” Barlow said, “I really gave it my all and found my true passion.”
Barlow has since left the mountains of West Virginia, which he described as “surreal, small and white” and is now living and creating out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Although, Barlow had already planned to move in with his partner, Imani, he said that once the pandemic hit and he lost his restaurant job in his college town, his moving process sped up significantly.
“I was in Morgantown for school and was ready to leave and really thrive in my art,” Barlow said, “So now it’s been over a year and a half and after some heavy reflection over the first year, I’m finally ready to work on my art for me and not for sales. I couldn’t be more excited for what the future holds.”
The Black Art Community
Barlow credits his move to Philadephia as the event that helped him open up and collaborate with more people. He said this relocation also helped him realize just how small the black art community is.
“I follow a bunch of popular black artists and only recently started realizing that they all now and support each other, ” Barlow explained,” The Philly-based artists that I follow be hitting up LA shows with all the artists over there and it’s only made me realize that not only is the black art world small but that it’s a community that’s always willing to help each other.”
This sense of community has also taught Barlow the importance of coming together and uplifting one another through the shared love of art itself.
“So much more gets done when there’s a community involved and you can accomplish goals that would have taken forever in a smaller amount of time, ” Barlow said, “The quality of the work also exceeds original expectations. So essentially I’ve learned a lot about team work and how we shouldn’t expect to do everything by ourselves. Team work is essential to get anywhere and now I know that and now I have a team that supports me and vice versa.”
Although this is Barlow and I’s first collaboration, I’ve known of and gone to school with him for many years. I’ve been a fan of his work for as long as I’ve known he was into art and he is without a doubt a great inspiration to me. So, ofcourse, I was ecstatic to hear that Barlow shared the same sentiment.
“We two people from Beckley out here still being creative and doing what we want and supporting each other. That’s dope to me,” Barlow said, ” Painting has brought me into this amazing creative community that lives literally everywhere.”
The Creative Process
When it comes to Barlow’s creative process, he said his brain moves “a mile a minute.” He said some days he’ll start by drawing out five or more designs that he has in his head and when it’s all said and done, he usually manages to finish one or two of those pieces.
“The others sadly get let behind,” Barlow said.
Although Barlow typically completes paintings in one sitting, which he said is good for his more emotional pieces, he said patience is becoming more key in his process.
“I never thought I would be able to do oil paintings because I’m so impatient but I’ve learned that time is the best thing you can give to a piece so that you can look at it from different perspectives,” Barlow explained, “If I’m drawing a scene or a person or anything that I want to be done extremely well then I will give it loads of time and come at it with different days and moods so that it doesn’t just feel like one moment but many different moments.”
In terms of inspiration, Barlow is very much motivated by not only Imani and their roommate, but also himself.
“We are all creatives and are always bouncing ideas off of each other or lifting one another up or collaborating on projects and events,” He said, ” They run a company together and so to see them day-in and day-out working to better their company also pushes me a lot. I also inspire myself, even if that sounds conceited, I really do inspire myself.”
Barlow’s portrait work is evidence enough that he often serves as his own inspiration. As a fellow Aqua moon, I understood exactly where he was coming from when he mentioned his ever-changing self-perception, which provides an endless source of creative sparks.
“My moon is in Aquarius and I feel like that’s why I do a bunch of self-portraits,” Barlow said, “I always see myself constantly growing and in different ways so I like to convey the changes in me via art.”
Barlow is adamant about growing in his creative expression. He said he’s been creating once a day to establish a personal routine to keep him motivated and make his ideas more challenging so that he doesn’t lose interest.
“I see a lot people get into a specific groove and get stagnant and I truly never want to hit that point where I’m creating the same piece over and over again,” Barlow said. “So with each piece, I try to find something that I can do better or differently than the last piece to further my skills.”
Barlow said at one point, he found himself making art only to sell and not enjoying the process anymore. He said shifting his mindset helped him reconnect with himself and the art form that he is so passionate about.
“I used to create art for attention or money but only until recently have I started to create for myself again and push my boundaries way farther than I originally thought I could. With this new attitude, It’s really helped me appreciate the little things about my pieces and become even more detail-oriented. I’ve been making what I want to make and honing my skills while I’m at it. I haven’t been his happy or consistent with my work ever.” ”
Authentic, open, focused, adaptive and tremendously talented, I can’t wait to see what’s next for Mr. Dominique Barlow.