Brian Barneclo doesn’t like to huddle over small canvases when he paints. He likes to get his whole body into the work, using his entire arm to bring his art to life. He says his past experience as a sign painter taught him the rhythm it takes to get a job done quickly, and painted the beautiful mural at Nopa in about eight hours. Come July, he’ll be hanging off a 600 foot wall at 7th and Townsend, but what else would you expect from a man who uses the motto “Go big, or go home.”
SCOUT: You say you got your beginnings as a sign painter?
BRIAN: I was always going by this place on Folsom and 7th that was a big warehouse where they did billboard and sign painting. I peeked my head in one day and that’s pretty much how I got my foot in the door. They asked me if I could paint, and I told them yes, so they asked me to prove it. I studied fine art and art history at Indiana University, so that’s where my painting background comes from. That job allowed me to get my chops together, but still gave me time to work on my personal painting in my studio.
SCOUT: What was it like painting signs all day? Didn’t you get bored?
BRIAN: Painting large scale like that definitely translated into the murals I do now. Painting the same thing over and over again also helped me refine basic painting techniques. I consider myself an “arm painter,” instead of a “hand painter,” so I much prefer making those broad strokes as opposed to hunching over something small. Also, working for clients on a deadline also taught me the business of painting quickly yo get a job done and getting it out. With art, it’s so easy to get into this nebulous of infinity where your work goes on forever. Sign painting taught me to find my rhythm early and work with it.
SCOUT: So you were painting all day at work and still had more in you once you went home?
BRIAN: At that time in my life, I was hungry all the time for painting. I knew I was willing to do whatever it took to make sure I didn’t have to go back to being a bus boy or a bike messenger. I would spend all day at work painting under certain parameters, so when I got into my studio, I was ready to paint within my own lines. I was painting 24/7.
SCOUT: When you sit down to work on a new mural, what’s your process like?
BRIAN: Just like a DJ has to recognize who the crowd is, I always want to acknowledge my audience, so my process varies depending on the job. If it’s a commission, then of course it’s more of a collaborative process depending on what the goal is. I have a creative well that’s always flowing, so a commissioned work just helps me channel my flow. Some artists aren’t so open to other people guiding their work, but I like it because it opens me up to new ideas and new challenges. It helps me grow as an artist.
SCOUT: You first popped on to our radar when you were raising funds for your Systems Mural Project. Give us the update.
BRIAN: The Systems Mural Project started about two years ago when I saw the wall and decided I wanted to paint it. I knew it was going to be a step by step process, but I wanted to give myself that challenge knowing there could be failures. So far, I’ve raised $50,000 of the $75,000 I budgeted which is enough to get started. Generally, interest is peaked and more money comes in once a project is started, because people like to see what it is exactly they’re giving money to. Some of the biggest donations came from The Adobe Foundation, Dockers and a private donation from Kevin King and Meridee Moore. Intersection for the Arts has also been integral in making this whole thing happen. We’ll start painting in July, so until then I’m getting a crew together, pre-painting a little, restructuring the website and getting ready for a show at Fabric8 in June that will include printed pieces of what the final Systems Mural will look like up on the wall. I’ll also be training for it Rocky style. It’s going to be a physical challenge lifting five gallon buckets of paint all day and working up on scaffolding against a huge wall. Previously, my largest project as 200 feet, and this one is 600.
SCOUT: You could easily paint something small and easy, but you go for massive murals. What is it about murals for you?
BRIAN: Like I said, I’m an arm painter, so the bigger the canvas, the better. SImilar to graffiti artists, I like making art that everyone else can see. Galleries are certainly great in their own respect, but they don’t seem as inviting as making one big painting that everyone can enjoy. Rather than making individual statements and having them appear for brief moments, I want my work to be something that is out in reality and not hiding away in a little cocoon. I think it also takes a lot of courage for me to share something so publicly. Go big or go home, you know?
SCOUT: Who are some other local artists you keep up with?
BRIAN: David Choong Lee, Ferris Plock, Romanowski and Kelly Tunstall are a few of my artist friends.
SCOUT: What about galleries?
BRIAN: I enjoy the shows at FIFTY24SF, Fecal Face Dot Gallery, Fabric8, Shooting Gallery and White Walls.
SCOUT: For how much painting you do, you must get awfully hungry and thirsty. Where do you go to fix that?
BRIAN: Rye, Velvet Cantina, Eric’s Restaurant for Chinese, Nopa, strictly for their Brazilian Feijoada, Tu Lan and Taqueria Cancún for quick stops.
SCOUT: We’re looking forward to watching your mural come to life starting in July, but where can we find you otherwise?
BRIAN: You can find my work and news on my website, check out Systems Mural Project for information on that specifically (Scout note: you can still throw money down to support Brian’s project) and of course I’m on Facebook.
SCOUT: Before we go, is there anything we didn’t touch on that’s important for us to know to truly understand Brian Barneclo?
BRIAN: My dream to bullfight in the nude on acid.