Mishelle Barnett Captures the Wild West
New Anderson Artists Guild member Mishelle Barnett had a lot of animals growing up in Clemson and Walhalla, but she never got the horse she’d always wanted. Years later, after a divorce, she followed that yearning in an unexpected way. “I read about horseback rides you could take in Native American country,” she said. “So I found someone here that taught to me to ride and then I traveled to a ranch in Montana.” That trip was followed each summer by a different riding/camping adventure, among them Sierra Blanco, Oregon Trail/Pony Express, Monument Valley, and Canyon DeChelly.
Finally, one year, she embarked on what she calls “the adventure of my life”: a seven-week trip in a covered wagon along the original Bozeman Trail from Fort Laramie, Wyoming, to Virginia City, Montana. She rode horseback the first week, then in a wagon the rest of the way. “I loved every minute of it,” she said. “It was like going back in time.”
She took many photographs on all these trips with an eye to using them in her paintings. “Most of the paintings are different scenes around the wagons,” she said. “When you’re on a wagon, it’s difficult to get a picture of the wagon itself. Most of my pictures are of the scenery or of the wagon in front or behind.”
Barnett’s artistic journey began with paint by numbers as a child, later experimenting with colored pencils, watercolor pencils, and watercolor before settling—mostly—on oils, which she prefers for the ability to make changes. She takes group lessons from local artists and attends workshops from well-known artists around the country and one in Italy. After working in watercolor for many years, she discovered the joy of oil painting.
She’s sold many giclées of her pieces but hates to let go of the originals. “Every time I sell one, I miss it,” she said.
She has painted a lot of horses—no surprise— as well as landscapes, old houses and barns, and adobes in Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico.
Her career was as a kindergarten teacher (she majored in early childhood education at Clemson). After teaching for 20 years, she retired to care for her dad during the last six years of his life. After he died, she used her inheritance to build a studio onto the back of her house.
While her trail riding days may be over, it is from that studio that she often returns to the spectacular scenery of the West through her art.