Photo illustration by Brynne Barnard-Bahn

CLASS OF 23: Senior Brynne Barnard-Bahn pursues artistic passions

The margins of nearly every piece of paper in senior Brynne Barnard-Bahn’s school binders are filled with art.

In her AP Art History class, many of her pages contain pencil doodles that correspond to what is being discussed in class. On one page, she drew a characterized version of a hieroglyphic figure carved into the Narmer Palette of the 31st century BC.

Ever since Barnard-Bahn could use a pencil, she has had a fervent interest in art. She always asked for crayons at restaurants to draw on kids’ menus and borrowed her mom’s pen during musical performances to create artwork on any paper she could find.

“In any situation that was boring to me, I would find a way to draw,” she said. Barnard-Bahn started taking art more seriously in middle school and began practicing a lot more.

“It’s really therapeutic. It’s just cool to be able to create things, and there’s a lot you can do with art,” she said.

Barnard-Bahn’s art style is generally consistent, comparable to the style of Arcane, a Netflix original show.

“It’s a bit stylized; I don’t do photorealism,” she said. “It’s more realistic than anime, for example.”

In other words, Barnard-Bahn’s main art style is semi-realism.

Over the years, Barnard-Bahn has taken inspiration from various artists that she has discovered on Instagram and other social media platforms.

“Eventually, that led to my own art style,” she said. “It doesn’t look like their art, but you can see the influence.”

Art teacher Andy Cunningham, who has guided Barnard-Bahn since she was in middle school, considers her to be an exceptional student.

“She’s very good at what she does. She works very hard on getting better and learning how to do specific things,” he said. One of those things is wash drawing, a style of art in which a thin layer of paint mixed with water is spread onto a canvas, resulting in a smooth layer that lacks visible brush strokes.

“I think those are awesome, and I just like her spontaneous creations,” Cunningham said. “She likes to stay with the monochromatic washes.”

One of her washes is on a large piece of paper, which is displayed in the art room. The painting is based on a photo of two people doing the Lindy Hop, which is a dance style born in Harlem, New York, in 1928.

“She’s never worked with that size ever. I put the paper up there and she did the male figure in under an hour,” Cunningham said. “It happened that quickly. There was no hesitation.”

As Cunningham sees it, Barnard-Bahn has very little fear of failure in the art realm.

“She’s willing to go through pieces that don’t work and learn from them, which is huge. A big problem that some students have is that their fear of failure will stop them from moving forward, so they don’t learn,” he said. “Brynne has no fear.”

Barnard-Bahn often makes pre-drawings and studies the human body before she begins an actual piece.

“Instead of struggling on a pose that doesn’t feel right, she would put in the hours to get it,” Cunningham said. “She will understand how the body functions in a pose and then draw the pose.”

An award-winning artist with The Octagon, Barnard-Bahn’s art pieces are displayed both regularly in the paper as well as around various buildings at Country Day.

“She’s got stuff in the library, she’s got stuff in offices,” Cunningham said. In addition to spending her AP Art Studio elective working on art, Barnard-Bahn sometimes spends her lunch time in the art room.

“Clearly, she puts in a lot of time and effort into each of her works of art,” said senior Grace Eberhart, a close friend to Barnard-Bahn.

Even so, Barnard-Bahn struggles to set enough time aside for her art, as she cannot find enough room to set up her workspace at home.

“I want to get better at painting, and the only limitation is that I only paint at school, which means that I only have an hour,” she said. “That affects my pieces.”

Despite this, Eberhart said that Bar nard-Bahn’s pieces still come out exceedingly well.

“I know she has limited time to work on art at school, but I can’t even tell. It looks like she’s spent weeks on some of the pieces that took her a few hours, or even just a single class period,” Eberhart said.

Eberhart often sees the detailed, semi-realistic doodles in Barnard-Bahn’s notes. “She nonchalantly says they’re just little doodles, and it shocks me every time because they’re such good drawings,” Eberhart said.

While working on her art, Barnard-Bahn almost always listens to music.

“It helps me zone out while I’m working so I get into the zone,” she said. “I think my pieces look better when I’m listening to music.”

Her playlists consist of indie pop, alternative, rock and jazz.

“Sometimes, I specifically pick out a certain song depending on the piece I’m working on, but usually I just put one of my playlists on shuffle,” she said. One of her art pieces is based on the song “Space Song” by Beach House, in which she drew a drummer in space. The piece is featured in the Glass Knife. In addition, her love for jazz inspired her to create a jazz-themed AP portfolio for college admissions.

Barnard-Bahn hopes to learn more about animation as she plans to head off to Wesleyan University next year.

“I’ve tried to do it on my own, but I don’t have very good resources for it,” she said. “Seeing stuff by Pixar and Disney has really inspired me, and it’d be really cool to go into animation or CGI.”

Although Barnard-Bahn does not plan on majoring in animation, she wants to take computer science and art classes, which can both be applied to animation.

“Hopefully she takes a studio class in college,” Cunningham said. “I think she would easily take on the next level of intellectual challenges in a college situation.”

— By Ava Eberhart

Originally published in the Feb. 8 edition of The Octagon

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