My name is Stephen Barnwell and I have always been an artist, drawing and making things my entire life. The son of an artist (John L Barnwell), I grew up in a household full of art, where my father always had a big oil painting studio. Throughout my childhood and into college, I made drawings, photographs, books, sculptures, posters — anything! At the age of 15, I bought my first 35mm camera and set up a darkroom in the basement.
I got my first job in a large commercial photography studio when I was 19 (taking a year off after my freshman year), and right out of college was shooting in a major Manhattan photography studio called Nobart. For the next 16 years, I worked both staff and freelance in studios all over NY, and was also an independent filmmaker from 1982 through 1999. Next was a job at R/Greenberg Associates, which morphed into the ad agency R/GA, where I stayed for 18 years. Finally, after a 35-year career as a commercial photographer and Director of Photography in NYC, I retired two years ago to be a full-time artist.
Throughout this period, I was always drawing. I loved to draw and work with my hands, so when I got home from work, my way of relaxing was to draw. Colored pencil, graphite, and pen & ink were my preferred media. I submitted work to a variety of magazines and publishers, getting published in an array of small magazines, gaming products and books during this time.
My first major published project was a freelance assignment for a collectible card game (CCG) called, Heresy, Kingdom Come in 1996. This game was filled with brilliant artists like Michael Kaluta, Bernie Wrightson, Brom, Tim Bradstreet, and so many more. How did I get into this exclusive club? I felt outclassed by these amazing artists, but the game designers loved my work, and I wound up doing 34 cards for the game. This opened the door for other gaming assignments: three jobs for Mythos by Chaosium, an illustration for d8 magazine, a few cards for a fantasy football game called GRIDIRON, and many more.
My interests were always far-ranging and eclectic, which might be why I didn’t have a stronger career in either fine art or illustration: my style and interests kept changing! Bored easily, I always want to try something new. I published a small zine in NY in the 80’s called ZENO, I made independent films and videos, I tried collage, printmaking, even sculpture…whatever piqued my interest. Then, in 1999, I discovered moneyart.
My first moneyart project was ANTARCTICA Dream-Dollars, which took about four years to complete. I then moved on to a lot of political satire and social commentary with moneyart, doing that for about 15 years. Most of the moneyart is not included in this blog because it is very political in nature. I have large portfolios of both fantasy and political commentary, and I learned awhile ago to keep them separate! They have very different audiences, and these days emotions tend to run high over politics, so it’s best to keep this blog to non-political work. If you really want to see my political prints, please go to: MoneyArt.biz.
Since I retired from production, I’ve been busy ramping up the artwork career. My first solo show was last year at the Lock Haven University gallery in Pennsylvania, and I published a few new books, the newest one being Willoughby’s World of Wonder. These days, I am doing mainly three things: making fine art prints for galleries, designing and publishing books, and making stock illustrations for my portfolio on theiSpot.com.
One of my new ventures is this blog. If you like it, please take a moment to follow it, and share with a friend. Thanks!