August 2013 – Barbara McKee’s idea of heaven is a good FAT new project. This project might be reproducing Van Goghs Starry Night in stained glass on an arched 4×4 panel; or making a bookcase that is a false door which swings open to reveal a bathroom when you cock a gun built into its face; or in a detailed botanical illustration, painting the pun of a globe artichoke with both leaves and continents drawn in; or maybe playing the bagpipes at someones funeral. No matter what, its just another thing she has taught herself, transforming everything into art.
Barb was teaching high school in Massachusetts when she saw the art teacher make a piece of stained glass. She was riveted. She simply knew, “I’ve got to do that”, and was determined to make it happen. She came back to Colorado, found someone to teach her the techniques, and ate, slept and swam in glass. It was so natural and easy for her, like breathing, that she felt it was no special skill. For the next 32 years, she made stained glass pieces as owner of La Farge Glassworks, here in Boulder, fabricating over 7,000 windows, and selling her work at Boulder Arts & Crafts where she became a member in 1975. She found working with glass comforting, especially the composing of shapes and patterns in glass and even the repetitive, meditative, and almost hypnotic work of cutting glass pieces to fit. It became a natural part of her life. She invented a way of using a zinc strap, instead of steel, to enclose shapes shed cut out and made stained glass rhinos, fish, cats, and all manner of animals in this way. She also made Victorian patterns, Art Deco designs, and fairy tale creations. In the eighties she had five books published on stained glass and instructions on how to make it. She even created a window for the church of Reverend Moon.
Recently, it was time to do something new with her creativity. She took three years of classes in botanical illustration. One year ago, Barb became a certified botanical illustrator. She works in graphics, pencil, colored pencil, watercolor, and pen and ink, each medium able to be controlled, but not tight, with a measured amount of spontaneity and freedom in her drawing. Her secret forte is the puns: tee rose, steel magnolia, exploiting the cartooning aspect of the illustrator. Barb continues doing what she loves to do, “… nothing more wonderful”, she says, and often works at Vics Coffee Shop, where people come and talk to her, while she drinks way too much coffee.
Barb and her husband Don have had an easy, flourishing relationship for 44 years. They have collaborated on glass and other projects, taught each other skills, and even changed occupations to be able to work together. For over twenty years he was the drum major while she was the bagpiper in the City of Denver Bagpipe Band.