Acrylic self-portrait of a woman artist.
Chantel Barber, “Contemplating a Self-Portrait,” 14 x 11 in., acrylic, 2021
Woman artist in her studio holding a framed painting
Chantel in the studio

How did you get started and then develop your career?

Chantel Barber: I started drawing at an early age and was mentored by a local San Diego artist when I was eleven. My mentor, who must have been in her seventies, introduced me to a world I had never known. I began subscribing to art magazines and buying art books. She taught me to paint in oil, and she encouraged the desire I already had in me, to paint people.

I continued to study and experiment with art in and out of college while living in such diverse places as Newport, Rhode Island, Keflavik, Iceland, and El Paso, Texas. While enrolled in a college art course, a fellow student introduced me to acrylic paints, and I soon fell in love with the medium but found it to be dominated by abstract styles. My first love was portraiture for which I found little advice. In perfecting my skills as an acrylic portrait artist, I continued to learn from professional oil painters and translated their teachings into acrylic techniques.

In 2006, I opened my professional art business in Bartlett, Tennessee. For the past 15 years I have continued to benefit from workshops and demonstrations with outstanding artists including Dawn Whitelaw, Rose Frantzen, and Marc Hanson. I work daily on commissions and create for my collectors. Periodically, I teach private workshops in my studio and throughout the United States and Canada.

How do you describe success?

There is a story about the explorer Ernest Shackleton, who placed an ad in the newspaper to recruit men for his Endurance expedition. It read as follows:

“Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in event of success.”

I think this statement metaphorically describes the life of a professional artist, especially if the artist desires to create art that captures the human spirit in a non-traditional medium, like acrylic. Every artist’s journey is different. Some may achieve honor and recognition early. But this may rob them of adventure and growth that happens when the journey is hazardous and difficult.

I’ve learned that too much safety can mean stagnation. Danger stretches the heart and builds maturity and character through the times of rejection. To be a success, an artist must survive. Failures faced make successes all the sweeter! And success for me is growing stronger all the while creating work that enriches my life as well as others.

How do you find inspiration?

Observing people. Everywhere I go I am inspired by people around me. When I went to the Grand Canyon, I was more interested in the people than the view. I can’t help it.

Who do you collect?

So far, I have paintings by Olga Krimon, Dawn Whitelaw, Kevin Beilfuss, David Boyd Jr, Johanna Spinks, Jenny Buckner, Rose Frantzen, Kelli Folsom, Elena Katsyura, Adam Clague, Susan Hotard, Suzie Baker, Anne Blair Brown, Kyle Buckland, and Kim VanDerHoek. Collecting art enriches my life! These paintings bring beauty and inspiration, and they improve my own work because I am always studying and learning from them.

Acrylic painting of a little girl's face
Chantel Barber, “Hope While in Darkness,” 6 x 12 in., acrylic, 2021
Acrylic painting of a young girl riding a bicycle
Chantel Barber, “Courageous Chantel,” 16 x 20 in., acrylic, 2021
Acrylic painting of a young girl
Chantel Barber, “She Wore the Sky,” 18 x 14 in., acrylic, 2021
Acrylic portrait of a young man with a hat and tie
Chantel Barber, “Brown Hat Red Tie,” 6 x 6 in., acrylic, 2020

To see more of Chantel’s work, visit:


  1. Chantel is a wonderful teacher as well as artist. Her beautiful spirit and love of art are contagious! She is quick to remind you to stop and look often and to focus on value and color rather than simply composition. I could paint with her weekly and still grow from each opportunity!


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