2001-07-19 / Front Page
Just paper and pencil
The thicket has overgrown the rusted frame of a vintage sedan which long ago came to rest at the edge of the farm field. Like the old farm machinery and weather-worn buildings nearby, to an Eatontown artist the scene speaks of a covenant.
"What I see when I go to the farm is the dedication of the inanimate objects to this man who loved the land," explained Barbara Warne, whose nostalgic pencil drawings were inspired by the relationship of a neighboring farmer with his land and the objects he relied on to help him.
"The shed, the car, the tractor. That was his team. He didn’t have children. He had no helpers. He just worked the farm all by himself. He relied on these things to help him and they did," said Warne, whose drawings of the remnants of Husky Brook Farm were recently exhibited at the Eatontown Library.
A special needs teacher, Warne moved to Eatontown in 1979 into a new development across the street from Joe Stella’s farm.
"He was a private person. He wasn’t happy when the houses were built here, but he warmed up to us," she said.
"I watched him. He loved the land so much. The love he put into that farm radiated. He would work the fields. He and his wife would be planting well into the evening. It just spoke to me."
With paper and drawing pencils, Warne sketched the abandoned farmhouse, cars and farm machinery to memorialize a simple, if arduous, lifestyle.
"I wanted to capture the loving memories which still speak to those who visit the farm," she explained.
Drawing and colored pencils are Warne’s preferred medium for their portability and because they suit the realism of her drawings.
"I like pencil because you never get bored. You can take paper and pencil anywhere. I’m always sketching," she said.
"I also like the shading, the darks and the lights. Pencil can be a very realistic medium. You can get a very photogenic feeling which I like."
Her farm drawings didn’t need to rely on color, Warne pointed out.
"When I use a drawing pencil," she said, "color isn’t important. Instead you get a lot of the effect of the aging farm buildings coming through."
Warne is currently at work on a series of colored-pencil paper sculptures of ballerinas. Ballet is a dance form she studies with local ballet mistress Marjorie Carroll.
"Colored pencil gives softness to the drawings," she noted. "The colors can be blended, whereas with drawing pencil they cannot.
"You can blend one color into another, a lighter over a darker shade, and get an almost variegated effect."
Warne’s ballerina sketches, for which she is seeking exhibit space, are based on a foundation of anatomical studies which were part of her art education.
"In college, I sought out the oldest professors I could find," she confided. "They believed you had to have classes in anatomy or how could you draw a figure? I wanted the basics. If you understand the anatomy of the body, you know what the muscles are doing, how the skin is reacting on top of the muscles. After that, you know how the clothes drape on the body."
The dancer’s body is her starting point.
"I draw them nude first," she explained. "I know what the body is doing and then I paint costumes on them."
Following college, Warne came to New Jersey from her native Pennsylvania in 1968 to accept a position as an art teacher at Asbury Park Middle School.
Her new job, where she remained for 10 years, taught her to accept cultural and lifestyle differences.
"I showed them that I liked them, that I had something to offer, and I recognized they could give me something," said Warne, who taught art to some 700 seventh- and eighth-grade students each year.
"I absolutely love that age," she said. "You start seeing them develop and blossom overnight. They still want the teacher to like them, but they’re ready to show their independence."
Warne engaged her students in several memorable art projects, one of which became an exhibit at an Asbury Park art gallery.
"I did a whole show of crushed paper bags with objects peeking out. I told my students to collect paper bags and to look around for things that revealed something about their personality. We crushed the bags so they were wrinkled and folded down and revealed a glimpse of what was inside. Some students brought an old baseball, some cosmetics — whatever they were into," Warne recalled.
After a short break from teaching to have her first child, Warne and another teacher founded Eatontown’s preschool program in 1980. Warne subsequently established an after-school art program at the borough’s community center and was an arts and crafts counselor in Eatontown’s summer recreation program.
Her involvement in the borough brought her to the attention of the Eatontown Historical Society which commissioned Warne to create a series of oil paintings of historic buildings like Eaton Mill, Mount Zion AME Church and Steelman School which now hang in town hall.
Warne decided to return to teaching in 1991 and began working with handicapped and autistic preschoolers at the Harbor School for the Handicapped in Eatontown. She earned a second master’s degree as a teacher of the handicapped during this time.
"Then I decided to go back to art," recounted Warne, "and I saw a door open." She accepted a position as an interim art teacher at Indian Hill School in Holmdel, but was out of a job when the teacher she replaced returned from maternity leave.
In 1999, Warne accepted a teaching job with the Monmouth Ocean Education Service Commission (MOESC) which operates alternative schools for students with handicaps. She has taught art to pregnant teen-age students and to adolescents at the New Hope Rehabilitation Center for Adolescent Males in Marlboro and is currently on the faculty at Meridian Academy in Colts Neck.
"They would come in and say, ‘I can’t draw,’ " she said of the teens. "I’d teach them the basics, sometimes simplifying it by using tracing paper. Drawing is a form of expression. They’d open up to you. Their art is very expressive."
A devout convert, Warne sees her work with children who are struggling to overcome physical or emotional challenges as putting into action the biblical mandate to help those in need.
"Everything I have been given is a gift, and my faith affects my work," she confided. "I give to the handicapped everyday. The beatitudes tell us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked. Showing them how to help themselves in their lives is where I’m at."
According to Warne, as long as she has paper and pencil, she will never be idle.
"It’s just paper and pencil, but to me it’s a medium. It’s my way of speaking, of telling the world the way I feel about things, like an old farm that’s falling apart.
"What do I see in it? Other people would see junk. I see a shed that served the farmer for all of his life."