Selective Focus: Brian Barber


This week’s Selective Focus subject is … me. You may be thinking, gee whiz, PDD must have run out of Selective Focus subject ideas. Far from it. We still have a long list of artists we want to include, but we’re also open to more suggestions. If you know someone doing interesting work in the visual arts, or if you would like to be featured, send us a note. [email protected] I’ve jammed myself in the schedule here because I’ve got a show of new work opening at Beaner’s next Thursday.

B.B.: Graphic Artist is probably the best way to describe what I do. I work as an illustrator, designer, animator, and videographer. In college I studied pretty equal parts design, illustration and photography, so I guess this mix of work makes sense, and I feel lucky to have the variety every day. I’ve done children’s books, logos, brochures, TV ads, training videos, package design, interactive design, character design, prints for sale, music videos, and more.

Illustration is the fun job that doesn’t always pay very well, and is definitely the least steady and dependable. So I have always done other work too. I worked as an advertising art director for about 10 years, and a magazine and newspaper art director for about 10 years before that. Yeah, I’m pretty old.

Still image from an animated TV ad encouraging people to license their pets

Still image from an animated TV ad encouraging people to license their pets

bbgeyserEight years ago, I left my agency job, and went out on my own. I was doing similar work to when I was at the agency – logos, brochures, print work – but over the years, most of the work I do has shifted to animation, motion graphics and video. I’ve worked on all kinds of moving things from spinning logos to fully developed TV campaigns with character design and multiple ads. I’ve also shot a lot of live action video, interviews, training videos and corporate videos.

Here’s a demo reel of motion graphics and animation from the past year or so, you can see more at

The show at Beaner’s is called “Wild Kingdom,” and is a twisted take on wildlife art. I think the real artists who paint duck stamps and things like that must be insane. I can appreciate the work that goes into painting every fin, feather and piece of fur just right, but it seems so boring to work on. I wanted to do animal portraits, playing with the light, environment and subject, with lots of details, but not worrying about realism and getting it “right.” So my number one goal was keeping myself entertained, hopefully others find the art interesting.

"Yellow Sitting Bird" part of the Wild Kingdom show at Beaner's.

“Yellow Sitting Bird” part of the Wild Kingdom show at Beaner’s.

Most of these pieces in the Beaner’s show started as little doodles in a sketchbook, and this show was incentive to finally make something out of these sketches that I’ve bookmarked, thinking “I should do something with that someday.”

Illustration from children's book, Choo Choo Bob.

Illustration from a Choo Choo Bob children’s book.

My illustration work is usually done digitally, but everything begins with pencil on paper. It’s much easier and faster to get lots of ideas down on paper and then sort through them and make revisions. The sketch is then scanned and painted using a Wacom tablet. The process is similar to painting traditionally, roughing in base colors then building up shadows, light and detail.

This video shows the stages a typical illustration goes through.

The show at Beaners will be up through December, then those and some new pieces will be displayed at the Unitarian Universalist Church on College Street through January.

I’m currently working on two more children’s books, which are always big projects. They should both be published later in 2017. The work coming in is always unpredictable – also on the to-do list is an animation about treating tinnitus, some TV ads, some how-to videos, two gig posters, and a Perfect Duluth Day Holiday video that we will post next week. That variety is what keeps things fun and interesting.

Prints for sale
Beaner’s Show Facebook Event Page



about 8 years ago

Very interesting! I never knew that animation was done locally.  

I like your style.


about 8 years ago

Yes! Taking the 24 hour news cycle to its logical conclusion, a self interview! Once again, PDD breaks new journalistic ground.  Comprehensive but IMHO, you could have probed yourself deeper... In all seriousness, thank you Brian for setting the art bar high in our community, you're a pro!


about 8 years ago

We have a Brian Barber original hanging in our home - it gets more kudos than the Gindy's or other locally produced pieces.  Someday when I'm done paying for my kids [braces, equipment, lessons, tuition ...] I'd like to commission a family portrait, but I suppose by then SnapChat or something will have a "Barberize" filter we can just use for effect.

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