Born in Oakland, California, in 1935, Barbara Olsen is a self-taught artist who only began painting in 1980 after her 3 children had all grown up. She has achieved her international reputation through a naive style which combines shimmering colours, original materials and the artful skill of a storyteller.
Storytelling is at the heart of this former pre-school teachers art and Barbara Olsen believes that it was her Irish fathers stories of fairies and leprechauns which nurtured her imagination, whilst it was her daughter who encouraged her to follow her dream to become a unique artist. Her inspiration comes from early primitive art, textiles, textures and sayings.
Barbara Olsen established herself through her illustrations of fond childhood tales, Bible stories and the pioneering lives of American heroines. Recently she has incorporated a collection of materials from everyday life into her work, giving it an added texture which compliments the vibrancy of the colour and subject matter. Wool, buttons, and scraps of fabric each help to create a whimsical mixed media collage.
In 1992, Barbara Olsen and her husband moved to an historical farmhouse in Ohio, whose two rural acres offer her the freedom to explore her imagination. It is here that the couple work with their youngest son and his family; painting, framing and shipping Barbaras artwork to galleries and museum shops. The prints and original paintings of this artful historian appear in many private and public collections around the world. Barbara Olsen remains undaunted by the demand for her work and is always eager for another story to tell.