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Petaluma artist Barbara McCall uses unique art in service of community


Many might say that life is a blank canvas, a picture that we have to piece together and transform in order to create our own unique complexion over time.

For 28-year-old Barbara McCall, life isn’t a blank canvas.

It’s one big work of art.

McCall, a Petaluma native, now gives back to the community she grew up in by creating unique artistic masterpieces for North Bay efolks to experience.

The local artist graduated from Petaluma High School in 2007 and came back this past spring to produce the backdrop for the school’s theatre production of “The Addams Family: The Musical,” a project that took almost 30 hours, over a period of two weeks.

“I didn’t think I would be back at that high school helping them with something like that,” McCall said. “It felt really good.”

Director Fidaa Shaheen said that it was a last-minute decision to even have a backdrop for the show, but quickly discovered that McCall was perfect for such a challenge, after a recommendation from the production’s set builder.

“I gave her a general idea of what we wanted and she created a sketch that was better than what I asked her for,” Shaheen said. “She was able to take my words and turn them into a wonderful expression of art.”

Petaluma residents might even recognize McCall’s work in restaurants or bars like Faron’s New Orleans BBQ, The Roaring Donkey and Mario and John’s.

Mario and John’s owner Micah Porter had first hired McCall as a “bar back” at Mario and John’s, but later discovered that she had more to offer. Soon after leaving that job, she began creating a series of menu boards for the bar, and is currently designing a new one that will display the happy hour specials.

“It was exactly what we wanted,” Porter said, referring to McCall’s artistic style. “It just fit perfectly.”

As every artist has his or her own center of inspiration, McCall says that her parents played a huge role in her creative lifestyle, which she has carried with her for as long as she can remember. Because her early environment allowed for her to go outside the box with her imagination, McCall found the inspiration to portray messages through unique, abstract artistic pieces.

“I feel like I’m embracing the weirdness of the world,” McCall said. “Maybe even the weirdness of myself.”

As she keeps up with a packed work schedule, McCall always makes sure to make room for what brings her the most joy - hiking, gardening and, most importantly, art. Though she has worked with different mediums over the years, McCall is most in her realm when working with paint. She even participates in live pop-up art shows throughout the Bay Area, and has shown work in places like Live Worms Gallery in San Francisco and Mom and Pop Art Shop in Richmond.

“My favorite thing [about the pop-up shows] was the variety of artists,” McCall said. “It’s a very great environment to be around.”

McCall hopes to continue producing work similar to what she’s created in the past, and also is working to expand her horizon with graphic design. As for others who hope to be successful in the world of art, McCall’s advice to them is to just keep doing what makes them happy.

“Do not be afraid to push boundaries with your artistic abilities, and don’t be afraid of judgement,” McCall said. “People should love that because it’s a part of you.”