Brigantine native Charles Barbin's artwork has been applied to massive canvases throughout Philadelphia, where he lives and works as a muralist. His most recent project, though, was closer to home.
During the week of Aug. 4-11, while he was housesitting for his parents during their vacation to Europe, Barbin took the opportunity to paint a vibrant floral mural on the garden shed of his mother, Nancy.
When she pulled up to the house after the long drive from the airport in New York City, Barbin was overjoyed with the piece.
"I came back and saw that, I was thrilled," she said.
Barbin was interested in art from a young age, and at 3 years old would sit at the table and draw or sculpt with Play-Doh for hours on end, his mother recalls. By the time he was a teenager, he and a friend were already getting work painting murals for Brigantine businesses such as the Root Beer Barrel and Surf Sundries.
After graduating from high school in 1997, Barbin enrolled at the Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science, which is now Philadelphia University, to pursue a degree in graphic design. It wasn't long, though, before he began to miss the brush.
"I remember making that call (to my mom), saying, 'I've got to go to school for painting. I can't sit in front of a computer anymore,'" Barbin said. "It was driving me nuts."
Barbin transferred to Temple University, where he received his bachelor's degree in visual arts in 2002. Since 2004, he has been part of Philadelphia's Mural Arts Program, the largest public arts project in the country, and has also had his artwork exhibited in galleries in and around the city.
Barbin painted the shed with a quaint garden scene about a decade ago, but it had faded over the years and suffered damage when Hurricane Sandy flooded the island with four feet of water last year.
The new mural is a smaller-scale version of one Barbin did recently for the Department of Human Services at their North Philadelphia headquarters, and features giant, colorful chrysanthemums in full bloom, which Nancy said made it a good fit for the rebuilding town.
"I just thought it's a great idea, especially for Brigantine, with renewal and houses being built and people wanting to do things to beautify Brigantine to get it back," she said.
Barbin and Amber Art and Design, an artist collective of which he is part, recently completed work on a massive, 18-month mural at the World Communications Charter School in Philadelphia done in collaboration with the band the Roots. Despite wrapping that project, Barbin said he has no plans to slow down and is looking into doing a piece for the Atlantic City Arts Commission's new Art Box Project.
Making a living as an artist is difficult, something Nancy Barbin well knows. While many parents would try to dissuade their child from pursuing such a career, when she got her son's phone call all those years ago, she encouraged him to pursue his passion, knowing he would succeed - and that he would have a great time doing so.
"I'm happy, you know why?" she said. "I know people who make lots of money who are miserable in their work. He loves his work."
To contact Charles Barbin, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 215-356-2207.
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