December 17, 2016

Smarty Mom: Julie Barnett

Photo by Maureen Osbourne

Photo credit: Maureen Osbourne

The longer I am I mother, the more amazed I am at other mothers around me. I’ve been through countless carpool lines, classroom parties, school socials, and play date meet-ups where I’ve chatted with fellow moms – many of us clad in workout gear or coming in all cute and fresh from a lunch meeting for work. So often we make idle chitchat about hectic days, homework assignments, and weekend activities, but rarely do we touch on what WE can do. What WE are capable of (besides managing it all and {hopefully} not drowning). That’s what makes me love weekly Smarty Mom features – it gives us a chance to stop, exhale, and admire the awesomeness of a fellow mom.

And, I am so excited and honored that I get to do that very thing for Julie Barnett today.

Julie and I met years ago through our kids’ school, but it wasn’t until recently that I’ve gotten to know her better as our middles are friends (isn’t that one of the best parts of having a large brood? Getting the chance to become friends with someone you might’ve missed the first or second time around because the ages or genders of your first kids just didn’t line up?). She’s the mom to four handsome boys, but still manages to pull off this incredible sense of calm; and she’s one of those people that you really WANT to be around because she’s just so genuine and kind. Julie’s not only an incredible mama (her sweet boys are proof of that!), but she’s also a gifted artist. I am so in awe of artistic talent and am determined to have original works of art in my house (a slow process, but totally worth it). Julie’s paintings are breathtaking and prove you might not know the secret talents of that fellow carpool mom.

A huge thanks to Julie for letting me feature her so close to Christmas (a Smarty Mom interview on top of a never-ending holiday To Do list is a tall order!). Enjoy getting to know Julie and the awesome Barnett family!

Smarty Mom: Julie Barnett

Smarty Mom Stats:
Married to: to Todd, 19 years
Children: Davis (15), Harry (12), Sam (9) and George (5)
Hometown: Dayton, Ohio
Years in Charlotte: 17 years
‘Hood: Montibello
Alma Mater: University of Cincinnati
Occupation: Artist, Marketing Manager

You’re a gifted artist. When did you start painting and how has your work evolved?

I started painting as a child, took art lessons and always selected art as an elective in school. I have memories from around the age of 6…of collecting shells at the beach and painting them bright colors. However, in college I studied business and after graduating, I started a career in marketing and consulting. While I was always considered “crafty,”
I started painting again after my first child was born. I really wanted original art for our home. At that time in my life, we could not afford original art from galleries…so, I decided to paint myself. Julie Barnett 1

However, in the past few years, as my family grew and I continued working in a part-time marketing role, I rarely had the opportunity to bring the paints back out. I participated in a fun art show with a friend, which was exciting but it was very tough to keep painting a consistent part of my life.

Then, a year ago, when I decided to take a leave of absence from the corporate world to focus on my family, I found the opportunity to paint again. I started painting a few pieces for friends and things really started to take off. There is a growing demand for original art and clients really value original works. And, I am so grateful for my husband…he has been super supportive of my interest in doing this and offers honest critiques of my paintings.

My work has evolved from small works to large scale paintings. I’ve also been committed to donating 10% of profits from paintings to various local charities. While sometimes that 10% is not significant, it feels good to contribute to something bigger. Many times I talk with my children about what organizations I should make a donation…and, I hope giving back will become a priority in their lives as well.

What inspires you?

I love nature, especially coastal scenes. But what really inspires me is the feeling I get when I’m painting…it puts me in a harmonious state. As you can imagine, life with four boys can be busy, chaotic and our home if full of constant (joyous!) noise. Painting is therapeutic for me, it balances me, and in many ways makes me a better person. And, some days, my inspiration comes from just picking up the brush and seeing where it takes me.


What’s your favorite subject to paint?

Traditionally, I have most enjoyed painting coastal scenes and landscapes in oil. However, most recently I’ve started to experiment with abstracts using mixed media and acrylics.


What time of day do you paint? Do you have a home studio?

The time of day really varies…as a busy mom, I have to work around school activities, volunteering, doctor’s appointments, etc. I try to carve out at least 2 full days each week to paint…I’m most productive when I have several hours of uninterrupted time dedicated to painting. This allows me to stay on track and meet deadlines for clients. Yes, I do have a home studio – it isn’t ideal because I share it with the washing machine (which is always running!), but it is the only space in my home where my children rarely visit. This is helpful because there are usually a few large wet paintings set up along with art supplies spread out everywhere!

How do you feel when you finish a piece and see it hanging in a client’s home?

I most enjoy doing commissioned pieces. It is such a privilege to paint a specific piece for such a personal space. Typically, I sit down with the client to get a feel for what subject is appealing and assess the lighting and decorating style in the home. It is extremely rewarding when a client is thrilled with the piece and sees it in their home for the first time. To me, that feeling is more fulfilling than receiving the commission fee!


What artists do you admire most?

There are many local artists who I admire. The most talented painter I believe is Andy Braitman. In addition to having his art featured in many galleries nationwide, he owns Braitman Studios where I’ve had the privilege of taking art lessons. Andy pushed me out of my comfort zone and taught me to loosen up my brush strokes. He also motivated me to paint larger pieces…previously, I was intimidated to purchase a large canvas. I also admire Anne Neilson and Caroline Simas. The style of Anne’s angel paintings are amazing. Caroline is one of the most inspiring women I’ve met, and I’ve enjoyed taking workshops that she hosts from her Multiple Blessings studio. You rarely meet someone with such strong faith and positivity!

Which one of your pieces makes you the most proud?

Wow – that is a tough question. I did two large complementary pieces for a dear friend. She had a specific look she wanted achieved with mixed media. It was something new for me and I loved how they turned out. In my opinion, these paintings made a beautiful space absolutely perfect.

Did any of your kids get the artistic gene?

Actually, I believe they all have artist talent. My oldest and youngest are the most interested and were amazing at coloring from a very young age. But the middle two are quite imaginative and talented with sketching cartoon type art. I’m not sure that gene came from me though!

Where can we purchase your work?

Of course I do many commissions for any client (contact: But, this year I’ve had a tremendous

Photo credit: Maureen Osbourne

Photo credit: Maureen Osbourne

opportunity working with Judith Weston Voglesonger who owns The Art House. Judith represents my art and several artists. She hosts art shows in her home and around Charlotte. I especially love her mission of helping clients and designers find beautiful works to fill their homes, even when on a budget. Judith is truly a gem….very fun and easy to work with. She has helped me reach an audience I would never have touched on my own.

Now for some fun Smarty questions…

Favorite color palette? I love bright fun colors – aqua and peacock are probably my two faves right now.

Family’s favorite Christmas tradition? So many fun traditions! I have wonderful memories of making cut-out cookies with my mom, sister and grandmother each Christmas and have continued that tradition with my family. Although my grandmother is no longer with us, I have many of her cookie-cutters, which are very special to me. In addition to cookies, we also make buckeyes. On Christmas Eve we visit our friends and neighbors and bring them little bundles of these goodies.


My boys would probably say their favorite tradition is getting Chick-fil-A milkshakes and driving around looking at the most spectacular Christmas lights in Charlotte, AND – of course going to Ohio every year to visit our family.

Family’s favorite home cooked meal? Taco night is the favorite at our house but my boys all agree I make a tasty meatloaf.

Family’s favorite vacation spot? We really enjoy traveling to new places but Wild Dunes in Isle of Palms, SC is our favorite regular beach destination.

Best part of raising boys? I love being a boy mom! Some days I really can’t believe that I have all boys, but I get such an overwhelming blessed feeling just thinking about it. I didn’t grow up with brothers so I’ve learned a lot and have adjusted. Brothers can fight one minute and be so sweet and kind to each other a minute later. I love that…nothing warms my heart more than seeing them show kindness to each other. I hope they will always be best friends.

But, in full disclosure, being a boy mom is not a sit-down job. There is no “let me sneak over to the computer for a sec and place an order on Amazon.” That little treat will without a doubt be interrupted with a fight, a spill, an injury, a carpool change, a broken window or a pound of lunch meat being plucked from the fridge. Boys are constantly on the move…each age is different…while the “littles” sword fight ends in an injury, the older ones are raiding the pantry. I can’t imagine life any other way!

Photo credit: Maureen Osbourne

Photo credit: Maureen Osbourne

Best part of having a high school student AND a kindergartner? I have to be on my toes! High school issues are much bigger than any kindergarten issues so it helps me keep things in perspective and not sweat the small stuff (that I’m sure I sweated with my oldest!). I also know that you just have to blink a couple of times and your kindergartener will be starting high school. Having a big age spread between kids allows me to do things better with the younger ones. Better in the sense of slowing things down, living in the moment and not letting little issues get in the way.

Superhero talent (besides art ;-))? Definitely the ability to multi-task and I have a fairly high tolerance for noise, dirt and blood.

Morning bird or night owl? A morning bird – without a doubt!

Beach or mountains? Beach

Favorite beauty item? Rodan and Fields Redefine eye cream and Bobby Brown mascara

Can’t live without…running in the morning (or some type of exercise), my family and friends.

Finish this sentence: When my boys become men, I hope…Wow – this question gets me choked up. There are so many day-to-day highs and lows of raising children. I hope the highs as well as the tough love moments will shape them to become men of character. I pray they become happy, brave, kind, responsible, courageous leaders and contributors to their future families and to society. I hope integrity and their strong faith are their foundation for all that life brings them.








8 Responses

  1. Ashley Fleisciher says:

    She is definitely one of the most genuine ,kindest, amazing woman that I know. She is a woman you look up to and am lucky to call her a friend.. Her art work is gorgeous!!!

  2. Joan Adams says:

    Julie is a gem for our family. We all admire her parenting skills and of course her artistic accomplishments. We always look forward to our visits with super mom Julie and the Barnett family.❤️

  3. Amy Virkler says:

    Julie is a sweet, kind and genuine person. I loved reading this piece about her. She is one of my favorite people!!!

  4. Laura Stephens says:

    Julie and her family are by far amazingf. I met Julie in 2005, with our oldest playing ball at the Harris YMCA and can say our boys are still playing with and against each other. Julie has so many blessings to share, she is true to herself, her family, friends and the less fortunate. Talents – she has many! Julie, I always enjoy seeing you, Todd and your boys!!!

  5. Heather Leavitt says:

    Julie is not only an amazing artist but one of the kindest people I know. Her commitment to outreach and her attention to her boys are something I will always admire.

  6. jill conner says:

    Julie is one of the most admired moms in our neighborhood! She is always smiling and her sweet disposition makes everything look easy. Her boys are such gentlemen and we enjoy watching them grow up. Great article!

  7. Pam Tan says:

    Julie is beautiful inside and out! Great article!

  8. Abbe McCracken says:

    Wahoo Julie Barnett!! I love this feature of you and your work. amazing!! Congrats!!!!

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