'Before they're lost to history': Artist sketching dozens of local barns
DUTTON, ONT. -- Whether you grew up in a rural or urban landscape many will agree something is comforting about an old barn.
Artist and author Jenny Phillips of Dutton, Ont. is among the masses of barn admirers.
“Some of my best memories were playing in a barn, or sitting up in a nice corner of a loft in a barn reading,” said Phillips.
Her admiration for the structures stayed with her into adulthood.
Her children knew mom always had a camera at the ready to take a picture and later paint a portrait of well-maintained and dilapidated barns.
“My son would say, ‘Mom, mom, look at that! Is that falling down enough for you to paint?”
Now a senior, Phillips and her husband have collected 300 photographs of barns throughout southwestern Ontario.
Since the start of the pandemic, she has been sketching the best of the lot in preparation for a book this fall.
“I’ve got 50 that are on the go in some way or the other, but I’m hoping to have 100.”
A sketch of a bank-style barn in Dutton-Dunwich, Ont. by artist Jenny Phillips. (Contributed)
Along with the sketches, Phillips plans to include a paragraph about each barn’s history and its construction.
Phillips says pioneers erected several different styles of barns based on where they emigrated from and the purpose they needed the structure to fulfil.
“There’s hip roof barns, Dutch barns. There are bank barns; there are even double-bank barns.”
But while there are many types, there are fewer examples.
“The barns that I see everywhere across Elgin across southern Ontario, those barns are disappearing.”
Artist Jenny Phillips in her gallery in Dutton, Ont. on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. (Sean Irvine / CTV News)
Phillips fears one day factory farm barns will be all that is left in the region.
The concern is why she hopes her sketches will encourage others to record farm history on actual film or drawing paper.
“Most people don’t take pictures of their buildings. They take pictures of family, and there might only be a piece of the building in the background.”