​ I began my career in art as a potter, and for 35 years, I belonged to the Colorado Potter’s Guild.   My work was largely utility pieces, until I discovered salt-firing hand-built pieces. 

In 2002, my husband and I purchased a sailboat and outfitted her for blue water sailing.  We sailed from Virginia to the British Virgin Islands, a trip of 1500 miles, straight down the Atlantic in 11 days.  We sailed for four of those days in gale-force storms.  At one point, we were 1200 miles off shore.  (You are never frightened in these circumstances, because you are too tired or too busy to worry about it.)  Since then we have spent about five months a year in the Caribbean. 

Before we left, I started taking watercolor lessons in Denver Colorado, and  have since shared this exciting experience with students in person and on ZOOM for over 12  years.  In 2005, we moved to South Dakota where I  joined the Artist in Residence program at the Avera Cancer Institute for several years.  The best volunteer job ever!  Then, after teaching at the Center for Active Generations I started the Great Plains Watercolor Society along with a great, strong leadership team.  There are currently 120 members.

​Since then, I have become immersed in creating experiential watercolor collections in which the viewer experiences a slightly different way of looking at things.  These have been major installations at South Dakota museums and Galleries

​In "Reflections Squared," (Washington Pavilion) the viewer realized that reflections are simply a collection of color-and-value shapes.  It is the viewer's mind that puts those shapes together, and thinks that it looks like chrome, or glass.  In "Weeds and Wildflowers of South Dakota," (Washington Pavilion)  I included two lectures from well-known botanists, as well as information of the science and mythology of these plants. Each flower was enlarged and the collection filled the Jersted gallery in hopes that viewers felt like they were immersed in a field of flowers.  In "After the Frost," (Augustana Center for Western Studies) I am hoping to create the story of impermanence and imperfection, and that that part of life should be celebrated as well as the fast-moving shiny new stuff we love so much.


South Dakota Magazine, July/August 2020 

Arts Alive, Winter 2018, "Watercolor Society provides painting possibilities, p. 15

South Dakota Magazine, July/August 2019 "Sioux Falls' Social Arts" p. 73

Expressions of a Cancer Journey, Selections from the 2014 Art Competition and Exhibition - Watercolor "Moments of Hope in a Turbulent Sea." p. 148

Education:  Self taught watercolor artist.  Watercolor classes from:  Stan Miller, Sterling Edwards, Frank Francese,  Karlyn Holman,  Judy Patti, Joan Fullerton, Ann Abgott, Jennifer Stone, Karen Knutsen, Dan Mondloch

MBA - Business and Marketing, University of Colorado, Denver, CO; Bachelors of Arts and Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 

Selected Exhibitions:

"Weeds and Wildflowers of South Dakota"  November 2021 - April 2022 Jerstad Gallery, Visual Art Center, Washington Pavilion, Sioux Falls, SD

"Watercolor on the Plains, " March 2 - August 18, 2019 in the South Dakota Gallery, Visual Art Center, Washington Pavilion, Sioux Falls, SD

"South Dakota Governor’s 8th Biennial Art Exhibition," 2019 to 2020.  

"Reflections Squared," Washington Pavilion, Sioux Falls, SD; 

"4th Annual National Juried Exhibition," NorthStar Watermedia Society, Minneapolis, MN, 2018; 

"New Trends in Water Media," Colorado Watercolor Society, Denver, CO, 2018 (juried show);  

"3rd Annual National Juried Exhibition," NorthStar Watermedia Society, Minneapolis, MN, 2017;  

"National Healing Arts Program," Prairie Center, Sioux Falls, SD, 2014 (Best of Show)

Memberships:  Great Plains Watercolor Society, South Dakota;  Colorado Watercolor Society;  Minnesota Watercolor Society, Siouxland Artists Inc.

Most importantly, I have found out that creating art is a wonderful thing to share; it is exciting, healing, and restful—all at the same time​


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barbara sparks

Watercolor artist and teacher