However, let’s start at the beginning and put these pieces in place and learn what fans this watercolorist’s passions.
Growing up in San Angelo, Barbara is the middle daughter born to parents Barney and Loleta Barnhart. Her sisters are Linda Rasor and Laura Gillis. The Barnhart family operated Barney’s Photography Studio from 1947 to 2018, closing after Loleta’s passing at age 97.
Then a chance shopping visit to a calendar store at Sunset Mall provided an “aha” moment when she flipped through the pages showing Provence, France with its hilltop villages and lush, red poppy fields. Inspiration had raised its head, and now her French poppy paintings and landscapes are a trademark!
Later while working at Bentwood Country Club, Barbara scored an invitation via a chef friendship to attend golf’s preeminent stateside event – the Masters in Atlanta, Georgia. In addition to her artistic talents, Barbara also was a golfer and an even bigger golf fan.
With Bentwood Club undergoing a major renovation, Barbara took some liberties by bringing back several dozen paintings by Charleston area artists being sold at the Masters pro shop. Among the artists represented was nationally recognized artist Margaret “Maggie” Hoybach. Taking a chance, Barbara called her, and their conversation prompted Barbara to invite her to San Angelo to conduct a workshop in the late 1990’s.
This highly renowned lecturer, painter and teacher brought her devotion for sketching or journaling to Barbara’s evolving artistic style. “Rather than just photographing a particular scene for future reference,” Barbara explains, “sketching engages the brain to capture details not seen by the camera, thus better preparing your recall when you’re creating the scene on canvas.”
More chance encounters, this time with Angelo State international students, led Barbara to start a program to find local sponsor families. They would agree to “adopt” students, invite them to their homes for special meals and holidays and generally show them what West Texas hospitality is all about.
Again, Barbara’s attention to detail and determination caught the eye, and soon heart, of new ASU President Dr. Joseph Rallo.
“When I learned that Joe had purchased one of my paintings at an alumni event and his ongoing compliments regarding my assistance with the foreign students, all this led us to begin dating and socializing together,” Barbara added.
Cupid’s arrow had found its mark. Following Joe’s proposal while in Italy, the couple was married in San Angelo in June 2009. That fall, they honeymooned in France where close friends held a “benediction” blessing of the couple, complete with a coachman, carriage and rose petals thrown in place of rice.
While visiting possible retirement areas (Joe had retired from collegiate and higher education positions), the Rallo pair visited the Chesapeake Bay area. Their artistic community was flourishing, so Barbara asked one of the artists to come to San Angelo and do an open air or “plein air” workshop.
Fast forward to 2020 and the local San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts (SAMFA) will host its seventh EnPleinAirTEXAS (EPAT) – a nationally recognized event and also a magical fundraiser for the Museum of Fine Arts’ youth education programs. The youth activities serve more than 30,000 throughout the Concho Valley and are made available to families at no charge.
Co-chairing this exciting effort are Barbara and her partner in all things art, Ms. Boyd. The pair is ably assisted by EPAT artistic friends Sharon Alexander, Ellen Lassetter and Martha Visney and a cadre of support from SAMFA. San Angelo philanthropist Elta Joyce Murphey McAfee has established an EnPlein AirTEXAS endowment for EPAT and SAMFA and also supports the event as a grand patron along with many other generous donors and volunteers.
Howard Taylor, SAMFA executive director, said, “The Museum’s vision has always emphasized art in our lives, not just art on walls…and it’s just so evident at EPAT activities. The energy, intelligence, and passion Barbara brings with her coordination skills makes this gargantuan undertaking happen. Plus, her and Treva’s partnership helps pull all the many pieces together, almost seamlessly.”
Almost three dozen selected artists will converge here October 17th-25th and compete for more than $20,000 in cash awards. In San Angelo, the artists who stay with local residents will deal with the unpredictable Texas weather while painting the city and countryside as they create approximately 300 paintings during the event.
Barbara added that of all the years she and Treva painted together in the south of France, neither could have imagined how their close ties would have led them to organizing and coordinating such a highly touted competition. Also, appearing as a panelist at the annual EnPleinAir convention this year in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Barbara helps to market the San Angelo event among the more than 1,000 nationwide artists and vendors.
How do watercolorists manage their paints and supplies outdoors? “Very easily,” Barbara explained. “First, you’re using a small, portable palette and your brushes can fold, then extend for quick use, and watercolors naturally dry faster than oils.”
Does she paint every day? “No, but I am trying to be more disciplined and carve out that important time.”
Reared in a giving and loving family, Barbara generously has paid it forward by donating paintings to many local entities: Angelo State, Cultural Affairs Council, Girl Scouts, SA Museum of Fine Arts, West Texas Guidance & Counseling Center and West Texas Rehabilitation Center.
Ms. Rallo’s evolving artistic journey continues to unfold. She knows she’s very blessed to have found her purpose, and this smiling, sweet woman counts her blessings: a caring husband and family, faith, friends, mentors and teachers – including revered potter Roger Allen who was the first person to ever tell her that she was an artist.
Acknowledgment and recognition embolden all our journeys. And Barbara Barnhart Rallo still has miles to travel. Hopefully, her drawings and paintings will allow fans and patrons opportunities to share in exciting excursions yet to come. †
‘EnPleinAirTEXAS’ Recalls Outdoor Event of Long Ago
A century ago, an outdoor painting camp of 60 artists from across the nation converged at the tiny town of Christoval, just south of San Angelo. Here they rested in rustic cabins on the South Concho River where pecan-shaded areas beckoned them. Low, rolling hills dotted with wildflowers and the flowing streams were the subjects of numerous sketches and paintings, according to observer Frances Fink.
Known as the Texas Artist Camp, this activity brought in teachers from as far away as the Chicago Art Institute and continued until 1927. Also, at this time, Christoval was a location for a large Baptist encampment as well as the warm mineral baths believed to have curative powers to relieve pain.
Now 100 years later, the spacious skies and surrounding countryside still draws painters who come to participate in the prestigious fall event – EnPleinAirTEXAS, under the auspices of the Museum of Fine Arts in nearby San Angelo.
From paint-offs and school visits to western roping scenes and chuck wagon brunch, the nine-day competition and sale is jam packed. Benefitting from the event’s proceeds is San Angelo’s Museum of Fine Arts youth education programs. Many activities are free to the general public who can observe some of the painters, and several events require tickets. Visit enpleinairtexas.com for specific details and samfa.org for additional information.
Christoval Artist Camp: In the 1920’s, this summer camp became one of the best-known in the Southwest, with people coming from all over the country, and teachers coming in from as far away as the Chicago Art Institute. Photo courtesy of James Baker.