Family History and Heritage: Art by Barry Scanlan

A painting of three friends sitting at a barThree friends at the bar, acrylic and Twin Spirits Distillery whiskey

Barry Scanlan is an American artist of Irish descent. In his artistic practice Barry is primarily a painter, using a variety of media including paint, pencil, and presently, whiskey, to compose images that reference family history and heritage, as well as a history of the 20th century working class. 

A painting recreating an old family photoLooking at the space where dad was standing, acrylic, charcoal, and whiskey


I really enjoy Barry’s whiskey paintings. In some pieces the artist draws with pencil, using whisky to create a single tone accent colour, embracing the warm, neutral sepia tone of the liquor. In other works, Barry’s paintings are thematic -- portraits of people, perhaps friends, perhaps strangers, at bars with glasses of whiskey. In these pieces, the liquor itself seems to be more blended into the overall palette, perhaps adding a warmth to the pigments 


Much of Barry’s portfolio centres around human figures, and I appreciate the slightly abstracted, gestural, almost naive sensibility about these portraits. They are childlike at times, but emphasize colour and the texture and materiality of paint, making these works as much about the artist’s love for the medium as for his family.

A portrait of a steel worker in the 1970sSecond Shift Steelworker, Young's Bar, Southside Pittsburgh, 1970s, acrylic with gel and pumice

Written by: Dallas Jeffs
Explore more artworks

Become a featured artist

You can't be featured if you don't submit!
40,000 people are waiting to discover your artwork today.