“Fashion is definitely a great influence… I love drama, dramatic posing and lighting.”
— Barbara Tyler Ahlfield
Just like Andy Warhol, Barbara Tyler Ahlfield has moved from a thriving career as a fashion illustrator to success as a fine artist. Rather than pen and ink, she works in oil on canvas, preferring the large scale of four feet by five feet.
With a strong foundation in formal art training, Ahlfield studied at Ohio State University, Columbus College of Art & Design, and the Schuler School of Fine Arts. Now a resident of Baltimore, Maryland, Ahlfield says she has been influenced by her turn-of-the-century home in a historic district. “I am surrounded by history, antiques and an environment that echoes a more genteel era,” she says. “I feel that this has infused my artwork with a striving for elegance and classic foundations in my figurative painting.” Her self-description as an artist covers a few bases: “I consider myself a blend of classical, realistic figurative with modern, fashion-inspired quasi-impressionist.” She works the same way as she did as a commercial artist. First, she conceives an idea, then gathers her resources, including the model and props. A sketch in color is followed by re-sketching on the canvas and then painting. “I layer color and details,” she says. “I love drama, dramatic posing and lighting. Sargent’s portraits are very inspirational for me. I also love John White Alexander and Boldini.”
Setting her portraits apart is her background in art. As lead fashion illustrator for Lord & Taylor, she saw her double-page illustrations in the Sunday edition of the New York Times. “I have been honing my skills in ‘romancing’ the human face and form for many years … my expertise is in capturing my subjects at their beautiful/handsome best, while still being instantly recognizable with their essence intact.”
A life-long artist, Ahlfield has found community, support and invaluable information from connecting with other artists in online forums. Her roots in commercial art and fashion, she believes, infuse her paintings with a fresh perspective that makes them desirable to collectors.