Barnes' style of thick, empathetic brushstrokes and strong colors is decidedly different than his mentor, Robert Sudlow's thinly veiled and pigment pounced surfaces. Zak was Sudlow's last student and often accompanied him on his plein air painting excursions. He also create works consciously Regionalist in style and content, referring to Thomas Hart Benton and Grant Wood paintings.
I find fulfillment in the rhythm of my days out in the open, loading and unloading the truck with equipment, paints and dog, setting up, and working with the elements. There is a physical as well as mental work in the process, so that it becomes a meditation and a practice. I create all of my landscape work on site, with no preparatory drawing or reworking in the studio. I attempt to capture the fleeting moment in paint texture and color, in mood and measure. The scene changes with each passing moment, demanding a concentration of attention and quickness of hand, I paint with brush and pallet knife, often limiting the palette, using earth tones to accentuate moments of color.
In the studio, the landscape becomes secondary, drawn from memory, a setting and backdrop for human interaction. Narratives in a loose sense, I reference folk art, surrealism and contemporary compositional practices to create ambiguity in both period and environment. Natural and manmade elements are placed in concert, creating a space of pleasant sharing.
The emotional quality of the work builds with the composition. The elements are arranged and rearranged many times in the course of the painting. Working from nonspecific to specific, colors and shapes eventually settle into threads that connect and integrate. Figures and objects interact within their environment with a certain disregard for physical laws. It is the movement and emotional space created that is important.