Marbart: Illustrations by the Awesome Mitten’s own Barbara Counsil

"A Modest Mouse," courtesy Barbara Counsil.
“A Modest Mouse,” courtesy Barbara Counsil.

Barbara Counsil didn’t grow up in an artsy community. She didn’t go to a high school known for its art programs. Heck, she attended Kirtland Community College on a cross country scholarship (she was varsity team captain in high school.) In fact, Barbara—also known as Marba—doesn’t credit her interest and subsequent career choice in fine arts to specialized art courses or annual fairs, but instead to the people around her.

Whenever her grandfather visited her home near Gaylord, he never ceased to entertain Barbara with his ability to create simple line comics. Teachers and close friends helped cultivate a love of the arts throughout high school and after she graduated in 2007, she began taking fine arts courses at Kirtland Community College, a school known for its impressive art program.

Shortly thereafter, Barbara realized her passion for creating and decided to pursue Illustration

Captain-Greenwash detail
“Captain Greenwash,” detail courtesy Barbara Counsil.

as a career. She recently graduated from Kendall College of Art and Design and claims the artistic atmosphere of Grand Rapids fosters in her an even deeper desire to be involved in the arts. The constant stream of new artists, venues, and events helped hone her skills, while

expanding her knowledge of many different media and techniques.

The Happy Abominable Snowman
“The Happy Abominable Snowman,” courtesy Barbara Counsil.

Barbara generally works in oil paint and says she intends to “make people laugh” upon viewing her pieces. Many of her pieces focus on environmental concerns and animal rights: two causes very important to the artist. She hopes viewers will take away a message of respect and kindness. As for her chosen medium, Barbara appreciates the subtle


richness of oil, as well as the effect something as small is a particular glaze can have on a painting. She counts herself very lucky to be able to love what she does. Art is not only an outlet for Miss Marba, but also a way of life.

Sargent Major
“Sargent Major,” courtesy Barbara Counsil.

Barbara’s work has been and continues to be on display in several galleries in the Grand Rapids area. She currently works as a facilitator and watercolor instructor at the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum and as a free-lance illustrator. She can be contacted and commissioned via her website, facebook, or tumblr.

And in regards to that cross-country scholarship: Barbara set the Kirtland cross country record three times and still runs almost every day!


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