My #freelancelife True Story: Angie Barker


My #freelancelife True Story: Angie Barker

“Some people go to therapy. I paint.”

A web developer by day and molecular painter by night, Angie Barker (@angietherose) is living the dream of all who are fine artists at heart. Her studio in the 205 Collaborative—an unsuspecting building in Greensboro, North Carolina—is full of color. There are paint tubes everywhere, color splashes decorating the walls and floor and tables and trays. It’s a beautiful, organized chaos.

In Angie’s current series, Molecular, she aims to create a visual meditation on molecular biology and how the micro life-forces inside us have their own reality. With 6K+ followers on Instagram, she’s also on a mission to change the way people think about artists from the South. Check out her #freelancelife true story.

Mandy: When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
Angie: I started painting when I was four. And It’s been a side passion of mine ever since. This is what I’ve wanted to do ever since I first discovered Vincent van Gogh. He was a huge inspiration for me as a child, and he’s still my fave. My paintings now are like zoomed-in versions of his paintings, and that’s a step I think I’m going to take moving forward with my art. I want to become even more microscopic with shapes abstractly. Kind of like when you’re looking at something underneath a microscope and it goes from edge to edge.


M: So I’m guessing you majored in art in college?
A: Not at first. I went to Appalachian State University, and I originally wanted to be a psychologist or a psychotherapist. But I couldn’t pass statistics. My parents were worried about me becoming an Art major so I took a class to help me determine the right major for me. As part of the class, I took a quiz that told me I SHOULD major in art. So basically I took a semester-long course to take one quiz to tell me to do art, which I already knew, but I had to convince my parents in this roundabout way!

I applied for ASU’s art program, which required 2 portfolio reviews, and I got in! I wanted a career where I’d be able to make a living while also learning other artistic techniques, so I got a BFA in graphic design. I like to joke that art school is just as hard as med school because we barely slept and we’re always cutting ourselves on sharp objects (like Exacto knives).

M: What did you do after you graduated from college?
A: I could tell that web design was going to be a good career choice—it paid better, it would be easier to get a job, and I had some experience. So I went that route.

Right now I work full-time as a front-end web developer at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. It’s the first job I’ve ever had where my coworkers and I all meld together in a really great way. I’ve worked in the private sector before, even at agencies, and it’s not a place I liked being. I much prefer working in higher education. It’s just a super-collaborative, judgment-free zone.


M: Were you also painting during this time?
A: Not really. I still loved it, but it kind of got pushed to the side for a while. Before I got the UNC job, I was a web designer for a magazine. It was a temporary position, so after all the projects were finished, snip-snip, my time there was done.

That was a transitional time for me because I didn’t have a job. It ended up being a blessing in disguise because I started this series called Black and Blue, the Moody series. Having that much time and energy to devote to a full-bodied series is what inspired me to start doing painting full-time again.

M: And you also have a full-time job…how do you have time to paint?
A: Well I’m very lucky that my UNC job is really flexible. Even though it’s full-time, it only requires me to be in the office two days a week. The other three days I go to my art studio and work from there. If I come across a tough technical issue, I can take a break and paint it off. Painting helps me work through the problem easier and faster. And when my workday ends at 4pm, that’s when I really start painting.


M: Would you ever want to be a full-time artist?
A: Some people think that painting is just a hobby for me. But it’s not. This is my life. It would be nice to be an artist full-time, but right now my art really only pays for my studio rent and my supplies. It’s not making money yet. I like to joke around that my eyes will get so much better when I’m not looking at a computer screen anymore. My vision has progressively gotten worse and now I’m over 500 in each eye.

M: Yikes! What other kinds of challenges do you face?
A: My biggest challenge is probably energy.

M: Haha, that makes sense! You’re working two full-time jobs.
A: Yeah, I know, right? When I throw myself into something, I do it with a full heart. So when I’m at my job, I work really hard. And when I’m here in the studio, I work really hard.

There’s some days when I wake up and I’m like, “I don’t want to fuckin’ do this right now. I just want to sleep in with my cats and my dog.” But that’s just one of those human hurdles. It’s a sacrifice, and I know it’ll eventually pay off.


M: Yes it will. I know it! I love what you’re working on right now, the Molecular Series. How did you come up with that idea?
A: When I became an aunt, I wanted to show my niece when she was older that there’s no limit to what you can be interested in, that you can be a woman who has a feminine side and you can also be interested in the sciences. My personal favorite science to learn in school was biology. In AP Biology, I was entranced by the molecular structure(s) and how there’s all these moving parts inside of us but we’re not consciously telling them what to do. We’re just living. And these tiny organisms that are the building blocks of us are doing what they know to do.

This newest series has made me a lot happier because you can’t be upset when you look at these colors. Even though some of them are inspired by negative emotions, they still have that vibrancy of the human spirit. They’re my soul colors.


M: That’s so cool! I love that. So, where can people see your work?
A: My studio is at 205 Collaborative in Greensboro, NC so you can see my work there. And it’s also in the following stores in North Carolina—The Mothership, Vivid Interiors, The Tiny Greenhouse, Art & Soul, Lucky Fish Gallery, Visual Index and Covet Atelier. And on my website of course:

Thanks for sharing your story, Angie! 

If you want to follow Angie and stay up to date on her story, also check out:

And watch for our Angie Barker Giveaway on Instagram!