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Meet Barbara San Severino

Lions Bay Artist Committed to Teaching and Community

You may know Barbara San Severino as the lead artist and host of painting events at the Lions Bay Store and Cafe. Or you may know her as a neighbour on Isleview, who walks Jett the Wonder Dog. But did you know she is behind the restoration of Lions Bay Store's iconic sign?

Born in BC, Barbara says she considers herself fortunate to have moved to Lions Bay about seven years ago with her partner Lee Thorley.

Barbara's career as an artist began more than 20 years ago, when she started painting for fun with an artist friend. She had no formal training, but after joining open studio nights at a local community centre and practicing at home with larger canvases and acrylic, she quickly realized she loved the whole process.

At the time, she had no intention of ever displaying her work. But one day when Barbara was selling her home, a real estate agent pleaded with her to sell her a large piece she had tucked away in the basement. The sale gave her the confidence to begin believing in herself, and though she says it took her many years to accept that she was an artist, it's now her full-time occupation.

As a rule, Barbara paints what she calls ‘west coast landscapes in realism’ on large canvases that can take up to three months to complete. Her work can be seen on her website HERE, with prices for original canvases starting around $2,000. She sells smaller prints of her work at Lions Bay store, and many of her lush images are reproduced on cards, also available for sale.

Barbara made a bit of a departure from her usual subject matter back in 2020, when she devoted more than 50 hours to the restoration of the village's most iconic sign. She was a natural choice for the job, since she began hosting paint-together evenings

at Lions Bay General Store and Cafe about four years ago. At these events she collects a group of 10-15 novice artists together, each who create a painting from start to finish in under three hours. Barbara supplies all the materials, and offers encouragement and guidance along the way. "There's often a bit of wine involved," she says, with a grin. "And it's always a fun evening. People who have never painted before are often thrilled at what they can create!"

Along with a partner, Barbara has taken this idea on the road, and started a mobile art company called The Artist in U. "It's aimed at hosting in-home art parties and larger team-building events for corporations," she says. "It's been such a fun side gig, and so great to see what people with zero experience can create, when given a little direction."

In addition to her time spent making art with adults, Barbara has been teaching art to children in North Vancouver for six years. She loves working with kids, and finds it very rewarding. "Kids are so open minded and unafraid. They dive in, take risks and play, which is something adults often struggle to do."

The children have an opportunity to work with all types of media, including sculpting, printing, sewing and more. "You’d be surprised how many kids believe they’re not good at art, because they had a bad experience, or didn’t get the same result as everyone else. So I get excited when kids colour their dog green and give him three eyes."

Barbara enjoys doing commissioned projects and creating something specific for a particular space. "When I work with clients to facilitate an idea into art for their home, or in their office to establish a vibe or denote specific energy, I find the whole process extremely rewarding."

But in the end, Barbara says her favourite place to paint is on her shaded deck, with Jett curled into a chair beside her. On her easel right now is a new painting from a recent trip to Banff, Alberta.

Aspiring artists will have a chance to work with Barbara in early August, when she will host an umbrella-painting workshop for the first time. The event will take place at the picnic tables beside the Lions Bay General Store & Café, on August 4, from 5-8 p.m.

"All materials (paint brushes and umbrellas), artistic guidance, and a glass of beer or wine are included in the $60/person cost," she says. "The umbrellas make a unique canvas for creative design. They're great for both rain and shade. Be prepared to come and have a really good time!"

You can find Barbara San Severino online at And to celebrate her work, The Watershed is offering the first three readers to share this article on social media a pair of Barbara's gorgeous gift cards, as shown below.

Just post a link to this article on Facebook or Twitter account, along with the hashtag #lionsbaywatershed. Winners will be notified later this week.

Here at The Watershed, we love featuring Lions Bay artists. Know a local talent you'd like to see us profile? Drop a note to

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Norma Rodgers
Norma Rodgers
Jul 31, 2023

I love Barbara's art and her special dog Jett!

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