New Regionalism: The Art of Bryan Haynes

In the basement studio of his wooded home near Labadie, Bryan Haynes seems distinctly separated from the rolling landscapes and outdoor scenery that he’s known for painting. But creating paintings of the landscape doesn’t require being outside, Haynes noted — just having good references.

“References can be photographs, sketches or little painted studies done outside on location, or just good old memory,” he said. “These, all together give me a great sense of what mood I want to re-create in the studio and all the detail.”

The wooded surroundings of his home is what attracted Haynes and his wife, Petra, to this area 20 years ago. They had been living in Soulard with their 2-year-old daughter (and before that in University City), and were looking for a more natural environment to raise a family.

They created a pasture and raised a barn for having horses, in addition to their pet dogs. All of that has provided ample opportunity for being outdoors and endless inspiration.

Painting landscapes, rivers and these natural scenes is something Haynes began around 1987, when he moved home to Missouri after starting his career as a freelance commercial artist working in the entertainment industry on the West Coast.

His work has appeared in national magazines, on CD covers, posters, book covers from Agatha Christie to the cover of “Scarlett,” the sequel to “Gone With the Wind.”

Since graduating from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif., in 1983, Haynes’ patrons have included Disney, Estee Lauder, Warner Bros., Universal Studios, IBM, Nike, Sony Music Corp. and Anheuser-Busch. Some years ago he also created a sort of Labadie history mural for over the bar at The Hawthorne Inn, and his landscape paintings are hung throughout the restaurant.

Today, his work ranges from traditionally crafted portraiture to 1930s-style Missouri landscapes to murals. Haynes’ largest project to date is a 60-foot mural that he spent two years creating and only recently completed for the Kaufmann Foundation in Kansas City.

Now a portfolio of Haynes career is available in a coffee table book, “New Regionalism, The Art of Bryan Haynes,” being released next week by Missouri Life.

The book features some 200 of Haynes’ work, beginning with a drawing he did for Warner Bros. back in the mid-’80s up to present-day pieces.

The majority of the book features pieces Haynes created in the last 10 years.

Haynes will give a presentation on “New Regionalism” Thursday, Oct. 10, at Washington Public Library at 7 p.m.

Copies of the book are available through the Missouri Life website,, and Haynes hopes to have copies for sale at the library presentation.

The decision to pull his artwork together into a book was mostly about timing, said Haynes. For years, fans of his work have been requesting to purchase a digital portfolio that he keeps on his desktop computer, so he approached Missouri Life with the project.

“Organizing chronologically the paintings into the book revealed a progression of style and content that surprised me,” said Haynes. “So much of what I do, after all these years, is intuitive. Describing into words something that was created intuitively is a challenge. The process of doing so reaffirmed to me the title, ‘New Regionalism.’

“When I wrote about the paintings after having created them, I realized how the landscape and its people actually sculpted my design.”

‘New Regionalism’

Haynes, who works in the tradition of regionalist artists Grant Wood, Thomas Hart Benton and John Steuart Curry from the 1930s, named the book “New Regionalism” because while his work may be influenced by their style, it is uniquely his own.

The term “regionalist” was originally said as a disparaging comment by critics in New York, said Haynes.

“When Thomas Hart Benton was building his career in New York, they sloughed him off as a ‘regionalist,’ ” he said. “But then, of course, as the years went by, he carried that with pride, and other people saw that as a movement.”

Today, Haynes describes his work as a regionalist artist as interpreting something that is already there.

“It’s almost the way you craft, that the feel of your work brings out the character of the region,” said Haynes.

“I think they (Wood, Benton and Curry) would agree it’s that their style emulated the landscape, and described the shape of the people, the shape of everything really.”

The book is divided into five chapters, each with a short, 500-some word essay about the included works.

Some of the images have captions as minimal as title and year, while others have stories with them providing more detail.

Some of the images are finished paintings that he paired with sketches of development to illustrate his work process.

People who know Haynes by his current works may be surprised to know that he got his start in the commercial industry. He includes some of those pieces and an essay about the work in his book.

“Some people think, as an illustrator, you don’t want to mention that in the fine art world, because it’s a degradation, but I don’t see it that way at all,” said Haynes. “It’s unbelievable training.

“I think it gives you the best chops that you can have for a representational artist. If you want to draw and paint people and things, there’s nothing better.”

With all of the digital technology available to today’s artists, many of them create their original designs using software programs like Photoshop and Illustrator. Haynes said he has worked that way before, but prefers the traditional methods.

“I don’t find that satisfying,” he commented.

“I still have one foot in the very old style, almost renaissance, of hand-drawing, transferring that drawing by chalk, tracing it to a canvas and painting the canvas.”

Family of Artists

Neither of Haynes’ parents worked as a professional artist, but both have definite artistic talents. His father worked as a chemist, but paints watercolors as a hobby, and his mother creates and assembles jewelry.

Both were always very encouraging of Haynes’ talent for drawing and painting. Haynes and his older brother, who also has gone on to a career as a fine artist in Colorado (and their sister works as a silversmith/jewelry designer), used to paint outdoors with their father when they were young.

In fact, Haynes’ mother was so empassioned about her son’s talent that she went to an art instructor at St. Louis Community College at Meramec to see about allowing him to take a college-level figure drawing class when he was still a senior in high school.

“That really gave me a real advance on drawing the human figure,” said Haynes, noting it also gave a boost to his confidence.

From the work he created in those classes Haynes was able to put together a portfolio that earned him a seat in art school the next year.

That kind of support from his parents made all the difference in his art career, said Haynes, who said he and his brother used to pore over art books his father had in his home library.

“And Mom always had the phrase, ‘Follow your bliss.’ She drove that into us,” he remarked.