Last year the company created custom snow globes featuring the Naval Observatory. This year it designed a shadow box that holds a holiday token (details are slim to keep the surprise for guests) and Barber's painting printed on holiday cards. A piece of Cheney holiday spirit in the form of a recipe also will be included, thanks to a certain someone close to the vice president.
When the project came around again this year, Barber suggested that he paint a festive-looking version of the Naval Observatory for the card. After some research, he found that past cards depicted predictable whimsical holiday icons. He wanted to do something "a little more dramatic," he says.
The resulting watercolor-and-acrylic painting, which Barber estimates took about 35 hours to make and get approved, features a swirling sky of blues and purples, and a snowy vice-presidential residence. "It looks like that perfect holiday kind of night," Barber says. "It's not straight-up holiday fun with kids playing with snowballs outside, but at the same time it's not uptight and unfestive."
Although some of Barber's style is inevitably infused in the painting, his own art is very different. His mixed-media works feature religious iconography in a modern context, a concept that was triggered by a trip to the Middle East, he says. He paints and applies gold leaf to paper he has dyed with tea to give it an antique look.
"Because he's a very talented young man we're able to use his different talents for different projects," C. Forbes President Chip Forbes says of Barber. Plus, he adds, "talent runs in the family." Forbes commissioned Barber's father, well-known nautical painter John Barber, to make a painting of the new National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., for its dedication.
Forbes worked in corporate America until a friend whose father was chaplain for the U.S. Senate invited him to the Presidential Prayer Breakfast during former President George H.W. Bush's administration. Since, his company has landed projects with the Smithsonian, and commemorations of the centennial of flight and the 50th anniversary of the Korean War.
Barber won't be attending the vice president's party, but Forbes will. He declines to guess who else might be there. "Use your imagination and I'm sure they'll be there," he says, smiling. "When the vice president has a party and invites you, you go." Carrie Nieman
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