Barbara Savan was born in East St. Louis, Illinois. Her parents divorced when she was 6 and was raised by her mother.  She grew up living in Government Housing Projects.  She quit school and started working as a waitress when she was 15 to help her mother support her siblings.  When she was 21 she went back to school to get her G.E.D.

Barbara has two sons, Eric and Joseph, by her first husband James Leslie.  After their divorce she moved to St. Louis with her sons.  She worked selling radio advertising for KCFM-FM Radio.

She then married Sidney Savan, who had his own advertising/public relations agency. Barbara obtained her fine arts degree at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.  She graduated in 1998, summa cum laude.

“I didn’t have any idea that I had any talent in oil painting.  A friend of mine suggested that I take a portrait painting class with her that was taught by a wonderful local portrait artist named Paul Marquis .  I had always loved art and remember painting a landscape in the third grade that I thought at the time was very good.  Based on that remembrance, I started my painting adventure with Paul Marquis.  What a grand mentor he was.  I was amazed at my first oil portrait.  It actually resembled the model.  He had me referring to many wonderful artists for inspiration.  I fell in love with John Singer Sargeant.  I had no idea that the face had so many colors in it.  He taught me drawing, lighting, shadows, form, value and how to use color.  Color never frightened me. My oil paintings reflect this love.
It wasn’t long before Paul was encouraging me to start working on a Fine Arts degree.  I started at Meramec Community Collage and studied under many fine art teachers.  Mary Sprague and Ron Thomas were two that were not only very good teachers but were well known for their own art and were represented by nationally recognized galleries.  The University of Missouri -St. Louis had just added a Fine Arts degree to their currículum.  It was a challenging program with excellent artists and art historians teaching the classes.  I thrived in this creative environment.  Oil Painting was my major and Ken Anderson really pushed me to experiment and grow.  I developed a love for black and white photography through the teaching of Tom Patton.  It has helped me to use photographs for reference shots for my paintings.  Ken and Tom are both well known artists who are also represented by nationally known galleries.   “I felt like a sponge soaking up all their artistic pearls.”

Barbara has been showing her art work for the past 15 years at solo and group exhibitions throughout the country. She started an art co-op in St. Louis, Mo. called Art Coop with 5 other artists. 

Barbara’s figurative work, based on working men and women has a gritty authority reflecting her blue collar background. Her Restaurant Series called Blue Plate Special was featured in American Artist Magazine in the July 1997 issue.  She also had a 17 page cover story about her Restaurant Series in the Labor Heritage Magazine’s Winter of 1999 issue.  This series  showing cooks, waitresses, waiters and dishwashers hard at work was featured at a solo exhibition at the Mitchell Museum, Mount Vernon, Illinois in 1998 and The George Meany Memorial Archives (AFL-CIO) in Silver Springs, Maryland in 2000-2001.  Her Ironworker Series, called Men of Steel, was featured in the show “Men” at the Dense Bibro Gallery in New York City in 2000-2001.  Her oil paintings are in private, corporate and civil art collections.

She is a grandmother with two grandchildren and has been painting in her home studio. She occasionally lectures at the Art History Department at University of Missouri-St. Louis.  Her work includes landscapes based on her world travels with her now deceased husband.  She has been commissioned to do portraits, flowers, still lifes and nudes.  Barbara is now working on a series inspired by her practice of Zen.