Tuesday, November 26, 2013


In a previous post, I talked about my elephant with a damaged foot. As an artist, you don’t have to paint exactly what you see. This is a hard concept for some students to implement. I tell them that no one will ever see the setup. The objects will be put back on the shelf – but their painting will be there for all to see.

We begin by setting up a good still life composition, but often you need to make some adjustments. The shape of an object isn't quite right – modify it. Color not quite right – alter it. The elephant has a broken foot – fix it. I have a small brass horse with a missing tail – not a problem.

The late artist and teacher, Helen Van Wyk, had a name for painting a blemish just because it was there. She called it a “Gertrude”. Out of respect for Helen, I also refer to these distractions as “one of Helen’s Gertrudes”.

I find that after I lay in a painting, I don’t refer to my setup as often but continually judge the painting itself. The painting begins to take on a life of its own and I am now using the setup for reference only.

Your personal interpretation adds poetry to your painting, giving it life.  Replicating exactly what you see often results in a feeling of stiffness. All the objects, their relationship to each other, the shadows and the lighting need to join into a pleasing arrangement that sometimes can only be done on the canvas.You are working with pigments and their limitations. And you are trying to paint a three dimensional scene on a two dimensional surface.

This is also true for landscapes. Change an object's shape to better suit your composition, eliminate that distracting element, modify colors.  Make the changes that improve your painting.

The next time you add something that is not quite right “just because it was there”  (Oh, I have heard that statement in class so many times!) - just remember Gertrude.

Thank you for visiting.


Elephant and Grapes, oil 16x20

Elephant and Grapes, oil, 16x20 

On the way home from a day of painting at Boothbay Harbor with the Plein Air Painters of Maine, my friend and I stopped at a small antique shop.  I found this elephant on a high shelf.  He had a damaged foot but I loved him.  He is a creamy yellow with hints of orange – one of my favorite colors to work with.  And, of course, when I paint him, his foot is as good as new.  This makes us both happy.

This painting is available for purchase on my website.  Click here to view.

Thank you for visiting,

For more information please visit 
my website -  CeleneFarris.com

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Welcome Home, oil, 12x16

Welcome Home, oil, 12x16

This old house was located on the road between my home and Belfast.  I would pass it every day on my way to the gallery.  This tall house, with its stately manner and bay windows always made me think that it belonged on an island overlooking the sea instead of on the “flats” overlooking quiet pastures and woods.  Coming home in the evening, its welcoming light told me that I was almost home.  I stopped one night to snap a picture knowing that I had to paint it.  The house is now gone, replaced by a modern home and the road has lost some of its charm.  This painting hangs in my living room, and its light says “Welcome Home”.  

Friday, November 22, 2013

Thoughts on Teaching

One of the "crew" hard at work.
Thoughts on Teaching.

I have been teaching oil painting for over 15 years. My classes were held at my gallery in Belfast, Maine, but as the gallery grew, I gave up my classroom and moved classes to my home studio.

Over the years, my students have ranged in age from 9 years old in my Junior Class to over 80 years old in my Adult Class. Most of my students studied with me for many years. It was a joy to watch my 9 year olds grow into teens and after they graduated high school, I lost them to their new, busy adult lives.

My Adult Class has seen many students come and go. I do have my main students that have been with me for many years. We meet at my home studio weekly. They are my dedicated “crew” and work very hard to incorporate the principals and theories of oil painting into their work.

It is a misconception by non-artists that if you know a few rules you can easily create a good painting. The variables in a good painting are unlimited. Shapes, tones, color, edges, color harmony, lighting conditions, surface quality, linear and aerial perspective, composition – the list is endless and change with each painting. Landscapes, still-lifes, portraits – they all present their own set of variables.

When I was teaching at the gallery, summer visitors would stop in and sign up for a few lessons. They had just bought their first paint kit and wanted to learn to paint. They were the most difficult students, as they didn’t understand that it takes many years to grasp the principals of painting and more years of hard work to put these principals and theories together. I knew they would leave frustrated but hopefully these first few classes would peak their interest and they could go on from there. They also left with a greater appreciation of the art we displayed at the gallery.

It is my greatest pleasure to see my students enter shows and win awards. And to see the smile on their faces when they bring their ribbons and awards to class. We all celebrate together because we understand the hard work and commitment that has led to this achievement.

So, to any new student – don’t judge your abilities too soon. It takes years of hard work and dedication to become a good artist. Sometimes life gets in the way, so study, read art books, find a good teacher and keep painting. As your understanding and technical skills improve you will realize that all good artists are always students. The more you know about painting, the more you realize just how much more there is to learn. The road will be bumpy in places but don’t give up.  It is a fascinating journey.

For more information, please email me or visit my websites.

Thanks for visiting,

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

You can teach an old dog new tricks.

After many long days at my computer, I think I finally understand the process for creating blogs and newsletters.  So, I’m giving it a try.  Please excuse any start up blunders.

My students have been after me to start a blog and a monthly newsletter, so I’ll start with a little about me and then go on to more interesting subjects.

I was born in Connecticut.  My husband and I have lived in Maine for over 40 years.  We have two sons and two grandchildren.  In my previous life, I worked in health care, retired after many years and went on to a new career as an artist, teacher and art gallery owner/operator.  I have been painting in oils for over 25 years and teaching for more than 15 years.  Now I am retired from the day-to-day art gallery operations, although I am still a gallery owner.  I still teach and, of course, paint.

In my newest venture, I want to slow down a bit and paint more – alone and with my artist friends.  So I have decided to gather my work from the galleries, eliminate the packing, traveling, etc. and focus closer to home.

My work may be seen on my website www.CeleneFarris.com; and on my Ebay site.

My next post will be about art, I promise.  Hope you’ll join me.  Please sign up to receive my blogs via your email.  You can opt out at any time, but I hope you will enjoy these visits to my studio.

And you can sign up for my soon to come, monthly newsletter here.

Thank you for visiting with me.