Tuesday, February 13, 2024

A Very Special Valentine Story

Valentine's Day seems the perfect day to share this moving story...

I received this very special email on 3-27-2023.

Hello Ms. Farris,
My name is Richard Scovel. I reside in Wakefield Massachusetts but have vacationed in the Belgrade & Lake St. George areas for close to 40 years so I know the Belfast area very well. You have an amazing talent. 

This past September my wife Carole gave me a framed print named Bird Watchers which I believe is one of your works and I must say as soon as I saw it I instantly fell in love with it as my wife's hobby was feeding birds on an industrial scale, and in addition we are hooked on Brittany Spaniels of which we have had 4 of them over the years. First was Jimmy, then Sophie, then Morey and finally Max whom I have now... Sadly my wife passed away early in the morning on the day after Christmas and I am hoping that I can have the image of your print put on the grave stone which I will soon be purchasing. I see many grave stones at our local cemetery that have all kinds of color images added to them and since my wife was buried with Sophie and Morey's ashes, the print would be a beautiful touch and she would be so happy to know it was on the stone... 

I really don't want to take the framed print she gave me apart so I can submit the image to the engravers, so my question to you is could I possibly purchase another one of them from you ? The size is small, probably about 5" X 7" and I'm sure that would be a good example to go by, however I may opt for the image on the stone to be a bit larger than that. I have no idea where she actually purchased the print so I figured I'd start at the source. Please get back to me when you have the chance and let me know what you think... Also, photos attached, 2 showing your framed print and another one of a color image of a willow tree which is close to my wife's grave as an example of a color image on stone... 

Very best regards, Rick Scovel

Dear Richard,
I am so very sorry to hear about your wife. What a sad time for you all.

I do have copies of the print - The Bird Watchers. I will be very honored to have my work on your wife's memorial stone. If you send me your address I will mail them to you. They will be my gift in your wife's memory. Thank you for this honor.


On 12/24/2023 7:02 AM, Rick Scovel wrote:

Hello Ms. Farris,
I'm sorry it took so long but good things do take time, anyway, the grave stone is finally finished and was installed at the cemetery a few days ago. My wife Carole was very patriotic and as soon as I saw the stone on display the decision was made! Also, if you ever want to put the images on your website or your facebook page please feel free to do so, Carole would be honored...

Initially I wanted your image to be etched in to the stone but unfortunately that method did not capture the beauty of your painting so a porcelain image of your artwork was created instead which captured the image perfectly. Due to the design of the stone and not having ample room on the front, it is on the back side but it really finished off the stone perfectly and I can't thank you enough.

Thanks again for supplying the print, this result would not have been achieved without your talent and your kindness. Have a wonderful Christmas and a happy new year!

Very best regards, Richard Scovel

Saturday, January 20, 2024


The reason for an underpainting. 

The back and forth corrections during the painting process often result in frustration, muddy colors and unsuccessful paintings. Breaking the painting process into two distinct parts greatly simplifies the process.

A painting can be broken down into two basic parts - 

  • The Foundation (underpainting)- consisting of the composition, shapes and values. This is done as a tonal, monochromatic underpainting, creating the structure of your painting.
  • Color - with all its subtle nuances and complications, added to the finished, dried underpainting as a separate step.

The underpainting can be done in either thin oil or in black and white acrylic. If I am outside painting I do an underpainting in thin oil washes that will dry quickly in the outside air. In my studio I prefer black and white acrylic. Acrylic, a water based paint, dries quickly, covers well, is easy to work with and has no odor.

For your underpainting, choose a dark, neutral color and white. You will be working in shades of dark, middle values and white. No other colors are used.

I ask my students to think of baking a cake. You cannot frost the cake until it is baked. And if the cake doesn't have good ingredients, no amount of frosting will make it better.

In painting, if you don't have a strong foundation, no amount of color will make the painting better.

First create your foundation (underpainting) (cake). Establish the composition, refine the drawing and create your pattern of light and shadow. This is the time to move objects, change shapes, adding and subtracting. Only when your foundation of shapes, values and the composition is completed to your satisfaction can you begin to think of adding color. 

With your foundation (underpainting) complete, you can now focus on color, with all its subtle nuances and complications. Your underlying structure has been completed and is correct. Now it's time to frost the cake. 

This is such a logical way to paint. Painting is difficult - so why not try to simplify the process a bit by breaking it into steps? 

Below is my black & white acrylic underpainting. I worked on it, making subtle changes until I was satisfied. The second picture shows the beginning stages of adding the colors.

Blue Bottle - black & white underpainting.
The composition, shapes and values are established.

Now I can begin to add the color.

Something to think about. Give it a try. 
Your questions and comments are always welcomed. Happy painting!


Sunday, November 19, 2023

Creating not Copying


Last week I decided to paint a still life. I looked through my collection of "stuff" in my studio.  I was looking for -  a tall object, a shiny glass object, something colorful and some small fill-in objects.

Back at my easel, I placed my objects in my shadow box in a pattern that appealed to me. I use a shadow box to confine my objects and eliminate any distractions. My single light source comes from a spotlight. (You can see extra highlights from my regular studio lights but I ignore them.)

So now I had my basic composition. A little boring perhaps. 

After laying in a basic underpainting as a foundation, I rarely look at the set up again. I just paint. I try to remember the basics of good composition - unity, variety, balance, color, edges and values.

I'm not interested in just copying these objects.  I'm not creating a catalog for a department store -  I'm creating a painting.

As you can see I changed the little glass vase and added the flowers. And then a few more changes...

My set up

Late Summer Roses, 9x12

Something to think about...    Are you an artist?  Or a copyist? 

Give yourself the freedom to create. Enjoy the painting process!

Saturday, September 9, 2023

What do you see?

I asked this question awhile back when I posted one of my night scene paintings to my Facebook Page (Celene Farris a Maine Artist) and to the various Facebook Art Groups that I have joined. 

The responses were fascinating. So many different interpretations. So much imagination. And so much fun to interact with my viewers.

Thank you all for joining in on the fun. So let's continue....

I find night scenes fascinating to paint. Trying to capture the night without getting too dark...  Adding artificial lights, mist and fog and rain...  And maybe the stars and the moon...  Creating a sense of mystery and atmosphere...  Adding a figure or two...  Trying to tell just part of the story...  

So, "What do you see?"

Waiting For Him,  8x10, oil

Available in my eBay Store or directly through me.


Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Still fascinated with night paintings...


Night Patrol, 8x10, oil on canvas panel.

Night paintings are fascinating. Just how dark can I go...

Everyone sees a different story. What do you see?


Available in my Ebay Store or directly from me.

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Friday, July 21, 2023

Taxi ! Another night painting

Taxi ! - 8x10, oil on canvas panel, available

 I am still fascinated with night paintings and the mystery of their untold stories. What do you see?


Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Class notes - Composition

I was an art instructor for almost 20 years. I taught at our gallery in Belfast, Maine and later in my home studio. It's hard to stop being a teacher, especially when a friend asks for a critique. "What's wrong with my painting? It's not working! Here's the photo - see, I copied it exactly!"......... Well OK, let's go back to the basics and review our class notes.

First of all - You are an artist. The camera isn't. A camera is a mechanical tool that arbitrarily records everything it sees - the good and the bad. You, as the artist, have to take the scene apart and put it back together. You have to shift your mindset from just copying the scene to the hard, cold, technical facts of composition - and the importance of line, values, placement and shapes. If they are not there, you have to create them.

All the elements in a painting should be designed and placed to serve the focal point. If they don't serve the focal point - leave them out. Remember the focal point is what the painting is about. It's where you want the viewer to look. It is where our most important objects are located. The focal point should have the most contrast, most intense color and the sharpest edges. Objects on either side are seen in our peripheral vision and will not be in sharp focus. This is the way our eye naturally sees. 

Simplicity is the key to a strong painting. It's not how much you can add - it's how much you can leave out and still tell your story.

Compositional guidelines

Diagonal lines give energy, direction and movement. All the major diagonal lines in the scene should lead toward the focal point. 

There should be a straight, strong vertical line or shape to serve as an anchor and to stabilize the composition.

The painting is divided into three planes, the foreground, the middle distance and the distance.  Each plane must be treated differently to show the natural effects of aerial perspective in the scene.

Foregrounds are for lead-in purposes only. They should be composed of diagonal or curving lines, using value and color changes to lead the eye into the painting. They are never just a straight horizontal line going across the bottom of the canvas. And they are never detailed because, when you are looking straight ahead, foregrounds are seen in your peripheral vision.

Placing the focal point in the middle distance creates a larger foreground area which gives support to the focal area while adding weight to the bottom of the painting. This also gives the foreground space to create direction and movement. It is in the middle distance where your major objects, color and values are located.

The softer atmosphere seen in the distance is the result of aerial perspective. This help to create a feeling of depth.

To help in developing a strong painting work out your composition first in either sketches or a tonal underpainting. Tonal - without color - using black, white and grays. Later you will add the magic of color - but only if the underlying structure is strong and correct.

Above is my acrylic tonal underpainting on a red primed canvas. Note the use of directional lines. The strong verticals in the building provide stability. The main figure, my focal point, is in the middle distance. The value design is created to support my focal point.

So, don't just copy what you see. You are the artist. Create. Build a strong composition and add only the elements that are necessary to tell your story.

Happy painting, my friend.



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