Full old Biography


I was born in Williams, Arizona, on March 4, 1941. My father was an engineer on the Santa Fe Railroad. My grandfather and uncles all worked for the railroad. My maternal grandfather, and, later my step-father, and his father were loggers and sawmill workers. So I grew up in towns along the railroad, and in the logging camps of Northern Arizona.


When I was nine years old, my mother and new step-father took me with them to visit Taos, New Mexico, her birthplace.

I was captivated by Taos pueblo, and deeply impressed by my mother’s love of the area, which remained strong, even though she had moved to Arizona as a child following the death of her father. Frequently, as they strolled down the sidewalks of Taos, my parents would realize I had vanished. Backtracking, they would find me, entranced, in yet another art gallery.

I still remember, as plainly as though it were happening now, standing in one of those galleries, watching two men discuss a painting on the wall. It suddenly occurred to me that, somehow, one of the men was that painting. That the painting was him. That he was an artist and I was one too! It was at that moment that I became an artist. I knew that whatever else I might do from then on, I would always be an artist. And I am still an artist. I just look a lot different...


Following High School, I started checking out painting books from the library, and teaching myself to paint. The only books the Flagstaff library had on painting at that time were those on Ted Kautzky, Rex Brandt, and Charles M. Russell. I also had some old Arizona Highways articles on Maynard Dixon and W.R. Leigh.

When I joined the Army in 1959, I was stationed in Los Angeles, where I had access to a broader field of study. I also attended occasional lectures by Rex Brandt, Noel Quinn, and others. While in the service, I continued to paint in watercolor, read all I could, and enrolled in the Famous Artists’ Schools correspondence course. After a few lessons, I noticed the recurring admonitions, in bold type: YOU LEARN TO PAINT BY PAINTING, and YOU LEARN TO DRAW BY DRAWING. I thought that was about the best advice I would ever get, so I dropped the course, and have concentrated on drawing and painting ever since.


While that was the end of my formal education, I soon discovered that I was in love with learning, a fact I had lost sight of in high school. It was also the beginning of a lifetime of study. I have studied the works and techniques of the masters and the obscure, of the ancient and the contemporary. I have learned from them all; even, in some cases, by negative example. I am interested in all schools of painting, and all periods.

I don’t believe that any one school or period should render all others irrelevant.

Whether the work in question is abstract expressionist, minimalist, cowboy, surrealist, or impressionist, doesn’t matter. The only important thing is whether the artist was true to his own vision and how well he was able to realize it.

The only important thing is whether the artist has been true to his own vision.


When I returned to Flagstaff, in 1962, I realized how much I had missed the Navajo and Hopi influence in my life. I decided to learn all I could about them, and began reading everything I could find on the subject. I worked for a short time at Northland Press, under founder Paul Weaver, where I met and worked with Clay Lockett and Don Perceval on A NAVAJO SKETCH BOOK.

I moved to Phoenix, in 1965, where I ran a small private museum and Indian shop, then, in 1965, to the Navajo Reservation, to work for Clarence Wheeler in the trading post at Upper Greasewood, between Lukachukai and Tsaile.

In 1966, back in Flagstaff, I started working as Preparator at the Museum of Northern Arizona, under Barton Wright, the Kachina expert, and helping out in Clay Lockett’s shop at the museum.

I teamed up with Earl Carpenter, an excellent landscape painter from Sedona, who had gone full-time a couple of years previous. He was wanting to paint Indians and Reservation scenes, and I wanted to learn all I could from someone who was managing to support himself with his art. Darned few were in those days. We camped and painted all over the Indian country, and Earl persuaded me to try oils. We went out every time I could get a day or more off.

At work, I was spending more time on my sketches than on Museum business.
Ned Danson, the Museum Director took me aside, one day, and said:
"Your mind really isn't on your work here, is it?"
"No, sir, " I answered.
"You'd really rather be painting, wouldn't you?"
"Yes, Sir."
"Then go paint. And if you stick with it, I think you might be great some day."

"You'd really rather be painting, wouldn't you?"

Well, that’s all I needed to hear. I had been planning to quit in a few months, anyway, as soon as I had my courage up, and enough money saved. I’ve often wondered if I would ever have had the nerve, or "enough" money.

I will be forever grateful to both Dr. Danson and Earl Carpenter. Without their encouragement, and Earl’s example, I might never have made it.


Upper Greasewood Springs, Arizona
Oil on Paper
12 x 16 inches
Original is NFS, click here for available fine art reproduction


Saturday, September 7, 1968:

Up early and hard at it. Did 2 oil on w/c paper characters. Came out real good. Nice effect, too. Could sell very reasonably at $20-25 apiece, and still make wages. So I can paint more. Afternoon -- personal problems. By night very depressed. Financial problems acute. $14.00 left. Rent overdue -- no prospects. Called Dr(?) Gordon. He was supposed to call back but didn’t. Don’t know what to do. Started a landscape on w/c paper -- oil. Bit of a fight.

Soon after, I met with a Flagstaff man who agreed to stake me with a $650.00 check if I would return to Greasewood for three months, and bring back enough work to allow him first choice of at least ten 16" x 20" and twenty 8" x 10" paintings.

Sunday, September 8, 1968:

Eugene R. Gordon wrote out a check for $650.00 for 2 1/2 months at Greasewood! Took 5 paintings and bear claw necklace as collateral. Leaving next weekend. Close enough, huh? By hell, this is the beginning I’ve dreamed of for years.
That was the chance I’d been waiting for. Two and a half months with nothing to do but paint. I borrowed my dad’s camper, which we set up on stands behind the trading post. I spent every day painting, sketching, and walking or riding the washes and hills surrounding the trading post. In the evenings I painted, visited with Clarence Wheeler, the trader, or went with my friend Johnson James to ceremonials, where I sketched and watched in wide eyed wonder.

At the end of the three months, Gordon took his choice of the paintings, then said to me, on a Wednesday:

"We’re having a Christmas party at our house on Friday evening. Just coffee and cookies for some friends. I want you to have these paintings signed and framed and ready for a showing then, because I have to recoup some of my investment."

I said "OK," and went to work. That Friday, with no publicity, and after hiding all his favorites upstairs, we sold over $2,000.00 worth of paintings.

He asked me what I wanted to do next. I told him I needed a year, at $600.00 a month. By he following day, he had put together a group to sponsor the year. They were to divide all I could produce at a monthly meeting at which they drew straws for first choice, second choice, and so on. I was on my way, and I’ve never looked back.


I opened my home in Flagstaff, by appointment, as a Studio/Gallery in 1969, and continued spending time during the summer months painting in Taos


In 1970, I had my first one man show at the dynamic Avis Read's "Stables Gallery" IN Scottsdale, Arizona. The show was a success, but I had grown accustomed, along with Earl Carpenter, to showing and selling my own work directly to clients from Palm Springs to Tucson and Taos, and seldom had enough pieces together at one time for a one man show.


In 1970, I moved to Pojoaque, near Santa Fe, and lived on Las Acequias, the beautiful estate of Louise Trigg McKinney, and began showing with Margaret Jamison Gallery, when it was across from the La Fonda Hotel.

This was followed by a move to Blue, Arizona, on the Blue River, along the Arizona New Mexico border, at the end of a thirty five mile dirt road, to live in an 1880s log cabin. My studio was an old bunk house on top of a log barn.

I painted in oils, mostly Indians, or Indian related subjects, until 1973, when I put together another sponsorship which allowed me to paint in Mexico for six months.


In 1974, I tried some pastels, and found them so intriguing that I worked in them exclusively for about three years, but with the same subject matter


In 1977, I switched over to oil pastels, and quit painting Indian subjects. I was feeling burned out, and as though I’d been run over by the band-wagon of Indian-subject-popularity. It seemed the subject had become more important than the work. I painted landscapes, people, still lifes, just about everything for a year or so. I also did a few large Kachina faces in oil pastel on canvas, which I found very satisfying.


In 1979, a friend, Herb Owens, then owner of Turf Paradise, and one of only two or three clients who stuck with me when I quit painting Indians, asked if I would paint a portrait of his race horse. I declined. Over the next few days, though, the idea sort of worked on me, as did some pressing bills. I called him up, and said,

"Alright, if you were serious; I’m ready."

Now, I’d always thought that if you could draw a tree, you could draw a house. If you could draw a house, you could draw a face, if you could draw a face, you could draw…, etc. So, a horse, contrary to popular belief, couldn’t be any more difficult to draw than any thing else. I was wrong. That damn horse portrait was the hardest thing I’d ever tackled. I stayed with it, though, and when I was satisfied, I took it to show Herb. He was delighted. He said, "That's how Believe a Little used to look!"


At about that time, I decided to go back to oils, using just the primary colors and white, as opposed to the hundred or so colors I was accustomed to. I had seen a group of beautiful plein-air paintings by Ned Jacob in Taos years before. Bettina Steinke told me Ned had painted them using just the primaries. When I discovered what had happened to the price of oil paints while I'd been working in dry media, I suddenly got up the courage to finally try it myself. Also, I wanted to try some more horse paintings, just to see if they really were that difficult. Remuda, my first effort sold immediately to the first person who saw it.


One day, as I was passing the Sheriff’s Posse rodeo grounds in Phoenix, I decided to stop and photograph a group of horses. Somehow, though, I found myself in a pen with a bunch of roping steers, photographing them instead, and wondering what the heck I would ever do with all those photographs. I sure didn’t intend to paint any cows. Before I new what was happening, I had done two large paintings of steers, one of which won Best of Show and the Purchase Award at the State Capitol Celebration of the Arts Exhibit. For seven years, excepting commissions, I painted nothing but cattle and horses. These were not western subjects, really, as I painted race horses and Arabians as well as rodeo stock. In cattle, I found my subjects at auctions, slaughter houses and rodeos. I was mostly interested in subtle colors, textures, shapes, and arrangements of form.


I began showing with Suzanne Brown Gallery in 1979, at about the same time that I started getting commissions from large corporations like IBM , Texas Instruments, and Arco Alaska.

In 1981, I became the first Arizona artist with a major work in the then prestigious ARCO collection, in Los Angeles. In 1982, I was commissioned by ARCO ALASKA to do a large painting of Caribou for their offices in Alaska. I went to Anchorage, spent a week there, and flew with a local bush pilot, 200 miles out to a frozen lake where we landed in the middle of a herd of caribou. He was the only pilot in town who would chance the flight, due to weather conditions, and having to fly back through the mountains after dark.

In 1983 I was commissioned to do a 20 by 30 foot mural for the Southern California headquarters of Wells Fargo Bank in Los Angeles. That took most of a year, and was the most exciting thing I had ever done. (The building was later sold, and the mural, painted on 20 individually stretched linen canvases, now hangs in Phoenix’ Sky Harbor Airport.)


Six weeks in Europe, in 1984, resulted in a series of paintings of horses taken from Old Master paintings. This series continues, and has grown to include dogs and still life as well as horses.

A visit to the caves at Font de Gaume, near Lascaux, changed my thinking about art. Everything done since, seemed to me to be merely vain strivings.


In 1986, I picked up some watercolors, just to play around, and suddenly remembered that this had been my first love. My lungs were giving me some trouble, and I had a lot of ideas that I hadn’t been getting to in oil, so I switched to watercolor. Now I could paint anything, anywhere. And I did. From trucks passing on the highway to fly fishing. From Mexican markets to trains. From people to still lifes. And the paint itself was thrilling.

In 1987, I returned to Mexico, and to Europe. And I took my watercolors with me.


In 1994, I felt the need to again do some larger pieces. I turned to acrylic on canvas and began, again, painting the large animal and Kachina images. By combining the large, developed pieces with the smaller , more spontaneous watercolors, I had found a satisfying and productive balance in my work.


The acrylics finally gave way to a return to working in oils, thanks to advances in solvent replacement (I now use walnut oil, exclusively when painting in oils.) and some healing on my part.

Horses remain a major part of my work; as they provide both a continual challenge and a satisfying means of dealing with issues of importance to me, such as composition, design, and the effects of light on the subject.


In 2001, on an extended visit to Mexico, I attended the first of many Charreadas (Mexican Rodeos) and was so taken by the color, costumes, and family oriented events, that I immediately began a new ongoing series of paintings depicting the Charro, or Mexican Cowboy.

Following two trips to Argentina in 2008, I started another ongoing series, this time featuring the colorful horse culture of the Gaucho.


I started a blog in 2010 featuring a new painting every day, which ran continuously for over four years. I still maintain the blog, A Farnsworth A Day (, but have recently broadened the scope while altering the frequency of posts.
Also, starting in 2010, I maintained a daily photo blog, When a Painter Snaps (, for just over three years.

I teach painting workshops, ranging from a two day intensive (Un)limited Palette (painting with the primaries only), to week-long versions of the same.

I also teach Digital Photography, with an emphasis on seeing potential images, capturing them, and taking them beyond the snapshot.

Past workshops have varied from week-long camping trips in Arizona’s Canyon de Chelly to Luxury accommodations in France, Spain and Peru. Horses are often, but not always involved.

I am currently putting together a workshop on Computers for Artists, with an emphasis on the iPhone and iPad.

If you would like me to speak, demonstrate, or teach in your area, for an artist’s group, school, or museum, give me a call at 505 982-4561, and let’s see what we can put together. Or drop me a line at