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Examiner
  • Frank Haight: From Truman High to the Texas sky

  • Dennis Farris grew up in Independence excelling in what he loved doing most – drawing.



    “There were about four or five of us that could draw better than almost anyone else in second and third grade,” Dennis says, recalling those same artistic classmates were in his art classes at Truman High School when he graduated in 1982.

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  • Dennis Farris grew up in Independence excelling in what he loved doing most – drawing.
    “There were about four or five of us that could draw better than almost anyone else in second and third grade,” Dennis says, recalling those same artistic classmates were in his art classes at Truman High School when he graduated in 1982.
    As the award-winning art student pondered his future, he opted to devote his life to art, improving his God-given abilities and making a name for himself as a landscape artist and sculptor.
    For Dennis, who graduated with a degree in fine arts from Central Missouri State University in 1987, art is much more than a hobby. It’s a passion.
    “It’s part of my DNA. It’s something you do,” says Dennis, who launched his artistic career as a freelance illustrator. The son of Sandy Morris, Dennis now lives in Fort Worth, Texas, and specializes in realistic landscapes focusing on the grandeur and atmosphere of Texas and Western landscapes.
    On a recent visit to Independence, he said that stylistically, he loves painting a scene on a two-dimensional piece of canvas and making it appear as though it’s fading off into the distance.
    “I love that atmospheric perspective ... so that is why I probably got into landscaping,” says Dennis, who spent three weeks last September as an artist-in-residence painting realistic Western landscapes on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Under the umbrella of the National Park Service, Dennis lived in a two-room cabin on the rim of the breathtaking canyon.
    The artist-in-residence program, he says, “helps promote the national parks and carry on the tradition of how the parks started way back when artist would go and paint pictures of what they looked like.”
    Dennis, though, didn’t live a hermit’s life during his three-week adventure that took him remote parts of the spacious Arizona park. He did three painting demonstrations for park visitors, mingling with them at the lodge and answering their questions.
    Then he had the company of two companions, an artist friend who painted with him over a weekend, and his wife, Vivi, who spent four days with Dennis exploring the rim and the canyon floor.
    Says Dennis: “We hiked (14 miles) to the bottom of the canyon and I carried my paint gear down. We did a couple of paintings at the bottom. Then we hiked back up.”
    Painting wasn’t the only thing Dennis did on the canyon rim. He also took photographs. Lots of landscape photographs.
    “I was doing a lot of photo efforts to take back and choose from,” he says, explaining he charted out where he wanted to go and what parts of the canyon he wanted to see. Then he had to decide what time of the day he wanted to shoot a particular picture – in the morning or in the evening.
    Page 2 of 2 - Dennis did all the charting on his own, he says, because the park rangers didn’t want to get too involved.
    “They were pretty much hands-off. They wanted the artists to kind of experience it on their own and get whatever out of it that they are going to get out of it.”
    However, rangers did provide him with a few much-appreciated hints and tips.
    Dennis returned home from the canyon with 16 small fine-air field sketches, all 14- by-18- inches. In his Fort Worth studio, he painted much larger landscapes from the photographs he had taken. Those measured 30-by-40 or 40-by-48.
    What effect did the Grand Canyon experience have on his life?
    “Careerwise,” he says, “it opens doors because it is a feather in your cap to say you were an artist-in-residence at the North Rim. You are a somebody.”
    But that’s not all.
    “It was a wonderful resume builder,” he says, in that he was able to obtain “a wealth of reference material” that will enable him to continue to paint in the Grand Canyon and to build his resume.
    Dennis also was artist-in-residence for Zion National Park in 2010, and recently spent four days in Big Bend National Park in southern Texas along the Mexican border, where he completed eight small landscapes.
    Looking back on last year’s Grand Canyon experience, Dennis says his most crystallized memory was the smell of the Ponderosa Pines.
    “In the evening the sun would come in low and heat up the trees and the bark, and you could just walk through this forest and there is a vanilla smell. It was just delightful.”
    When it comes to selling his paintings, Dennis leaves the marketing to three galleries: Sage Creek Gallery, Santa Fe, N.M.; Harris Gallery, Houston, Texas; and Galerie Kornye West, Fort Worth, Texas.
    “I paint pictures and hopefully they sell them,” says Dennis, who says retirement is not in his future or vocabulary.
    “I don’t think I will ever retire,” he quips, explaining he plans to continue painting as long as there is something to paint. Then he adds: “I don’t know if there is one subject matter I would not want to paint.”
    When Dennis isn’t painting, you’ll find him sculpting – something he’s been doing since 1995 when he was drawn to beautiful figurative bronzes in a little gallery he was strolling through.
    On his website - farrisart.com – Dennis writes: “I knew I had to create such work myself and express myself in this medium. I found a new path that day. I know I will be sculpting for the rest of my life.”
     
     Retired community news reporter Frank Haight Jr. writes this column for The Examiner. You can leave a message for him at  816-350-6363.

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