PO Box 1962 / Ranchos de Taos / New Mexico / 87557 / 505.982.4561 / info@johnfarnsworth.com

I originally intended to paint these two subjects each in his own separate painting, but on completing a painting of the Bouvier on the right, I realized that these two pals really belonged together. I also recalled the owners' pride in their stone fountain, and decided to include it in the composition.

These Caribou were painted following an exciting trip to Alaska in 1982, when I was commissioned by ARCO ALASKA to do a large painting

of Caribou for their offices. 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 threatening weather conditions, and having to fly back through the mountains after dark.

Wejna, by the way, is, according to Bruce Chatwin in his book, IN PATAGONIA, a Yaghan word meaning 'to be loose or easily moved as a broken bone or the blade of a knife' - 'to be attached yet loose, as an eye or bone in its socket' - 'to swing, move or travel' - or simply 'to exist or be'. I found the Caribou to be homely, awkward looking creatures when standing still, yet beautiful and graceful and fluid when in motion.

CABALLOS PERUANOS ~ Oil on Canvas ~ 42" x 72"

This commissioned portrait of Peruvian Pasos is in the collection of Terry and Roberta Ellis, Green Gate Ranch, New Ulm, Texas.

Scroll down for an explanation of the process involved in creating this commissioned equine portrait, and for an unsolicited testimonial from the owner.

These were preliminary watercolor studies for the painting Caballos Peruanos.

This was the final, agreed upon study, computer generated, and based on elements taken from the first three.


Oil on Canvas

24" x 36"


Commissioned portrait of the lovely Carolyn Duval and her fabulous Appaloosa stallion, Cowboy.


Phoenix Gazette

April 10 - 16, 1985

John Farnsworth: "When you paint Rubens' horse, you tend to want to replicate it because it's already so fantastic.

John Farnsworth is loath to talk about himself. The artist, 44, spends most of his time on his painting, not on seek-and-destroy publicity missions.


"There's all this desperation in this business," he complained, "that I can hardly stand it. I don't object to publicity, but it's not the main thing in my life."


"I guess I think it's unfortunate that paintings aren't like some basic necessity, like sheets and pillow cases," Farnsworth continued. "It's a shame people don't need art, because then you could just go about your business. It's got a sort of correlation with movies -- There are just a handful of actors and a whole lot of movie stars."


Principles are the only thing standing in the way of Farnsworth and vast commercial success. A few years ago, Farnsworth was painting small watercolors and selling them for $500 -- until someone commented that he was giving them away. "My response to that was just to stop doing them," he said. "Besides, I get bogged down."


You could do a lot of things just for the money, he commented, but what would you have?


"You'd have a pile of dollars," he answered his own question, "but

"I haven't resolved these conflicts," Farnsworth said. When you paint Rubens' horse, you tend to want to replicate it because it's already so fantastic."


"I get lost in it," he continued. "There's so many tangled ways to go about it. I love Uccello, but they wouldn't work. They're bordering on being unbelievable already, they're so carousel-like."


What Farnsworth is doing, basically, is taking relatively small and minor sections of great (sometimes not-so-great) works of art and recasting them with a technique that recalls the Dutch and Flemish masters.


"I had all these problems," he explained. "Would you do it like my technique or like theirs? How would you set parameters? If I were Roy Lichtenstein, I'd do it in dots, like a benday pattern. If I were Bill Schenck, I'd posterize it. 


"It could be a painting of my imagined idea of the horse that he painted or it could be a painting of his paint," Farnsworth convoluted. "I have to know well enough so I can defend it all when it's finished."


As yet, the series is unnamed, but no matter. despite the problems of resolution, Farnsworth is enjoying the work. these horses of art legend, with silky manes flying and nostrils flaring, are far more fun to paint than his tired, battered rodeo steeds of a few years ago. He admits that.


"I can play with things that I can't do with regular horses," he said.


Farnsworth pointed out that in David's portrait of Napoleon, the horse goes ignored.


"You know," he said, "sometimes in a movie I like the character actors better than the stars. Nobody gets to see the horse in that painting -- because you're looking at Napoleon. that horse needs to have a painting of its own."


Farnsworth, at the brink of this exciting new direction in his work, is man enough and artist enough to give these once-painted animals new life.


In addition to his latest work, he also has been commissioned to paint a mural for the new library at Judson School. Farnsworth may be reached through Jerre Barber Wick at 994-4137.

they'd be so hollow. I guess I'm this foolish romantic who thinks that someday, someone will actually look at a painting and say,


 Something should be done with this.'"

People these days are actually looking at Farnsworth's work and doing something about the dramatic new direction his paintings are taking. His work is not in any Valley gallery -- basically because he paints only six or eight paintings a year. He is, however, represented by Jerre Barber wick through her company, Art Investment Consultants.


And when Ms. Wick's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Jerry D. Barber, saw Farnsworth's latest paintings, they immediately bought them. Both the works, Schreyer's Arab and Prado Rubens No. 1, hang prominently in the Barbers' Paradise Valley home as part of their collection.


A native of Williams, Farnsworth knocked around for years doing just about every type of work imaginable, although he knew at age 9 that he was an artist -- not going to be one, he was one.


He has been working on it ever since then, and finally was fed up with being a truck driver, a dishwasher, a garbage collector, or a draftsman, and made the jump feet-first into art as a full-time occupation.


"I painted everything, just like everyone else," Farnsworth explained, "but I painted Indians when I started painting full time. It gave me a theme to work in, but I can paint landscapes, animals, people."


"About the only people painting Indians when I started were Brownell McGrew and Paul Dyck, and a couple of others, and the first thing I knew, this bandwagon came thundering up from behind and ran over me," he said with a chuckle.


For about 10 years, Farnsworth painted his Indian subjects, every one he could find. Then, one day, he just stopped. 


That was not the coolest move I could have made," he said. "I have only two of the old collectors or clients who stayed with me since then."


What to paint now? Fortunately for Farnsworth and the way things turned out later, a client who also was a horse owner commissioned the artist for a portrait of his racehorse.

That first commission launched him into the world of animals of all types -- most particularly horses and cows, although he has done elephants and, most recently, a ram for the Phoenix Zoo.


The cow long has been an art subject, from the ancient Sumerians, Indians, and Persians, right down to the Barbizon and 19th-century American artists and even to Andy Warhol. Farnsworth tackled cattle and horses in a different way, a careful way, a way that worked for him.


Now, this recent departure into animals from other paintings -- the horse in Jacques-Louis David's portrait of Napoleon, for example -- has him stymied. A series is planned around the two paintings in the Jerry D. Barber collection, but Farnsworth is at a loss about how to continue.

Schreyer's Arab, far left, Prado Rubens No. 1, at left.


Oil pastel and colored pencil on Masonite

36 x 48 inches


This was my first horse portrait, commissioned in 1979. Because of this painting, horses are still an important part of my work today.

Oil on canvas
36" X 72"
(See above)
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, feed lots and rodeos. I was mostly interested in subtle colors, textures, shapes, and arrangements of form.

HORSE PORTRAITS, from the Lone Star Letter, June, 2003


In the last issue of the newsletter, I wrote about the painting of our horses which we commissioned and the artist, John Farnsworth. We spend most of the summer at our house in Taos, New Mexico, where he works.


When we arrived in Taos this year, we walked to his gallery to see how the painting was coming along. Were we surprised to see it finished and hanging in the most prominent spot! It is 42 inches by 72 inches and truly spectacular. It depicts two of our stallions on either side of three mares.


The gallery had an open house, which we attended, and visitors and local artists were extremely complimentary of the painting. Several people wanted to buy it:


John said he really enjoyed doing the painting and hates to see it leave. He said it is like having a child leave home. Fred Rowan of Cassique Plantation has commissioned a similar painting of his horses. Fred's horses are staying at our ranch at the moment and John took photos of Fred's horses as well as ours in preparation for organizing the paintings' composition.


John sent several watercolors to us and we picked the poses we liked from each for the final painting. We don't look forward to Texas in the summer, but we'll be taking the painting home and can hardly wait to see how it looks in our house.


Anyone interested can check out the finished painting in color at www.johnfarnsworth.com - click on "What's New," If you would like to commission a painting of your horses, please contact John. He is a delight to work with as is his wife, Thea.


Roberta Ellis, Green Gate Ranch, New Ulm, Texas


There are two things I love about commissioned work:


1. I like learning about new things and new places, and am always willing and eager to take on assignments involving travel.


2. And, as in the mural STAGE, I especially enjoy the added challenge of doing site-specific work. I am good at working with others, such as clients, architects and designers, in an effort to make the work fit into and enhance their concepts. I take delight in finding novel solutions and inventing new approaches.


Please feel free to call or email me to discuss pricing and scheduling for any projects you have in mind. We also offer an interesting and affordable leasing plan. This is of special interest to restaurants and others in need of works done in series. I have done several of these series, and have others already in mind, but would be most interested in hearing your ideas.


Call 505 982-4561 now to commission an artwork for your home or office.


Terms for commissioned works are: 50% in advance, 50% on completion. Satisfaction Guaranteed. I prefer to work from my own photographs and video, taken in the subject's own familiar surroundings. I will of course consider other reference materials in cases of posthumous portraiture.


WEJNA (Caribou)
Oil on Canvas
40” x 50”
Commissioned by Arco Alaska
Watercolor 30" x 30"
Commissioned by Newt White and Marcee Wallace






This image, featured in SouthwestArt Magazine, resulted in a call from a collector, Terry Sognnaes, who wanted to commission a somewhat similar painting. He pointed out three or four more of my paintings that he liked on my website and asked me to create something along the same lines.


Other than that, he gave me free rein.


Following a brief discussion of his interests, approximate size, pricing, etc., I painted the following four watercolor studies, which I then placed on my website for him to preview. (I usually only do three, but I got carried away) I emailed him the URL for the page, which was not publicly available.






Dusty Study 1

Dusty Study 2

Dusty Study 3

Dusty Study 4

I also included these:

Peruanos Study 3

Caballos Peruanos



I include this just to give you an idea how watercolor studies relate to finished oil paintings. This piece was a commissioned portrait, therefore the sketch was tighter and closer to the final rendition, even, than usual.


Terry liked some things in each of the studies, but was not as interested in white horses. In our subsequent conversations by email, he expressed further interest in aspects of various other paintings he'd seen while browsing my site.

Tres Reyes



History, Mystery, Leisure and Pleasure

I then altered the colors and values in the original, on the computer, and uploaded them to the website for him to see.

Dusty Study 1C

After a little more discussion, I got the feel for what he was after, and came up with this sketch, which Terry accepted.

Dusty Study 5

Oil on Canvas
40" x 50"


Oil on Canvas

36" x 48"

Commissioned by Terry and Eli Sognnaes

A brief description of the creative process involved in a commissioned painting:


Wells Fargo Bank  Mural

Sky Harbor International Airport, Phoenix, Arizona

During the year it took to research and paint STAGE, artist John Farnsworth studied, photographed and sketched Wells Fargo's original Concord stagecoach housed in its San Francisco History Museum. Using 30 panels, each approximately 51 by 53 inches, he projected his final drawing onto the assembled panels and, working from a hydraulic lift, traced and revised his design.


Farnsworth's STAGE is created solely from the three primary colors, mixed by the artist to create the subtle variations which bring the scene to life.


Many of his "models" -- boots, clothing, even certain angles -- are the result of his meticulous study of a collection of Western movies as well as extensive research in the Wells Fargo Archives.



The bearded shotgun rider is Farnsworth himself, dressed in a shirt his grandfather might have worn and a buckskin jacket with furred collar and cuffs, influenced by one worn by Donald Sutherland in a Canadian movie. Farnsworth carries an authentic Wells Fargo & Company shotgun, dating from the 1860's. The artist posed using a video camera and monitor.

The door design is based on a New Hampshire coach painter's interpretation of Albert Bierstadt's YOSEMITE FALLS. Farnsworth's loose translation had to be foreshortened due to the angle of the coach.

Nevertheless, the detail is flawless. 

The Indian standing on the river bank is approximately one quarter inch tall, yet the feather in his headband is clearly detailed.

The tiny figure of the Indian is in sharp contrast with the head of the horse, whose thrusting tongue is highlighted by a single glistening 12-inch brush stroke. The flaring nostril and glaring eye fairly leap from the painting as the horse leans into a bend in the road.

The driver's plain, scuffed and dusty work boots again reflect the Western movie influence, as well as studies of photographs in the Wells Fargo History Museum.

In all of his costuming, Farnsworth seeks to depict the flavor of the period rather than the actual fact.

Others depicted in the painting include Wayne Andersen, the Art Consultant on the project, as driver of the coach, and the artist's daughter, Rosa Farnsworth peering out of the back window.

John Farnsworth, a native of Arizona, has been developing his larger-than-life depictions of horses and cattle since 1977. He excludes extraneous landscape backgrounds from his work, drawing the viewer into direct involvement with his subjects.

Farnsworth has been a professional artist since 1968. His emphasis on large-scale, site-specific corporate, private and public commissions led to his selection by Wells Fargo & Company to create a mural for its Southern California banking headquarters. The mural, which took a year to complete, became the focal point of the building. When the office was later moved to new quarters, the mural no longer could be displayed to its best advantage. 


In 1987, working with Edward Jacobson, a founding member of the Phoenix Arts Commission and a member of the board of the Phoenix Arts Museum, Wells Fargo donated the mural to the Phoenix Arts Commission through Wells Fargo's Arizona-headquartered subsidiary, Wells Fargo Credit Corporation.

Wells Fargo's historic ties with Arizona date back to 1859, when stagecoaches carried mail and passengers on the southern route of the Overland Trail. Farnsworth's Stage, depicting one of the first modes of mass transit, has come home to Arizona, where it is located close to today's most modern and efficient means of transportation.


Stage has been removed from the Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix, as the space it formerly occupied was needed for increased security equipment.

It has been cleaned and restored, and is currently in storage.

If you know of a wall in a public space that is large enough to accommodate this mural, please give me a call at 505 982-4561, and let’s see if we can’t get it moved back out into the light. Airports, museums, and others will be considered.

The Arizona Republic

Sunday, March 24, 1991


John Farnsworth: Painter


By Eileen bailey

Special for the Arizona republic


AGE: 50



Being respected and collected by other artists, and for Stage, a 22- by 28- foot mural in oils commissioned by Wells Fargo Bank, now part of the permanent collection of Sky Harbor International Airport's Terminal 3.


Born in Williams, he has lived in Happy Jack, Ash Fork, Winslow, Flagstaff, Blue River, Wickenburg, Cottonwood, Sedona And Upper Greasewood on the Navajo Reservation. Has had no formal art training.

"Mom was born in Taos, and when I was 9, we went to visit. They kept losing me, because I kept popping into the galleries. I remember seeing a man talking to another man about a painting in one gallery, and I knew then that he was the artist, and that I was, too. Click, like a light bulb. Took me about 20 years before I could paint full-time. That was 1968, and I haven't held an honest job since."



"Got a week? OK -- Sargent, Homer, Hopper, O'Keeffe, Dixon, Bellows, Gramatky, Kosa, Mason, Butterfield. I like anybody who's good."



"I did some drawings about 1961 and put them in Buck Saunders' Trading Post, in Scottsdale, with a little sign, "Your choice, $7.50. “Two or three of them finally sold. I think Buck bought them. I still have a couple"




Voraciously, "mostly fly- fishing magazines and art books. And people like John Gierach, George Kennan, Christina Dodwell, J.M. Cootsee and William Wharton. I haunt book sales. You find some real gems; I hardly ever pay full price for a book."



Marrying Thea. I'd run away with her if I hadn't already."



"Anything Thea cooks. And Mongolian barbecue and Salvadoran food. Or trout just pulled from a stream. Of course, catch-and-release is the thing these days. I do better than that, I don't even catch them, I just make them go around my hook."



A Volkswagen bus, "our home away from home, the Bed Bug."



"Artists. Too much celebrity mentality, not enough people just doing the best job they can."



Fly-fishing and tying flies. "It's relaxing, challenging, and there's always something to learn. And there's a camaraderie like there is among painter. Fly-fishermen are constantly innovating and sharing what they've learned. I tell you what. I'd rather fish than drink. I'd never take another drink if I had to choose between fishing and drinking. Fortunately, I'll never have to make that choice."



Artist John Farnsworth with one section of his "Stage" painting at Sky Harbor.

Huge painting lands inside Sky Harbor

By Lynn Pyne

The Phoenix Gazette

Thursday, November 19, 1987

What do you do with a painting that is one-eighth the size of a basketball court?

In Phoenix, you hang it at the airport -- in the biggest terminal you can find.

Thus, in a dedication ceremony at 4 p.m. today, Sky Harbor International Airport's Terminal 3 will become the new home of "Stage," a 22 x 27 foot Western mural painted by John Farnsworth.

The oil-on-linen painting of a stagecoach is composed of 30 individual canvases. donated by Wells Fargo and Company, the 1981 art work originally graced the walls of Wells Fargo's southern California banking headquarters, but there was no room for it after the company offices were moved.

It came to Phoenix through the efforts of the Phoenix Art Commission, local arts supporter Edward Jacobson and Phoenix Art Museum director James Ballinger.

"It is so large that the only two places in the city it could fit were the airport and the Civic Plaza," airport art curator Lennée Eller says.


See Painting, C-8

Wouldn't you know it? C-8 is missing. I'll add it as soon as one can be located. See below if you want to be notified of changes.  



James Garcia, The Phoenix Gazette


Graphite on Tracing Paper


30" X 48"
Collection: Kristi Skordahl

This is a commissioned portrait of Ned and Ted, the featured horses. The rest of the group I added to the composition, at my discretion, from my own research files. Each added animal was chosen for its contribution to the composition and the “story” of the painting.
PARTNERS (Ned and Ted)
Oil on Masonite
48” x 48”

Photo: Dewain Maney

Back in the late 1960s, while living in Flagstaff, Arizona, I used to recruit Navajo models right off the street to pose for me.

This fine fellow from Gray Mountain, Arizona, can be seen pointing to the small pin he was wearing. He spoke very little English and I spoke even less Navajo, but he managed to explain that the pin was in commemoration of his service during World War II. He had apparently been Army Air Corps, and that’s where he got his nickname. His pride in his service was a reminder of the thousands of brave Navajo who lined up, carrying their deer rifles, to volunteer for the military as soon as they heard we had a common enemy.





Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

This is a human-readable summary of the Legal Code (the full license).


You are free to share, copy, distribute and transmit the work Under the following conditions:

You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work).

You may not use this work for commercial purposes.

No Derivative Works
You may not alter, transform, or build upon this work.

With the understanding that:

Any of the above conditions can be waived if you get permission from the copyright holder.

Public Domain
Where the work or any of its elements is in the public domain under applicable law, that status is in no way affected by the license.

Other Rights
In no way are any of the following rights affected by the license:

Your fair dealing or fair use rights, or other applicable copyright exceptions and limitations;

The author's moral rights;

Rights other persons may have either in the work itself or in how the work is used, such as publicity or privacy rights.

Notice — For any reuse or distribution, you must make clear to others the license terms of this work. The best way to do this is with a link to this web page.