Ideas are all around. It's up to Damon Farmer as the artist to transform those "images in his mind" into visual art on blank canvases in his home studio near the Kentucky River. "I just sit down and start painting. That's ideal. If I have the idea, if it's fresh - I can get it (on a canvas) before it gets fuzzy," he says during an interview in the Rich Gallery at the Woodford County Library, which hosts "Nemo's Daughter and other Paintings by Damon Farmer," through July 28. From an eye for the unusual or unlikely comes paintings that are beyond normal reality. "We already have reality so the fun thing (for me as an artist) is to go beyond that and add elements that make it fantastical," says Farmer. For him, art has always stoked his imagination. Satisfaction comes from creating an image with its own reality that's visually interesting and makes someone think - or smile. "I'd be happy if (my art) gives them a smile, a little joy," says Farmer. "All of these (paintings in the library art show) are very whimsical and fun. And I hope that transfers to the viewer." Farmer doesn't know where his idea to paint a sailing ship in the forest arose, but he enjoys painting both subjects. "To me," he says, "that seemed like sort of a natural combination - even though it's a very unnatural scene." Another painting in his art show at the Woodford County Library depicts two turtles playing a game of chess. "It seemed a natural thing," explains Farmer, "because it's classically such a slow game and turtles are naturally very slow..." Nature's landscapes, wildlife and mechanical subjects such as the submarine in "Nemo's Daughter" fascinate Farmer. "Why paint things you don't like?" he asks. Best known for creating three-dimensional sand sculptures, Farmer says he enjoys working with color when painting. In this way, both creative outlets inspire him while also helping him avoid getting burned out in either visual art. "I wouldn't want to do one thing all of the time," he says. "For me, it's more than an (artistic) outlet. It's my profession," explains Farmer. "I do all kinds of art things, really, whatever comes along..." He's been commissioned to paint a mural for the Family Care Center, a clinic of the UK Albert B. Chandler Hospital in Lexington. "It'll be something very whimsical, fantastical ... Because it's a big, high wall - much taller than it is wide - it'll probably be a giant sort of Swiss Family Robinson tree house with flying machines around it, and kids playing." Other professional opportunities included doing murals at three Kroger locations, including its Marketplace store in Versailles, as well as painting six bear sculptures for public display in the City of Pikeville. Farmer, who has lived in Woodford County with his wife, Beth Kirchner, since 1994, feels lucky that he's been able to make a living as an artist since 1977. It wasn't always easy, and it didn't happen overnight, but he's been able to carve out a career as an artist who also does commissioned sand sculptures in locations around the world. He credits Kirchner for being a positive influence in his life spiritually - giving him faith that the next job will come along, while also being his best critic. "She gives me input that I trust and value tremendously," says Farmer. Kirchner - and her faith that everything will work out - also helped him through an uncertain time in his life. While in Port Angeles, Wash., for a sand-sculpture competition several years ago, Farmer saw a dip in the Pacific Ocean while looking out at the horizon, which he knew was impossible. He was also bothered by a shadow - like he couldn't fully open the eyelid of his right eye. Farmer immediately telephoned his wife and she called his Versailles optometrist. Dr. Richard Drayer knew from his symptoms that Farmer had a detached retina and needed to return home for surgery. If everyone had not acted so quickly, Farmer says, he would've likely lost the vision in his right eye, which would have affected his depth perception and made doing sand sculpture art very problematic. Standing on six-inch-wide ledges, while creating massive sand sculptures, would likely not have been doable without the use of both eyes. "I did have faith that things would be okay. Even if I lost (the vision) of one eye, it would be okay," says Farmer. A reception for "Nemo's Daughter and Other Paintings" will be held Sunday, June 18, in the gallery at the Woodford County library from 2 to 4 p.m. Everyone is welcome and refreshments will be served.
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