This is an autobiography, written in the third person. For an outsider’s account, see Jennifer May’s article, “An Artist’s Tale,” based on a September 27th, 2000 interview.
Youth and Background

WARREN was born January 21, 1949 in Fort Wayne, Indiana, the first child of Glen and Harriette Slutz (pronounced Slootz). His paternal ancestry included Methodist clergy, his mother came from a family of classical musicians. While still an infant his family moved to Indianapolis, where he spent his childhood. In March of 1951 his brother Garry was born.

Warren’s was a Fifties suburban upbringing— he enjoyed art, games, cars, and trains. Dad worked as an editor at Howard W. Sams Company, a publisher of television repair manuals, while Mom stayed home and looked after the family. By the time his sister Lori was born in 1958 his father was diagnosed with leukemia, dying of that illness two years later.

In 1962 his mother married Bill Farr, a widower with three children of his own— Linda, John, and Robert (Bob). Warren, Garry, and Lori changed their surnames from Slutz to Farr, per parental request. In 1966 the conjoined family moved to Paducah, Kentucky, his adopted father’s hometown. (Family members have remained in the area ever since.)

After graduation from high school in 1967, Warren attended Paducah Community College prior to transferring to the University of Kentucky to major in architecture. While in Lexington he helped try to save three blocks of historic buildings on High Street, an unsuccessful fight that ended at the doorstep of the United States Supreme Court.

His college advisor, himself a serious painter, suggested to Warren that he transfer to art school. While he was attracted to the idea, he felt that the only prospects for an art major were teaching or commercial art, neither of which seemed right for him at the time.

Instead he left college and looked for work there in Lexington and then back in Indianapolis, where he worked briefly as a drafting trainee. The job market was tight, especially for someone with little or no experience.

Pencil Pusher

Returning to Paducah, Warren obtained employment as a draftsman at CTS, a manufacturer of loudspeakers, enabling him to give up a rented two-room downtown for a used 10’x50’ mobile home which, with a $500 down payment and a three-year $1,600 loan repayable at $50 a month, he was able to purchase for $2,100.

During off-hours he pursued a variety of interests— chess, numismatics (early U.S. cents by die variety), reading, and listening to music. Weekends began with Friday-evening dinner at his maternal grandmother’s. Saturdays included walks downtown, for exercise and to shop for coins, books, or records. Sunday morning there was church, at First Presbyterian.

Despite this schedule he still found time for art, developing a laborious still-life technique in pencil, inspired by the William Harnett school of flat-object still-life painting. Before long he was entering small drawings in local and regional shows with modest success, including a Best of Show award for Account Closed, a drawing of a returned check.

Happiness over these early successes was interrupted in late 1972 by another family tragedy— his brother Garry died of nephritis, after an unsuccessful, years-long wait for a transplant.

As his technical skill with a pencil improved, compositions devolved in a few cases into single pieces of printed matter centered on plain backgrounds, rendered photo-realistically with all text fully readable.

Warren was also starting to write, completing four of a projected series of ten short stories inspired by the stories of Robert Lowry and centering around a generic protagonist named Sam, whose surrealistic adventures stretched absurdity to the comic. The series was never finished, nor was any of it submitted for publication.

During his youth and teenage years he’d enjoyed designing board games. Now he came up with what he thought was his first really good one, Magganon, a two-player stratagem in which squares of the board invert as the players move off of them, continually changing the possible moves. However attempts to submit it for publication were unsuccessful.

By about 1980 his drawing had become intense and obsessive, two works in particular— Old Money and I’ll Believe Anything, neither a large work— having required 400 hours each to complete. With a dead-end job and art productivity low, perhaps it was time for something new.

Computer Games

In late 1977 Warren’s boss turned up with a strange-looking device. One part resembled a small black-and-white television in a gray case. It was attached by cable to a thick keyboard, to which an ordinary cassette recorder also connected, the only way to save programs. It was the TRS-80 computer, put out by Radio Shack.

Featuring 4K of memory standard, the boss had splurged— this one had already been upgraded to 16K. It had a primitive form of BASIC built in, designed by a small company he’d never heard of named Microsoft. The instruction manual hadn’t even been printed yet— it came with only a crude pamphlet consisting of a few sheets fastened with staples.

His only computer course had been Fortran back in college, which required a computer that filled a room. Opening the pamphlet he typed in and ran the simple graphics programs and games. Could it really be this easy, he asked himself. He wanted one of his own but they cost six hundred dollars. A couple years passed before he finally got one.

He soon had a elaborate computer game designed, called Caver, inspired by the great caves of Kentucky and their stories. It was submitted to a software publisher, accepted, and a contract was signed. It was followed by Compu-opoly, a TRS-80 version of Monopoly, and Money Pit, a strategy game with a treasure-hunting theme.

All were placed with different companies, but only Compu-opoly was ever published. Despite rave reviews sales were poor, paying royalties totaling only $40. He also got an Atari 800 computer, given to him by the would-be publisher of Money Pit to convert that game.

By the time he gave up on computer games he had the high-speed graphics engine designed that would render in smooth 3D what would have been his fourth game, Train Raid, a simulation based on Andrew’s locomotive chase during the Civil War.

He considered making one last attempt, the result of an inquiry to yet another new firm, but disillusioned with gone-in-a-wink software publishers decided against it.

This one claimed to treat their designers like rock superstars, complete with publicists, hip-looking outfits, and photo sessions. While doubting the upstart would ever succeed, he did like its name— Electronic Arts.

Oils on Panel

A plant closing had ended a full-time drafting job, seven years later another plant closing ended a part-time drafting job, and by late 1985 Warren was drawing unemployment.

He’d always wanted to paint, particularly dark, Ryderesque paintings in brooding layers of oil. He went to K-Mart, purchased a package of canvas panels, and set to work on a series of introspective night scenes. Soon he was hooked.

By the end of 1986, his first full year of working in oil, he had completed a dozen Nightscapes, as he called them, won awards, and made sales. He switched from the technically-inferior canvas panels to one-quarter-inch-thick gessoed hardboard panels.

He was also on the way to significantly increasing the contrast of textures within each work: smooth, translucent night and twilight skies literally poured on the panel gave contrast to opaque, gritty grounds laboriously tamped, onto which were often added sculptural relief-elements.

These and similar efforts led one Corcoran Biennial reviewer a few years later to complimentarily describe his work as idiosyncratic, meticulous, obsessive (IMO). He got a couple grants, and with further help from his parents sold his trailer and bought a house, with space enough in two of its rooms to set up a gallery-like display area.

But as with the drawing, the idiosyncratic painting style slowed as it became more meticulous and obsessive: one painting, Mammoth Mine Entrance— again not a large work— alone required 2000 hours to complete. Consequently his output was small and his income sporadic.

The social side of his life was faring only slightly better. He started throwing parties, and taught himself how to drink— first on the rocks and later straight up. While he had developed several solid friendships over the years and was coming in contact with many women, as a self-described ultra-romantic few of the latter met his expectations.

Poetry and Prose

In search of a new social outlet, Warren joined Poets of the Western Rivers, a local writing group. Here he began to experiment with and develop an eight-line fixed form of verse that he came to call duo-quatrain, or duoquat.

Although the group lacked single women his age, he kept attending, eventually writing through his loneliness with several hundred duoquats, many dealing in a light way with relations between the sexes. Few were submitted for publication.

Only the first forty were collected and self-published in a chapbook of love poems, distributed mostly to friends. A handful of the remainder appeared in The Open Door, a local literary journal. (He hopes to eventually make the bulk available to interested parties on his website,

Later he began to get serious about philosophic authorship, beginning work on Faith by Reason: Being, Purpose, and Salvor— With HiKues and Forecasts, a projected six-volume work on speculative metaphysics— part eccentric, part humorous— with maybe some decent stuff thrown in. Its motivating concept is a theism/atheism called unitheism.

Size Matters

Back at the easel things had really slowed. To realize more of his ideas Warren began a series of even smaller works, five by six inches versus his fourteen by eighteen standard. Later, to make increasingly-affordable works, he began yet another diminutive (five by seven) series of monochromatics in carbon black only, eliminating all layering.

Finally in the late Nineties he commenced his Car Series, his largest works yet, at thirty by twenty-two inches. Planned for years, he had a slide he’d made from the driver’s seat of his old Mustang II. From this he made a stencil to trace on each panel— only the image through the window and rearview mirror would differ.

While the paintings have texture and some relief characteristics, the elimination of sculpted buildup and micro-detail reduced the execution time to a fraction of that spent on Nightscapes, despite the larger size. Thus the asking prices too could be more than halved. While finances were still tight, it made a difference.

He finally began to see signs of social success. He developed a style of humor and taught himself a few parlor tricks. Growing his hair long, he further expanded his network of friends. Now if he spends a weekend alone it’s usually by choice.

Exhibitions and Awards

Warren Farr’s work has been shown in regional and national exhibitions, including the 1995 New Orleans Triennial at the New Orleans Museum of Art in New Orleans, Louisiana; the 41st Biennial Exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.; and The Kentuckians: 1987 at the Owensboro Museum of Fine Art in Owensboro, Kentucky and the National Arts Club in New York, New York.

Also the 1996 Southeastern Triennial Exhibition at the Mobile Museum of Art in Mobile, Alabama; the 1993 and 1994 Cheekwood Nationals at the Cheekwood Museum of Art in Nashville, Tennessee; the 1992 Water Tower Annual in Louisville, Kentucky; and in 1991, Common Ground at the Atlanta College of Art in Atlanta, Georgia, and the Columbia Museum in Columbia, South Carolina.

One and two person shows include Automotive (2001) and From Dusk to Dawn: Paintings and Drawings of Warren Farr (1997), both at the Yeiser Art Center in Paducah, Kentucky; and Farr/ Hunt at the New Harmony Gallery of Contemporary Art in New Harmony, Indiana (1990).

His work is in public collections: Evansville Museum of Arts and Science in Evansville, Indiana; East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, Tennessee; and the Yeiser Art Center.

Corporate collections are: Computer Services, Inc. and Jackson Purchase Energy in Paducah, Hilliard and Lyons in Louisville, and Owensboro National Bank in Owensboro. Also many private collections.

Honors include a 1996 Museum Guild Purchase Award from the Evansville Museum of Arts and Science, a 1988 Award of Excellence from the Huntington Museum of Art in Huntington, West Virginia, and numerous other awards.

He has received a 1990 Southern Arts Federation fellowship, a 1992 grant from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, and on two occasions— 1998 and 1987— individual artist fellowships from the Kentucky Arts Commission.

Warren has been listed in recent editions of Who’s Who in America. He currently maintains a studio and gallery at his home in Paducah, Kentucky.        About Me Mainpage        Back to Reviews        On to Resume

guestbook - contact
© 2006 Warren Farr, revised 4/24