Smile Politely

Artist of the Corridor with Carol Farnum

From now through February 15th, 2015 the City of Urbana is holding its latest Artist of the Corridor exhibition featuring Urbana artist Carol Farnum. Farnum has been an abstract expressionist for over thirty years and has worked mainly in watercolors, and more recently, acrylics. She describes her work as an expression of the world around us — as people, of our raw human nature and emotional depth. I had the opportunity to sit down and talk more in-depth with her about her paintings, what she’s learned from her experiences, and what she hopes others will take away from her work.


Smile Politely: How did you get started as a painter?

Carol Farnum: It’s just one of those things that came naturally to me. I started drawing when I was in elementary school and started painting when I was in high school, and that was it. I actually majored in evolutionary ecology, but the science and research world is also a very creative environment. And biology is sort of an art in its own rite. I’ve always had this dual thing happening with science and art my whole life, and I use a lot of that in my art.

SP: What drew you to watercolors, and why did you recently go back to acrylics?

Farnum: I like the way that watercolors flow together, how the paint can take on a life of its own and I don’t have so much control over it. Of course I’ve done acrylics and oils and pastels and all those things, but I always came back to watercolors; and I’m sure I’ll return to them someday, but it’s going to be a while. I still have a lot to say with acrylic paint. I went back to acrylics because I started doing more defined pieces and there were things that I wanted to do that, even after 25 years of working with watercolors, I just couldn’t. I really want to do some outside pieces, murals on the side of a building, some street art. And I really want to do murals inside people’s houses, but I can’t do it with watercolors.

SP: What have you learned from your paintings and your experiences as an artist?

Farnum: That I don’t know really very much. There’s just so much more to explore. I’m never going to be done. That people are fascinating. And that we all need a lot more love. That would be a big one. I’ve taken that from painting and talking with other painter friends. The world needs a lot more love.

SP: Can you describe your creative space?

Farnum: It’s my dining room. It’s very small. But Matisse painted at his dining room table almost his whole career!

SP: What do you hope people will take away from your paintings?

Farnum: I hope that people will take some kind of question away, something that they will think about as they’re driving in traffic the next day. I hope they can feel something real. There’s a great quote: that art is supposed to disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed. That’s what I want to do, to make people think.

SP: What’s a current project that you’re working on?

Farnum: I’m working on something for next year called a Free Art Friday. Artists make a one-off or maybe they’re trying a new technique. Instead of selling it, on Free Art Friday they put it in a bag and put a big tack on it that says “Free art! Take me home!” and just leave it somewhere for someone to find. I’m really hoping to grow that here. Once it’s up and running, probably sometime in the spring, there’ll be a Facebook page for it where we’ll give away clues as to where people can find it. There’s a really good network for Free Art Fridays where you can trade and get stuff that you couldn’t get otherwise, so I hope people will keep their eyes open for it and that we can at least plant the seed for it.


The Artist of the Corridor series titled Carol Farnum is free and open to the public. It will be on display in the City Building lobby at 400 S. Vine Street in Urbana through February 1st, 2015.

More information about Farnum and her work can be found at

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