The core beliefs of peace, unity and equality not only guide Farrell Elizabeth Douglass' personal life, but they are also the solid foundation of her artistic being. Having observed, firsthand, the historic events of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, Douglass strives to create a sense of harmony and fluid motion between the many diverse elements in her works.
"There are many beautiful colors in this world, and we must appreciate them equally," Douglass says. "My work is about liquidity and movement; I let the paints run together until everything becomes a part of everything else."
The result, whether it is an abstract work, landscape or popular seascape painting, emulates a calming, harmonious feeling that is a signature characteristic of her art.
"I don't want to be pigeonholed as a specific 'kind' of painter," Douglass explains. "I love all aspects of art, and I am continually looking for and learning new concepts, techniques and styles."
Douglass' artistic talent was recognized even as a child in Birmingham, Ala., when she was chosen to create murals at her elementary school. She was fond of her southern hometown's simplicity, but life in the South also had an uglier side.
"From a young age, I knew it was wrong that people had to fight and struggle for their civil rights," Douglass says. "I was drawn to the art world because it represented more progressive thought. Artists see beauty in differences as well as similarities."
Douglass' opposition to racial discrimination heightened when she moved to northern California for high school and took a school-sponsored trip to Italy. She returned with much more liberal views than the rest of her family.
"I went to Perugia, near Florence, Italy, at age 16 and loved it," Douglass says. "It wasn't just because I was able to meet people from all over the world; I got to see the sights that essentially make up the world's cradle of art. The Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo's 'Pieta,' da Vinci's 'Last Supper,' medieval churches--it was just amazing."
However, the move to California was short-lived. Douglass' father, a chemist who developed new colors for magnetic paints, was transferred back to Alabama. Douglass settled into another high school during its first year of racial integration--another defining moment in her life that would later influence her art--before enrolling at Auburn University.
"I majored in English and minored in art," Douglass says. "I should've majored in art, but I got a little lazy. You could say I was a hippie, and academics weren't always the first thing on my mind."
Throughout her college and professional career, however, Douglass' love of art and hopes for cultural unity never left her mind. She took jobs in publishing and insurance, got married, had children and went through several moves before settling down in Phoenix and deciding to pursue a career in art.
"I took up watercolor at age 27, and I did tent shows, joined art leagues and won some awards," Douglass says. "I did representational pieces and landscapes. For a year, I also painted a series of black musicians I had photographed in New Orleans. But it wasn't always easy."
Douglass persisted, and when she discovered acrylics five years ago, a whole new world opened up to her.
"I soon discovered that I could use acrylics to achieve many different looks, including watercolor and oil looks," Douglass says. "I treat acrylic in the same way I would watercolor. I use spray bottles on the paints and let them run until they join together. …