Painter returns to roots in downtown Tracy
by Denise Ellen Rizzo
May 17, 2013 | 3998 views | 1 1 comments | 55 55 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tracy-born artist, Ron Farnsworth, works on a painting in his temporary art studio inside a vacant storefront at 110 10th St. He is working out of the store to promote interest to the downtown area. The painting is a mini version of a piece on cranes for a high-rise in Tampa, Florida. Denise Ellen Rizzo/Tracy Press
Tracy-born artist, Ron Farnsworth, works on a painting in his temporary art studio inside a vacant storefront at 110 10th St. He is working out of the store to promote interest to the downtown area. The painting is a mini version of a piece on cranes for a high-rise in Tampa, Florida. Denise Ellen Rizzo/Tracy Press
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Ron Farnsworth adds a bit of color to his crane painting inside his temporary studio at 110 10th St. Denise Ellen Rizzo/Tracy Press
Ron Farnsworth adds a bit of color to his crane painting inside his temporary studio at 110 10th St. Denise Ellen Rizzo/Tracy Press
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The iconic skull symbol of the Grateful Dead, the backdrop of many of the band’s tours in the 1960s, was most likely the handiwork of Tracy-born artist Ron Farnsworth.

As a matter of fact, the 66-year-old’s work is visible across the nation and in numerous films, though you might not realize it.

Some of his scenic art pieces include the backdrops for the Penguin’s lair in “Batman Returns” and the world of Robin Williams’ character, Leslie Zevo, in the 1992 film “Toys.”

“If you can tell it’s painted, you did it wrong,” he joked, sitting outside his temporary art studio inside a vacant storefront at 110 10th St. on Monday morning, May 13. “You’re surrounded by another world. It was fun for me.”

Now semiretired, Farnsworth has returned to Tracy to continue his craft.

He describes his works — such as huge murals, faux finishes and sculptures — as “mad art with mad science.” His clients typically give him a basic theme and let him create his own design.

“The stuff I love the best is making it up as you go along,” Farnsworth said.

During the past decade, as Hollywood studios have turned to computer-generated backdrops in films, Farnsworth said scenic artwork has become “kind of a dinosaur.”

Not willing to replace his brush with a computer mouse, Farnsworth decided to return to his roots in Tracy.

“It means a lot to me, being a native, to come back home and do some nice things,” he said. “The idea is for somebody doing activity (downtown) to create an interest — bring a little life into the area.”

Visitors to 110 10th St. will soon have the chance to watch Farnsworth work as he paints. He is creating a miniature version of a crane painting that he hopes to produce for a high-rise in Tampa, Fla. that will be about 40 feet by 80 feet when completed.

Mark Knize, member of the Tracy Art League board of directors, said the painting demonstrations are a benefit to Tracy.

“It’s always great to have more art, especially public art,” he said. “I’d love to see it myself.”

Farnsworth, a 1964 graduate of Tracy High School, said his love of art blossomed while he was growing up in Tracy. During the winter months, he was known for painting the windows of area businesses for the holiday season.

“I always had a love of doing commercial art,” he said. “A lot of the credit goes to Uncle Walt (Disney). In 1955 they had the TV shows and showed what he was doing with the theme park — so inspirational for the future.”

After graduating high school, Farnsworth said he studied art at Cabrillo College in Santa Cruz.

“It was a great time to be alive,” he said. “We just came out of the ’50s to the psychedelic ’60s. Rock ’n’ roll performing art was a culture of the times.”

In addition to his work for the Grateful Dead tours, he also made backdrops for the musical touring groups Motley Crue, Neil Young and the Christian glam metal band Stryper.

Other pieces include a re-creation of the White House and Abraham Lincoln’s debate with Stephen Douglas in 1858 for the Abraham Lincoln Museum in Springfield, Ill. At Universal Studios in Orlando, Fla., he created faux finishes for the Harry Potter ride.

Farnsworth will be using the 10th Street storefront as his studio for two to three months and will be working on a wall mural at the site. He will soon be visible to onlookers between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

• Contact Denise Ellen Rizzo at 830-4225 or drizzo@tracypress.com.

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yib23
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May 17, 2013
Very cool! Hope I get a chance to see his work!


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