Alicia Farris has always been an observer. She likes to recreate not just an image, but a story about her subject, by using color, light, and emotion in her paintings.

Alicia earned a degree in psychology and minored in fine arts in college but didn’t consider herself formally trained. “I loved ceramics, and I always dreamed that I would have a studio in the mountains or out in the country or something,” she says. “I thought I would just be throwing pots all day and building things with clay, but of course, sometimes life unfolds differently.”

After Alicia married and she and her husband started raising a family, she found time to take painting classes at the Springfield Art Museum. Her original thought was that she would begin with watercolor and move on to try other media until she tried them all, but water media captured her heart.

“I always felt a love for art, but I really thought everybody loved art,” she says. “It never really occurred to me until later in life that it was something that I could seriously pursue and that I had a passion inside of me for painting that not everybody did.”

A face and expression is captured from across a crowd at a festival. It’s called Only Observing.

This Springfield artist has since turned her love for watercolor and mixed water media into a career. As a water media artist, she uses watercolor and acrylic paints almost interchangeably in many of her works. She might begin with acrylic on the first layer then switch to watercolor for the next, and switch again to build depth and texture into a piece.

Alicia’s inspiration comes from everywhere. “Everything is a painting in my world. It could be anything that catches my eye. It could be in the way that someone is walking or the expression on a face, or maybe it’s a color that I see, or maybe it’s where a light and a dark come together and create a contrast. I look at the world probably a little differently than a lot of people do,” she admits. “I make paintings sometimes out of things that maybe other people wouldn’t even notice. Maybe that’s what artists have in common. They have the ability to see composition and an interesting story in unusual or common things.”

At a certain point, she says, art started leading her and she followed. Ozarks Technical Community College (OTC) approached her to teach noncredit courses in watercolor, acrylic, and drawing, and she fell in love with teaching.

“I loved sharing with people because I was so inspired along the way from others that I painted with,” Alicia says. “I was on the journey with other artists, and we just inspired each other. That, I feel, is a huge part of my artistic experience.”

Teaching at OTC led to Alicia teaching workshops and classes through the Springfield Regional Arts Council at the Creamery Arts Center and at Splatter Studio, then to workshops throughout the country.

Along the way, her work got noticed.

In the watercolor world, there are national and international watercolor societies, and being accepted into premier groups was one of Alicia’s dreams—a lifetime goal. To date, several have juried her work and given her a signature status, which is extra status beyond being juried into a show. Alicia has signature status in the National Watercolor Society, the Missouri Watercolor Society, the Watercolor Honor Society, the St. Louis Watercolor Society, and the Southwestern Watercolor Society, among others.

Holding signature status in a society is validation, she says. “When you enter a show, you see if other people see your work the way that you do.”

There is also the disappointment of not getting into a show, which she knows well. “Sometimes you get into a show, and sometimes you don’t get into a show—it’s a very humbling experience,” she says. “But it’s a wonderful experience because it teaches me to look more critically at my work and that sometimes I just have to work harder.”

Through it all, her progress continues. “You never feel like you know everything; it’s always a learning process. It continues to be a journey,” she adds.

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