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Douglas Ferrin

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Douglas Ferrin
Born (1959-10-04) 4 October 1959 (age 64)
Arcata, California
🏳️ NationalityAmerican
💼 Occupation
Known forAmerican Realism
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Search Douglas Ferrin on Amazon. Douglas Ferrin is an American realist painter (see American Realism) who explores the intersections of realism and narrative. His style was dubbed "New Perceptionism"

"Figures in Interior" 1984-85 By Douglas Ferrin; Chosen by DeCosta as a painting that personifies New Perceptionism

by the American National Gallery of Art lecturer Arthur DeCosta, a style in which Roman Illusionistic realism meets modern illusionism.


Douglas Ferrin was born in l959 in the small town of Arcata, California. It is remarkable that in high school Ferrin decided to become an artist given the lack of art and art stimulation afforded him growing up in rural Arcata. He had long wanted to move away from Arcata. While a senior in high school a student teacher from Santa Barbara asked him for a portfolio of his drawings. While home for the holidays in Santa Barbara that Christmas, she showed Ferrin's work to her friends, who, impressed with the young man's work, created a private scholarship that gave him the funds he needed for tuition and living expenses for his first year of art school. His parents vehemently opposed his moving back east, pushing him to attend the Oakland College of Arts and Crafts. Ferrin however was determined to attend The Art Institute of Boston, having had a illustrator friend, whose work he greatly admired, who had attend and who spoke higly of the Art Institute.

It was not long before Ferrin became disillusioned with both Boston and the Art institute. While Arcata is cold year round, he found the Boston winters to be brutal. Ferrin saw the architecture as "one of dirty brick" [1] (Developing as an artist. [painter Douglas Ferrin Article from: American Artist | November 1, 1993 | Feit, Edward |). Nonetheless, at the Art Institute his work was well received by his teachers. During his second year Ferrin transferred from the illustration department to the fine art department. His drawing instructor, Nathan Goldstein, advocated what is called open form drawing.[citation needed] Ferrin said, "He really taught me how to move from the general to the specific and how to keep my drawing style open without being terribly linear" ( p. 51, American Artist). Ferrin came to realize that he was talented and that he could draw in his own style, and that his drawing was good.

Later that year, George VanHook, a painter he knew from Arcata who had grown up near Philadelphia, visited the Art Institute of Boston and told Ferrin "this doesn't seem like the right place for you" , (p. 51, American Artist) and suggested the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia. Ferrin was immediately drawn to the sense of openness and appreciation of his work by both faculty and students, and, by now, was ready to handle a less structured situation. At the Academy, every facility was available to every student at all times. Ferrin flourished, studying with Arthur DeCosta, Will Barnet, Henry Pearson and Ben Kamihira; he was awarded the J. Henry Schiedt Memorial Travel Scholarship[2], the Alexander Prize, the Cecilia Beaux Memorial Prize in Portraiture, the Don Sabbath award in Classical Painting and others. Ferrin says the most important lesson he learned at the Academy was from Arthur DeCosta who instilled in him that he should do what ever makes a painting work (p. 51, American Artist, November 1993).

Upon graduation Ferrin married and moved from Philadelphia to Baltimore, Maryland. As he needed to make a living from his work he focused on still life painting.Before long he had a patron, Robert Montgomery, that provided a monthly income in exchange for getting first pick of the artist's paintings. Douglas Ferrin also became represented by Marian Locks gallery in Philadelphia. The financial stability that ensued from the patron and his gallery relationship enabled Ferrin to expand beyond still life paintings to more personal themes. Some of Ferrin's paintings and etchings began to appear mystical as he explored religious thesees, especially Christianity which he had rejected in adolescence but came to accept in his early twenties. Douglas Ferrin was raised as an Episcopalian and believes the core message of Christianity is "love others as well as yourself" (p.53, American Artist, November 1993). Exploring religious themes through his art has enabled Ferrin to accept Christianity intellectually more than emotionally. Ferrin lived in France for a year (1989), principally painting landscapes.This was primarily financed by his patron, Robert Montgomery, who lived in Palm Beach, FL. Ferrin's works, even his still lives, are primarily narrative. His figure works portray themes of emotional and spiritual meaning to him. Much of his work has provided the opportunity to work through the dysfunctional family situations he experienced growing up. Although on the exterior his parents had a "normal" relationship, his father never loved his mother and she turned to drink, becoming a full-time alcoholic by the time Ferrin was in junior high school.

Ferrin has experienced extreme loss from two fires and those exacerbated his struggles with depression and alcoholism. The first fire was in 2003 in Lake Worth Florida. Ferrin's studio burned to the ground destroying all of his work for an upcoming one man exhibition at the Sherry French gallery in New York City

"Trojan Horse" Oil on Linen 28" X 34" 2002-03 By Douglas Ferrin - Painting lost in studio fire

. Ferrin then devoted four years (2003 to 2007) to mural painting, for clients such as Lois Pope, the owner of the National Enquirer, Gianni Versace, and Sting. The second fire occured in 2007. While working on a mural in Phoenixville PA, with his long time friend and colleague, Charles Segal with whom he had painted murals in Gianni Versace's South Miami Beach Mansion in 1994

"Murals in the South Beach Versace Mansion", 1994, by Douglas Ferrin & Charles Segal

, Ferrin's apartment house burned down from an electrical fire that had started in a wall of the building. Ferrin flat-lined in the fire and suffered severe lung damage that sent him into a six weeks induced coma. He came out of the coma with full-body muscle atrophy; after that Ferrin's mental and physical state made it impossible for him to work on painting. His experience with the fire deepened his sense of depression, and he was hospitalized several times during this period for acute alcohol poisoning and post traumatic stress disorder, another result of the second fire. Since, Ferrin has struggled with periods of deep depression and active alcoholism.

"Arcata Bottoms" Oil on Paper 2013 By Douglas Ferrin

Drinking has led to lapses in judgment with significant consequences. For example in 2011, Ferrin used an M80 firecracker to blow up a toilet in a bar in Phoenixville, PA, which resulted in his arrest and incarceration.(reference) In 2014 Ferrin lost three fingers of his right hand from a large firecracker. The news media labeled him a bomb-maker and alleged that his intention was to blow up a near by gas station. This unsubstantiated allegation led to a felony conviction and a three year prison sentence. Because Ferrin is ambidextrous, he was able to continue his work in prison. He regularly produced drawings of his fellow inmates and painted still lifes of brightly colored paper objects that he created to help offset the pervasive gray of the prison.

"Idol Chatter" Acrylic on Bristol Board 14" X 17", 2016 Painted at S.C.I. Pittsburgh, By Douglas Ferrin

After his release, Ferrin began working in his studio in Philadelphia and created several still lifes that combined the paper objects he made in prison with more familiar objects, such as the dolls found in many of his earlier works.(link go photos of some) These transitional paintings celebrate his liberation from bondage, but also contain a remembrance of the never to be forgotten brutality he experienced in captivity. Ferrin is now working on a series of figurative paintings, more still lifes

"Night Pears" Oil on Panel 2018 By Douglas Ferrin

, and after many years, resumed one of his favorite mediums, etchings. Ferrin has paintings in the collections of MIT, Burt Reynolds, Peter Whitehead, The First National Bank of Boston, and many others. His work has appeared in Architectural Digest, American Artist and a plethora of other publications. A true polymath, he is an accomplished musician, animator and industrial designer

"Four Moving Tea Kettles" 1998 Design by Douglas Ferrin

, translates French literature to English, writes and records music, and designs and builds furniture. His primary focus, however, continues to be painting. Douglas Ferrin has had solo and group exhibitions in museums and galleries across the country. His works are included in many public and private collections such as the Whitehead Institute at M.I.T. in Cambridge, the First National Bank of Boston, the Provident Insurance Company and the Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia. Ferrin has also done murals for clients as diverse as Gianni Versace and Sting. He has won numerous awards including the J. Henry Schiedt Memorial Traveling Scholarship, the Cecilia Beaux Prize in Portraiture, and the South Flordia Cultural Consortium Grant [3]. The winning of the South Florida Cultural Consortium Fellowship for Professional Achievement in the Visual Arts was followed by a major museum exhibition in 1994 of Ferrin's work at the Norton Gallery of Art in West Palm Beach, Florida. Since the '80s Ferrin has been included in several exhibitions at the Museum of the Pennsylvania Museum of Fine Arts.

"Self-Portrait From Prison" Pencil on Paper 2016 By Douglas Ferrin


  1. Ferrin, Douglas. "Developing as an artist". Edward Feit: Douglas Ferrin - Developing as an Artist.
  2. Goodyear, Frank. A History of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 1805-1976. Online version published by: Traditional Fine Arts Organization [1]
  3. "The South Florida Cultural Consortium Fellowship Program".

External links[edit]

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