Let’s take a closer look at artist, Malcolm Farley. He is not just an internationally renowned artist; he’s a musician and athlete too. When I first met the highly-acclaimed artist, I expected to see a much older man. Malcolm is young, athletic-looking, enthusiastic, and full of life – just like his art. His spirit of adventure shows. Along with his natural artistic talent, he’s into music, history and sports. He’s an accomplished jazz saxophonist and a scholarship athlete.
Since his early youth, Malcolm began painting with no previous training. Malcolm says of his process, “Everywhere I look, I see these fantastic, bright colors; it’s been that way since I was a kid.” If you’ve seen a Malcolm Farley painting, you’ve seen his explosive use of color; which truly shows his unique artistic talents and creative energy.
Mr. Farley started traveling the world with his family early on, gaining many new cultural perspectives. In junior high, he climbed 18,000 feet on base camp of Mt. Everest in Northern India and visited numerous other global ports, along with other remarkable treks – such as Annapurna. After receiving various collegiate awards at Metropolitan State College in Denver, he followed his chosen path as an artist.
Malcolm was invited to paint world leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, at a conference on world technology. And we can’t forget all the well-publicized major sporting events like the Super Bowls, the 2002 Olympics in Sydney, the Stanley Cup Championships, The World Polo Championships, Indy Car Races, the US Open, and the MLB All Star Game. Malcolm was present at all of these events painting them live and in living color!
He recently painted the star-studded cast of the hit HBO show “The Sopranos,” – and he is equally at-home on stage jammin’ with his friend Carlos Santana.
Malcolm is comfortable painting in many settings. Along with sporting events, Malcolm loves to do charitable events and has been known to inspire “guest involvement” at live auctions. He has a definite soft spot for organizations that help low-income, inner-city kids. Malcolm’s philanthropic spirit has been revealed by his ability to raise over one million dollars for charities.
Often imitated, but never matched, Mr. Farley’s talent for blending many different colors together beautifully is his trademark. Watching Malcolm do his magic on canvas, as many can attest to, makes for an unforgettable experience.
Who is your mentor? I think my mentor would have to be Craig Marshall Smith, a professor of mine who has guided me along life’s pathway at several key forks in the road. He was the one that dragged me out of the gym and into the studio.
He gave me a fresh approach to art and a creative thought process. This combined with “old school sweat”…a strong work ethic is what kept me in art. His all around knowledge and view of the world were the focus of many lengthy conversations.
What is a motto of yours to live life by? Quite simply, balance. If you fall along the way, pick yourself up, raise the bar another notch higher, and go on.
What makes you laugh? Remember, I started my art career as a cartoonist so life is the source of my laughter! The day-to-day “goings on”, the ability to “lighten up” and laugh at yourself I believe, is monumental towards inner peace and joy that we constantly pursue. I laugh a lot with my kids, friends, and business partner’s but mainly at myself.
You work with so many celebrities in all walks of life, can you name a few that stand out? Speaking of the philosophy of finding the humor in life, one of my favorite recent celebrities who epitomizes this is Paul Newman. Being around him for 3-days sketching and taking photos in another country where the children referred to him as that “old salad dressing guy”, I saw his true make up. When I asked if his photo could be taken he responded, “ sure, take for four more and you can trade them for one Redford.”
Carlos Santana, for his experience and comments on creative talent and how it is treated. Mikhail Gorbachev, for his kind, gentle nature and my genuine curiosity to know what conversations he has had behind closed doors and closed countries.
George Bush Sr., for being so genuine and a great grandfather. I spent a day with him and his grandson at a Hall of Fame induction I was painting in Coorperstown, NY. He asked if his grandson could stand with me on stage as I painted and watch me do “my thing.” Afterwards, they thanked me and left with a secret service escort to their helicopter.
What is your favorite TV show?I really don’t watch television. I watch Sports Center to keep up with the events of the day but other than that, with no Colorado Avalanche, my TV isn’t on very much.
What is your favorite magazine? I travel a lot so magazines are “omni present” in my life. My favorites would have to be Architectural Digest, Sports Illustrated, and FMR – a beautifully designed and printed European magazine. And, oh ya, Sports for Kids, because of the pictures…lots of big pictures!
What does a renaissance man such as you do for hobbies? My hobbies run the spectrum. I do like to have something active to balance my time in front of the easel, which is cerebral and meditative. My career is a hobby but I also love to work out, golf, ski, play tennis, scuba dive, play my saxophone, listen to jazz (I played in jazz bands until I was about 28) and coach my sons baseball teams. The travel bug was instilled in me at an early age so to experience new places, cultures and their art is a great joy.
Having worked and traveled extensively overseas you probably have many favorite places. Can you single out one or two? The mountains of Northern India, Nepal, and Tibet will always hold a special place in my heart. Not only for their pristine beauty, but also for the peace I found while hiking in them as a teenager. Well, the list could go on… I am a diver, so some of the “off the beaten path” Caribbean spots I enjoy because of the climate and colorful people. But in the end, a favorite will always be Australia, where I was the artist for the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
Can you tell me more about this career you obviously have a passion for? First, let me say that I am thankful for the gift I have been given, and I don’t let a night go by without giving thanks. I guess there in lies another of my philosophies on life…keep the circle going by giving as much as you can back to those facing challenges because lets face it, we all do at times.
There have been some wonderful opportunities presented to me, especially in the last few months, which have really allowed me to exhibit what I am here for. To be able to breathe life into subjects and events with my color and energy is so much fun and incredibly fulfilling, I can’t imagine doing anything else. I’ve recently been working with students and the response through letters from the parents has been rewarding. I mean, who am I to tell someone how to paint? It is an individual thing, but what I can do is teach them how to think and build their confidence, thus allowing their soul out to come out onto the canvas.
You are now considered the top sports and action artist in the world. In fact, the CEO of Pepsi recently called you the artist of “our generation.” How does this make you feel? I am flattered of course, but I feel if I don’t become that someday, I will have fallen short and let myself down. It also means that one must be resilient, because you do get knocked down along the way and you always have to answer another “bell.” Carlos Santana talked to me about this a few years ago and his words have always stuck with me…“never, never, never give up.”
You are also such a “Super Star” athlete; what sports are you involved in now? Currently I am playing in a lot of golf pro-player classics where I demo new clubs for a company in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Which projects are challenging for you? Subjects that I am not “in the know” about. The one thing that people always comment on is how my art makes them feel - that they are there and they want to know how I make them feel that way. I guess the secret is I know what it feels like to do a lot of the things my subjects are doing, like run the football up the middle, play a blues riff on the sax, or come up over a reef and be face to face with a barracuda. I rely on as much of life as I can experience to be my inspiration and reference point. I’ve been lucky to have experienced and participated in a lot of activities throughout my life.
Looking at your calendar for the upcoming year, you certainly are not letting any grass grow under your feet. How many charitable groups are you currently helping out? The Make-A-Wish Foundation, Boys and Girls Clubs around the country, Women of the World, Save the Rocks Foundation (Red Rocks Amphitheatre) and Pro Players Classic. I’m incorporating into most of my projects a “win, win” program that benefits everyone involved. I’m doing some great work with the city of Denver that will be announced soon and some new kinds of applications with my art in Hollywood. Also, I will continue to perform at a variety of events around the country with some pretty cool people – always with kids being the recipient of the funds.
Regarding the picture above of you painting Jay Leno on a female mannequin…we know you push your creative genius to the edge, but what was the purpose of this piece?
Simply put, his face was too big for a bra (he smiles). I came up with the idea for the live event “Bras for the Cause” to benefit the Breast Cancer Foundation.” Knowing I was going to be painting Jay live added a little spice and I thought he would get a kick out of it too.
Tell us about a favorite moment or experience? The smell of an early morning in June…the freshly cut grass of a golf course or baseball field.
What do you see or hope to see for the future? A “global” society, all living together in harmony but expressing our own unique differences and beliefs. Most importantly, honoring these differences…and that the NHL (National Hockey League) gets their “s**t” together and put the game back on ice.
What is your favorite childhood story? I was blessed to have had a wonderful childhood, filled with a vast array of experiences ranging from little league, World Series Champions to making my way to the base camp area of Mount Everest on my 16th birthday.
As a 12-year-old, I took the “slow boat” to India via a Greek freighter that stopped along the coasts of Africa and the near east. I traveled with my family to an international school in the Himalayas of northern India. It was there that a group of us would take advantage of any 3 or 4-day weekends we could get and “head to the hills”. One particular trip we set out after school on foot with one of the local Sherpas to a village situated majestically on top of 15,000-foot hill terraced from the river to the top. As we moved through the night fog and drizzle, we were driven into a hut heated with a fire made of twigs and dried cow dug patties. Arriving at night by flashlight, we bedded down with local goats underneath the night sky filled with stars. I awoke to the early dawn possessing the same fog but not the rain.
I sat on the edge of the cliff sipping a cup of Chai, meditating on the surreal silhouettes of trees across the valley that seemed to peak in and out of the fog is it rolled up the valley. As I chatted with the guides who were preparing breakfast, the clouds began to break here and there exposing the deep blue sky found only at that elevation for a moment or two, there was an unusual almost eerie quiet that came across the valley. And then, as if on a cue from above, the mist cleared just enough to allow a beam of bright amber sunshine to illuminate an outcropping of rocks 100 yards away.
The heavens opened even more, with the beam of light becoming a column of light and my eyes became fixated on the rocks that were glistening like jewels from the night rain. I knew I was supposed to be waiting for something and became anxious. Then, my heart simply stopped beating as a mother tiger and her cubs emerged from the mist on the rocky point to play and bathe with each other.
The mother tiger got down into a big stretch, like all house cats, and let out a guttural roar that echoed up the canyon walls almost shaking me as if I was experiencing an earthquake. I turned to see if the group had been awakened, and a few of the lighter sleepers had sat up in their mummy bags to see what was going on. I knew that this being a hunting expedition, a few might reach for their rifles so I non-chalantly acted as if nothing happened. Slowly, I turned my attention to the spot where the tigers were, only to find that the clouds had closed the hole. There was no sun, no column of light, no rocky point and no tigers. I sat there, numbed by the experience, feeling compelled to look upward as if to say thanks, and I did. Afterward, I returned to the group who were beginning to gather around the fire for breakfast.
A couple of years ago at a class reunion in Monument, Colorado (we gather in Colorado because it is half way around the world from India) I was still razzed about the tiger that we could have had if “Farley” hadn’t let her get away.