Oil painting techniques and tutorial with Frank Arnold I Colour In Your Life


G’day viewers, my names Graeme Stevenson, and I’d like to invite you to come on a journey of creativity and learning and adventure through the series Colour In Your Life. There’s an artist in every family throughout the world. Lots of times there’s an artist deep down inside all of us as well. So grab your kids, your brothers, your sisters, your aunties, uncles, and mums and dads and come and see how some of the best artists do what they do. (Music Plays) (Graeme) Well hi, folks. Well, we are back in Canberra again – fantastic Australian capital city. And we’re going to have a very special day today with one of Canberra’s great personalities and celebrities. This guy is sort of well pretty well known right across the city. An amazing guy, Mister Frank Arnold, thank you so much (Frank) Good to see you, Graeme. (Graeme) for being with us. (Frank) Thanks for coming. (Graeme) Now all of the people in Canberra actually call you Francois, is that correct? (Frank) Ah yeah, mostly. (Graeme) The world famous, Francois. But he’s a very, very well known celebrity in Canberra, an amazing man. Originally you had a very successful architectural firm, (Frank) A design studio. (Graeme) a design, design studio (Frank) Yep. (Graeme) And that was sort of pretty well where you started off, but you had a great love of art when you young. Now your, both of your great grandmothers (Frank) Yes. (Graeme) had a pretty dominate influence on you. Quantum Institute (Frank) Quantum Ideas Bureau. (Graeme) Quantum Ideas Bureau, which was originally your design company. (Frank) Yep. (Graeme) But you had a background in architecture, (Frank) Yes. (Graeme) but had always loved art. But tell me how this all started as far as the architecture was concerned? (Frank) Ever since I was twelve years old I was just fascinated by architecture. I was given plastic building blocks, your own pre Lego, and I just, I just loved it. So I perused that at Telopea Park High School in technical drawing. (Graeme) Yep. (Frank) I was really very good at it. By the time I was fifteen my tech drawing teacher, a wonderful guy by the name of Jeff Sutherland, (Graeme) Yeah. got me a gig at AV Jennings Homes (Graeme) Oh right, okay. (Frank) during the Christmas holiday period. Even designed one or two houses while I was there, cause I had some ideas, and it just stuck; it became a passion. I mean I passionate above golf, and I was going to be a golf professional. But then I couldn’t, I couldn’t drop architecture, (Graeme) Yeah. (Frank) and I thought well I’ll keep them both going at the same time. But when you’re immersed in architecture, you don’t have time to go play golf. (Graeme) Yeah, and it kept you very busy but out of that came the passion for your art as well. (Frank) Yes. (Graeme) And you, you love to paint clowns. (Frank) Well that’s what it’s evolved into – put some colour in your life. (Graeme) Literally. (Frank) Well, my mum brought me a set of oil paints (Graeme) Yeah. (Frank) when I was, oh God, would’ve been ten or eleven, and I used every paint in that set on one painting. It’s the most garishly piece going. Buggered if I know where it is, but mums probably still got it. (Graeme) Yeah. (Frank) But yeah, I mean it’s just painting, painting, painting, you know. Even I was told at preschool that I actually got dragged back to preschool by mum, (Graeme) Yeah. (Frank) when got home, and she found that my pockets were full of all the chalks from the teacher’s blackboard, cause I decided I could use those, so I was a thief at a very early age. (Graeme) But I mean the whole, the whole aspect of the clown is that there’s this sort of mask in a sense of who these people are. And you found fascination in going to see them put their makeup on, going to the circuses, seeing them outside the situation where nobody really knew who they were. So we’re going to be doing two pieces today with you. (Frank) Yep. (Graeme) You’re going to be doing a portrait, and then you’ve sort of made up this little Marquette I suppose you could say it is, (Frank) Yeah. (Graeme) just a design that you actually want to work with. (Frank) Yeah. (Graeme) And then from there (Graeme) which I really find fascination of is your clown series, and you’re going to do some work on one of those pieces for us as well. (Frank) Yeah, yep. (Graeme) So what I’ll do is I’ll step out of shot, and then come and sit down and I’m going to blast you a whole bunch of questions. Really, I mean this man’s hilarious, he’s got such an interesting background. But some of the stuff he’s done in Canberra, I said no wonder be’s a bit of an icon around here, because you wouldn’t normally get to pull this stuff off unless people really knew who you were. But I’ll get out of shot, I’m going to let Frank take over. It’s going to be an interesting day – absolutely. (Graeme) Now one of your influences is as well, you’ve got a few, but you really love the work of Frances Nielly. (Frank) Francoise Nielly. (Graeme) Francoise Nielly. (Frank) Well Francoise technically, cause she’s a she. (Graeme) She’s a she. (Frank) Francoise Nielly. (Graeme) But fascinating work, and you’re going to to be doing something similar today as far as the blocking and bright colours are concerned, in conjunction with the little Marquette that you put together. So where, where do we start? (Frank) I like to work wet on wet cause it’s sort of when I have the most fun. And yeah, so I just, I just hook in. (Graeme) But we’re going to do two, we’ll do this one as well, because I just love your clown pieces, and you’re going to go over one of the clowns pieces with us as well. (Frank) Yeah, I love, I love the clowns cause you know, when you think about… when you think about clowning, you know, there’s all sorts of weird theories about them. (Graeme) Yeah. (Frank) But you know, and there’s people think of Stephen King’s It, and they you know, there’s a phobia, were people have a phobia of clowns. (Graeme) Yep. (Frank) But really there’s an amazing symbology in them. And you know, it’s a religious and spiritual symbology, you know, the ruffle around the neck. (Graeme) Which represent? (Frank) Which represents the serpent from the Garden of Eden, (Graeme) There you go. (Frank) and you know, there’s the crosses. (Graeme) And unbeknown to probably the majority of people in the world, is there’s actually a clown registry. (Frank) Yes, I was researching clown symbology, and I kept seeing this thing of a registry coming up. So I researched it and yes, there are no two clowns the same – they’re like snow flakes. They’re like snow flakes, and so if a clown wants to become a clown, or a person wants to become a clown, they have to register their design of their face, and the way they do that is on a boiled egg. And they paint, (Graeme) Is that right? (Frank) they paint what they want their thing to look like. And some people go to amazing lengths, they’ll do the collar rough, they’ll even do a little semi uniform you know, with the harlequin diamonds or whatever. And they send them to the registry, and then some poor bugger in the registry has got to wander around the registry with that egg, and going, ah well its a bit like that one, but no it’s different. There’s thousands of these eggs. if you go to the registry of clown faces, (Graeme) Yeah. (Frank) there’s like walls and walls and walls of boiled eggs (Graeme) That’s funny. (Frank) with faces painted on them, and wearing funny little hats and whatever. So I’m going to throw some blue in, (Graeme) Yep. (Frank) cause I’m guessing that this face probably will be a brunette. You know, when I was studying with Trish Hollary, she would, she’d go through my set of paints and she’d throw out all the black. (Graeme) Yep. (Frank) You don’t need blacks, you need darks. And so she taught us how to blend you know, three colours to create a dark. It might be a red and a blue and something else that you just wacked in, and it gave the blacks a lot of life. And I loved that, I found that really exciting. (Graeme) And Trish was one of your early influences as a teacher? (Frank) Yeah, she was a great teacher at the School of Art, just an amazing colour theorist. I think it’s time for a duller blue in here. (Graeme) So a lot of your paintings are particularly these types of ones are very instinctual. (Frank) Yeah, yeah. (Graeme) It’s just about the joy of the journey that’s all. (Frank) It is. (Frank) Sometimes it’s just great, just slop on a bucket load of oil paint. (Graeme) Some of the other pieces that you do as well, are you’re really into tribal idols as well, and you’ve got a piece we’re putting out now called Hero Idol. (Frank) Yep. (Graeme) I think the geometry in these things is great. You can actually see your architecture background coming through on those pieces. (Frank) Yep. (Frank) I’m really fascinated with the tribal masks and the totems and always been fascinated as I’ve said with clowns. Every culture has had ways of dressing themselves up so they can be somethings else. So a clown or a person dresses themselves up as a clown, so they can be a clown. (Graeme) Yeah. (Frank) A tribal elder will don a mask, so that they can celebrate a ceremony, or ward off evil spirits or whatever. And even you know, the wonderful comedy delatte throughout Italy. I mean you know, the big punchinello noses, and the crazy masks and the weird eyes. Right okay, I’ve just grabbed an oil stick – these things are great. I’m going to throw in some green here, cause I tried that in the watercolour and it looked pretty good. And I figured that all I could do with the green, so I can, it’s blending with the flesh stick here quite nicely. And when you go a bit like, it blends okay. So I’ve got two greens, and I’m going to just put some under, under the eyes, but I’ll probably darken that up with the yellow, and then this is going to get to be a bit of a melange of colour. I think it’s just really cool. The only problem with the oil stick is that you know, with the stretched canvas, if your oil sticks a little bit dry and tough it sort of keeps hitting the middle bit, and you get some darker edges. But I don’t mind that, its sort of a, it’s a happy accident as far as I’m concerned. Then I’m going to risk some weird stuff (Graeme) Do it. Do it. (Frank) and see what, see what happens as I use that bit there to blend and lighten that. And actually I quite like that, it’s sort of coming in. Now i’m just putting some more colour on my palette with the colours that I want to use. Grab a few brushes so that I can alternate between them. Okay, so I’m still wanting to get dark in here, and I’m wanting to blitz this shadow bit, and then I… there’s going to be a shadow down there that’s going to go into that light blue. Now you know, do we want our brunette to be blue eyed or hazel? I don’t know, I’m going to start with the blue. (Graeme) Now as part of your life you’ve done extensive traveling around the world as well, and always getting into some quite strange and amazing situations. And there was one time you were telling me that you were mistakenly recognised when you where in France. I think you were on the Champs Ellysees, and a restaurateur or manager looked at you and said, Mister Iggy Pop, come in. And there you were, so your mate just sort of took it on from there and said yes, I’m his manager, and all of a sudden you’re in this five, five star restaurant as Iggy Pop. (Frank) Yeah, yeah that’s pretty much about it. Rob went up to try and get a table, and they looked at Rob and thought, Oh no, we cannot fit you in; we are fully booked. And so I wandered up and I said, “Rob is there a problem?” And they looked at me and they thought I was Iggy Pop. So they moved people from their tables, and they set up a table for us and the waiter came up and said, “Excuse me, but we have many guests who are wondering are you famous rock star?” And I was going to say, ” Yeah, no, mate, I’m Francois.” But Rob said, “Oh look, I’m terribly sorry, but he’s having two weeks rest, so he is in incognito.” Ah, of course. So it spread throughout the restaurant that Iggy Pop was in the restaurant, and we got free entry down into their nightclub, and (Graeme) It was a terrible night to say the least. (Frank) it was an amazing night. (Graeme) Well you were saying before that one of your great influences, apart from a few is Picasso, and right now with the way that you’re painting, it’s very similar to the way that Picasso approached his work. It looks very striking. I can see Chagall creeping in there as well. (Frank) Well I love the Chagall stuff. (Graeme) Yep. (Frank) Well I love to think that you can follow in footsteps and learn. And yes, I do preparation drawings, I do my little scribbles. (Graeme) But you’ve got a couple of different ways that you approach your work. I’m just going to bring up three pieces that are very different. One of your influences is as well is Reg Mombassa. And if you look at these paintings and they’re very graphic. This is probably coming from your design background. (Frank) Yep. (Graeme) It’s Skeletal Man One, and then Skeletal Man Two, (Frank) Yep. (Graeme) and Skelatal man Three. And you can see that they’re very, very graphic pieces, very sharp line. They look fantastic but, they’re really, really good paintings. Now Leonard French, a great Australian artist who just passed away last year – last January – was a big influence on you as well. I can see why, cause I love his work too. But you went to one of his exhibitions called Genesis, is that correct? (Frank) Yep, the whole space was dark and you walked up to these different alcoves, and there at the back of the alcove was a stunning painting. And hours, I think I went and saw that exhibition about ten times. It had a massive effect on me. It was just incredible. (Graeme) Okay, Frank, well we might let you finish this one off, and the second love of your life, and the one that fascinates me is your, is your clown pieces. And I think you’re going to be doing some work on one of those, so lets move on to that one. (Frank) Yeah, cool. (Graeme) Okay. (Graeme) Okay Francoise, we’ve gone on to the next one, and I actually love your clown pieces. (Frank) Thank you. (Graeme) So what are we going to do with this guy? (Frank) Well, as you know it’s one that I have already been working on. But it needs to be pushed a little bit; it needs some finer detail. So I’m going to just do a little bit of work up there on the eyes. I’ve got my little Marquette there, but I think there needs to be some sculpturing of the eyes, so they sort of become a bit of a symbol. (Graeme) Aha. So as you were saying, you’ve got the small Marquette that you’ve done. I think that you did that in pencil. Its really cool that too. (Frank) Yeah, look I love to do a little study just to start with. I guess you alluded to you know, Picasso earlier and you know, he did twenty, thirty drawings before launching into Guernica. Yeah, so I love to do the little Marquette’s and I’ve always either done a quick scribble before I’ve hooked into a painting. Sometimes a little scribble becomes also a little work of art. (Graeme) But one of the things that you do enjoy, and you have a book that you take with you, basically you’re drawing wherever you’re going. You’re drawing building, you’re drawing people. (Frank) Yep. (Graeme) I mean, you being an architect as well, you’re obviously drawing a lot of the buildings and the forms that you see. Various plinths and the columns, and whether it be Roman or Greek, cause you travel so much as well. (Frank) Or haunted vassar and… (Graeme) Yeah. In saying, in that traveling aspect, you actually met Christo, (Frank) Yeah. (Graeme) the famous Christo, in Greece, (Frank) Yep. a few years back. (Frank) In Rome. (Graeme) In Rome was it? Okay.(Frank) Yeah, yeah, yeah. (Graeme) And for those who don’t know who Christo is can you illuminate us? (Frank) Christo is the guy that, well he’s an installation artist basically. Back in nineteen sixty-eight, late sixty-seven, he wrapped Sydney Heads, I think it was Little Bay, in white plastic. That just stayed with me forever as you know, the audacity to take on a project like that. And then, I guess it was the architect in me, or the project manager, or whatever, thinking my God, what does this guy have to go through. That was before you could Google. You know, it was what does he have to go through, and then you realise more recently now that you can Google him, you realise that it’s a massive undertaking, snd he gets the fabrics specially made. Yeah, the man is extraordinary. Now I got an invite to go and see his latest project which was on Lake Elliot. (Graeme) What a fantastic experience to meet such an amazingly creative human being; he really did change the world of installation art. You sort of seem to do these sequences of clowns, and it’ll be Clown Symbols Busted One, Clown Symbol Busted Two, (Frank) I’m a triptych person. (Graeme) There you go. (Frank) I can’t help it. I love doing triptychs. (Graeme) And there’s another one I really like, it actually reminds me a little bit of Andy Capp. Remember the cartoon Andy Capp? And it’s the called Clown Symbology One. The nose and the mouth and it looks like Andy Capp. (Frank) I think that was really the first, and that was probably in the first series where I started really doing the symbols. (Graeme) Yeah. (Frank) I’m still fascinated by the clowns preforming, cause it’s frantic. Alright, so you know, so I’m not going to get this painting finished today. But I really wanted to just trip this mouth up, so I’m going to work on the mouth. I really love the fact that I’m treating clown symbology in a really positive, happy, fun way. You know, to be honest I’d love to travel the world doing portraits of every clown that I can meet. That would be just so cool. (Graeme) So Frank, tell me about is it one piece that really does mean a lot to you, and it’s called the Spiritual Origins of the Universe. Tell me what that’s about? (Frank) When I read that piece I thought this so relates to clowns. I decided that it was the origin of the clown show. At the start they’re putting on their makeup, and then it gets more frantic, and more frantic, and more frantic, and then they have their performance. And that’s where I use the gold, gold leaf and gold powder. You know it leaves that golden experience in your mind. And that’s what clowns do to us. They lift us out of the drudgery, so I just love that. (Graeme) Alright, Frank, well I know you’ve got a fair bit to do on that, and we’re going to let you finish that one off. But we have had an absolutely fantastic day with you. You are an amazingly interesting man. (Frank) Thanks. (Graeme) Fascinating, definitely the prankster and Jester of Canberra, without a doubt. But it’s been a pleasure being in your studio, and we’ve had a great day. (Frank) Thank you, so have I. (Graeme) Well folks, a great day spent with one of Canberra’s great celebrities and personalities. Frank, that was great. He’s an absolute character. (Frank) It was a fun day. (Graeme) I’m glad you had a good time. No, a fantastic very iconic man from a great city. Love Canberra – it’s a beautiful place, and some pretty incredible people. But we’ve had a great time with you. Your clowns are pretty cool. (Frank) Thank you. (Graeme) Yeah, absolutely love them. Now if somebody wants to get in touch with you about your work, what’s your website? (Frank) Look up, go to w w w quantum ideas dot com dot au. (Graeme) Quantum Ideas. (Frank) And don’t forget the ‘u’ cause Qantas has buggered it up for us all (Graeme) Yeah, (Frank) with q, a, n. t, u. I can’t find you, it’s q, u, a, n, t, u, m. i, d. e, a, s, dot com dot au. (Graeme) Ideas. (Frank) And I’ll have a little section there which will be called Frank’s Art. (Graeme) Fantastic, that’s actually Frank’s company name so, but come and say in and hi anyway. And also, come to us at colour in your life dot com dot au, and come in and see us on all our other social networking platforms. Had a great time – love Canberra. Fantastic time with you as well. (Frank) It’s been a great day. (Graeme) It’s been great, really. (Frank) Been a great day. (Graeme) As we always say – remember: make sure you put some colour in your life. (Frank) Put some colour in your life. (Graeme) See you next time. By now, guys. See you. (Frank) Bye. (Graeme) Bye.

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