"HOPEFULLY, MY ART IS AN EXPRESSION THAT WORDS CAN'T REPLICATE."
Ron Francis (born in 1954) is a fine artist who paints images on canvas. Originally from a northern suburb of Sydney, Australia, he was short with red hair and so took some flak at school. He spent the next 17 years of his life there and like most people, he went through good and bad times there. His family didn't have much money, but generally, had a wonderful upbringing with parents that supported his desire to draw and paint.
At around age 20, painting in oil became an obsession that eclipsed everything else. Over the next 15 years, Ron Francis was represented by a couple of galleries. During that time, he began developing a way to use perspective so that a viewer in the right position could look around inside a painting as though they were looking around in real life. This in itself isn’t new, but he approached it in a mathematical way which has eventually developed into software that now has more in common with 3D modelling than the geometry of linear perspective. He was offered work painting trompe l’oeil murals where he was able to directly apply these principles, and this continued for around 15 years.
"We are all born on this planet equal, and there are art materials to play with. I think it's an arrogance for anyone to think they have the right to tell anyone else what they should and shouldn't do with those art materials."
In 2004, Ron Francis became ill with cancer and this made him re-evaluate his life. He decided to give up painting murals in favor of fine art and began exhibiting with Scott Livesey Galleries in Victoria and still exhibits with him today. He never had any formal training and acquired most of his knowledge from observation, experimentation, trial, and error, as well as studying books about perspective, light, and mathematics. He approached learning to paint with one main aim; to refine his technique enough to be able to create a realistic representation of anything that he may imagine or dream. Needless to say, he has been able to accomplish his aim. Straight from his imagination, his art depicts reality as if within a photograph without much to doubt. The intricate details make you feel as if you are part of such an image, and the fine line between what’s real and what’s not seem to intertwine. Ron’s art work offers a type of delicacy that simply entraps you leaving you no room or space for conformity.
Q. Tell us about some of the highlights of your artistic career, such us memorable shows or publications?
A. The first thing that comes to mind is a prestigious gallery owner looking at my work and telling me that I would never be an artist. This knocked me back for a few days. She was representing another artist friend of mine, and ironically, while she was visiting him, she remarked how much she liked one of his paintings. What she didn't know was that it was actually one of mine. That made me feel considerably better.
My work has been published in a few magazines and books, but honestly, I can't remember what they are.
Although one that was memorable was Poets and Artists "50 Memorable Artists of 2015". I flippantly entered a painting when I saw something on Facebook, not knowing what it was. It was accepted, which was nice, but I was a little annoyed at what they required from me after that point. But when it was published, I received congratulations from far and wide, which felt surreal to me because I hadn't realized the appeal and far reach of that magazine. Oddly enough, I felt quite good that I thought so little of it.
Q. What's shaped your artistic journey since then?
A. I try to paint stuff from imagination and make it look as real as I can. To do this, I have been developing software to handle perspective, and more recently, values and color. Coincidentally, for a period of around 20 years, I painted trompe l'oeil (trick the eye) murals that required rigid perspective, and everything I did and learned from that time was directly transferable to my easel work.
My aim has always been the same, but the technological tools I use have allowed me to do things that would have been extremely difficult without. The advent of computers, and for me computer programming, digital photography, and math used in CGI have been very useful to me.
Q. Do you remember the first piece of art you made? What was it and how old were you?
A. The earliest artwork that I can remember doing was huge Disney characters on my bedroom wall. I think I was around 6 or 7. I remember drawing in class in 4th grade at school, trying to draw a tree. Somehow, I discovered shading and I could make the tree look round. That was a huge moment. I think I would have been 9 years old then.
Q. Why did you decide to become an artist?
A. There wasn't a decision for me. In my teens, (apart from girls), I was interested in riding motorcycles, playing guitar, and painting/drawing. Not long after turning 20, I had an epiphany that all I wanted to do was paint. But it was a realization rather than a decision.
Q. What have you had to sacrifice for this career?
A. A career where I could make lots of money.
Q. Do you intend your work to challenge the viewer?
A. I view my art as a conversation, a language to express how or what I feel or think about something. So, what I may try to say could be trivial, meaningful, cryptic, sad, or whatever other emotion may drive me at the time.
Q. Tell us about your particular style and how you came to it?
A. I paint mostly from imagination. This was born from a desire to create a realistic rendition of anything that I may imagine or dream. This in itself is not all that common in the art world from what I can tell, although I see quite a lot in the science fiction/fantasy realm. I suppose mine differs because I tend to paint scenes that are based more on reality in general, although usually pushing the limits of believability to exaggerate a point. Somewhere between realism and surrealism. But as far as me being different from thousands of other artists goes, I think I would prefer to let others speculate on that.
Q. Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?
A. Yes, it certainly can be. I can spend many, many hours in solitude. At the moment, I have an old dog on his last legs, and I take him into my local town every day for a walk. I often meet people I know, and others will stop me in the street saying my dog is so cute because he's so old and wobbly, so it is good for me socially as well.
Q. Apart from making art, what do you love doing?
A. I love nature and animals, playing music, computer programming, falling in love, playing table tennis, coffee with friends, answering questionnaires. Actually, questionnaires are difficult.
Q. What is your philosophy in matters of art?
A. I don't think I have one. I think the word 'art' has lost any meaningful definition. These days, 'art' could define anything that is in a museum or art gallery.
Q. What does 'success' mean to you?
A. The satisfaction that I have created something to the best of my ability. That is, when I have realized an image that expresses what I want, and I'm happy with the execution of it.
Q. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given, and by who?
A. I can't remember ever being given good advice. One gallery owner told me that I should be painting works in a series, all on the same subject. She offered me an exhibition but I declined because the thought of painting the same subject over and over would be like punishment for me. A couple of weeks later I saw her again, and she said she wanted to exhibit my work anyway. The show ended up selling out, which of course made me think that I did well not to follow her advice.
Q. What advice would you give to the next generation?
A. My advice is to follow your own path and do the best you can do, and don't listen to anyone who tells you what to do.
I often see statements about what an artist's job is or should be. In my view, we are all born on this planet equal, and there are art materials to play with. I think it's an arrogance for anyone to think they have the right to tell anyone else what they should and shouldn't do with those art materials.