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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Interview with Ron Francis

Ron Francis was born in Sydney, Australia in 1954.
He remembers drawing Disney characters on his bedroom walls, something that his parents didn't oppose to.

In 1974, Ron settled in Melbourne where he paints full time improving his skills and in 1980 he achieves the first representation of more to come.

Building custom software to work with perspective and developing formulas to work with, Ron's paintings involve the viewer in a direct way, namely through trompe l'oeil murals.

The artist prefers acrylic for his murals and oils when painting at the easel, although lately he has dedicated himself mostly to fine art.

Interview :

Q : Your paintings are usually not painted from life, what challenge does that pose to you in terms of imagination and creativity ?

A : The main challenge is trying to make something imagined look plausible. It's much easier for me to paint man-made objects from imagination than it is to paint natural objects, so in the latter case I will seek out references and either paint from life or from a photograph. The challenge here is to marry the real and the unreal so that they look like they belong to the same scene. Objects from life have to have the same lighting and be in the same perspective as the imagined objects.

Q : What kind of reactions do you expect from people who look at your murals and what are the most usual ones ?

A : I hope the illusion is strong enough to give people the feeling that a scene is there, even though I can't expect to fool people into thinking that it is actually there. Of course if someone is actually fooled by what I have painted then that is the best compliment and this has happened on enough occasions to make me happy.

Q : In your experience, what are the main reasons a client commissions a trompe l'oeil mural ?

A : Usually clients like an outdoor scene to add some space that normally wouln't be possible. It may be that they just have a huge empty wall to decorate.

Q : Although not so much present in your oil paintings, trompe l'oeil is a dominant subject in your works. Tell us about its importance to you.

A : Trompe l'oeil is less important to me than my fine art. Trompe l'oeil doesn't allow the same self expression that fine art can, and I regard it as more decorative painting. If trompe l'oeil is important to me, it's mainly because of the technical challenge. I do enjoy painting them, but not as much as fine art.

Q : When you are contacted to develop a mural and the client asks for an opinion on the theme, which one is your favourite ?

A : I don't have a favourite theme. One of the most important aspects in this case, is to marry the mural with the physical architecture of the site. These are basically logistical problems to overcome, rather than themes. Most of the time the clients have a fairly good idea of what they would like to see.

Q : From the themes that you paint, which ones permit you to better trick the eye ?

A : Anything with a short focal length, that is, anything that doesn't extend too far in front or behind the surface of the wall, such as a carved relief, niche etc. Unfortunately most people want to look out onto open vistas, which automatically makes it less effective as a trompe, but more effective in creating the feeling of space.

Q : What are the biggest challenges when developing a trompe l'oeil mural, namely when first making the project and when painting ?

A : Quoting is by far the hardest thing for me to do. Often clients can have unrealistic expectations of what can work and from my point of view I won't paint anything unless it could exist in real life.
For example, someone may want stairs leading down to a beach, but from the viewpoint I may work out that the stairs would not be visible at all. In that case.
Once a plan is drawn up, the hard part is to make the painting look realistic, which is the same for every realist artist.

Q : Alternating between murals, canvases and mediums is like an escape valve ?

A : I no longer paint murals, and have for the past 5 years concentrated on fine art. I found working with clients and asking for money was very stressful for someone like me who is not business minded at all. So yes, painting fine art is like a big escape!

Q : When not painting a trompe l'oeil, what are your preferred subjects ?

A : Subjects vary greatly. Many are inspired by dreams or observations about life, while others are purely technical experiments. They nearly all involve people.

Q : Can we expect the development of projects in the future which will surprise the viewers ?

A : I hope so, but only in the area of fine art. Painting the same subject more than once would be tedious and boring for me, so I'm always looking for something new to paint. As fine art allows me to express myself more freely, this should give me more opportunity to be surprising.

Q : During your earlier development as an artist what technical challenges were hardest to surpass ?

A : Linear perspective, light & colour and how they relate to each other, all of which are important in creating atmosphere, which is my main concern.

Q : Do you consider that entering the business world of art proved a difficult task, namely the acceptance from galleries and getting your work known ?

A : In the 1980s I think it was difficult for any realistic artist to be accepted by galleries as most of the art around that time was abstract expressionism, although personally I stumbled into a couple of galleries fairly easily. The financial side was always difficult. After a 15 year period of painting mostly murals, I decided to get back into the gallery system and was very fortunate to come across a gallery owner who knew and liked my work. Since then, I am able to be a hermit in my studio without having to think about the business and marketing side of my art.

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