Monday, March 28, 2011

The Art Of Jonathan Frank

Saturated colors, bold, dramatic landscapes and well defined edges are what set Frank’s watercolors apart. His paintings are defined by the strong play of light and shadow and his signature lies in rendering all the hundreds of minute shapes that lie in the painting with India Ink. Every little detail is attended to and stressed upon making the landscapes appear high definition. It almost has the ability to transfer the viewer into the landscape.

Getting to know the artist better, one comes to know of all the hard work and perseverance gone into developing such a powerful and award winning style. He sheds light on his art, the process involved and his journey so far in the interview…

Into The Vast

@How did you happen to begin painting?
I had always drawn, or dabbled in paint, but it wasn’t until 1989 that I fell in love with watercolor. All of my learning has come through reading art books, and magazines, and a whole lot of trial and error. It would be another six years until I decided that I wanted to become a serious artist, and make it my life’s work.

@Where do you draw inspiration from?
My primary visual interest has always been with rocks…mountain-size rocks, and the coolest rocks I’ve ever seen are in the desert of Southeastern Utah. The colors range from soft pinks to fiery red-orange and the shapes are strangely rounded and smooth. Finally, in 2005, I moved to Moab, which sits in the middle of this desert, right between Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. Ninety percent of my work is inspired by this area.

@What are the things which have been instrumental to your growth as an
The main thing is just hard work and dedication. When I first started painting seriously, I would wake up at 3:00 in the morning, so that I could paint for four hours before having to go to my regular job. I do my best work when I am still half-asleep, and can’t think too much. I did this every day for over three years. I still paint an average of six hours every day.

Soaring High

@Tell us a little about how your current style of painting came into being?
I did some experimenting with watercolor way back in high school. I had a sheet of paper with a bunch of random marks on it, and just out of teenage boredom decided to outline all the marks with a ballpoint pen. I was so impressed with how cleanly defined these marks were, that the outline became part of my artistic thinking from that day forth.

@What is your typical method of working
I start by making a full size drawing on news print paper, where I define basic elements of shape and composition. Next I transfer the drawing to the painting surface using graphite paper. If any  masking is required, I’ll do it at this time. Since the finished painting has all the elements outlined, it’s important to paint every facet of the piece with hard edges, starting with the largest shapes first and working inwards. When I’m finished painting, I pick up my rapidograph pen and outline every shape. The outline unifies the painting and makes it clean and creates the effect of looking at it in high definition.


@Most interesting thing about the way you work…
Ninety percent of my color mixing is done by layering and glazing. I paint a shape with clear water and then float a color into sections of it. I’ll do this several times using various colors until I have achieved the richness that I want.

@How difficult was it to find commercial success and how did you go about it?
I have not found commercial success…haven’t really looked for it. When I chose fine art as a career, I knew not to expect a regular paycheck. That being said, I still do OK, and each year seems to get a little better, but mainly in terms of recognition. I’ve spent the past few years entering a bunch of national shows…even got into a few. One of the bigger profile shows I was in was looked at by one of the art magazines, who took an interest in my work and wrote an article on me. This was followed by other appearances in their magazine, as well as other magazines. I also believe in advertising when possible.

From The Beginning

@A lot of your works have won awards…..tell us a little about that….
When I received my first award in 2000, I had confirmation that friends and family weren’t the only ones who liked my art, and that I should keep trying. Since then I’ve received many more, several of them with particularly special meaning. The last one I received was my first “Best of Show” in a national exhibition. It’s always nice to be recognized for ones accomplishments.

@Where can we view more of your works online?

@Could you share a few useful and practical painting tips with us….?
My favorite tip to share is when applying liquid masking fluid to
watercolor paper, instead of using (and possibly ruining) a brush, use a Colour Shaper. A Colour Shaper is a brush-like tool with a silicone tip instead of bristles, therefore the dried masking peels right off.

@And lastly….any marketing tips….online and otherwise?
Get your art noticed anywhere possible, particularly places that apply to art. Have a website. Enter competitions, and don’t be afraid to aim high. Also, don’t let rejection stop you, it will happen, but it won’t kill you. You just keep trying, and always enter your best work. Art festivals can be lucrative too.

That was the artist getting candid about his art....

He was kind enough to show me a reference photo he used for a it is with the painting followed below...

Time On Earth

Jonathan shares a few notes….

"By the time I reached this vantage point, the sun had set, so all the light you see in the painting was done from memory, or invented, Except for the hills on the horizon which were done from another photo. Also, all the foreground elements were invented."

It’s amazing to see how the artist has transformed an otherwise dull photo into a dramatic painting.

Hope you enjoyed this article as much as I did writing it…..remember to leave comments…they’re highly valued.

Happy Painting!!


  1. Great Article Shagufta! And a great subject! I find Jonathan to be one of the most talented watercolorists around.

  2. Thank you Shagufta for a great article. I found your blog by searching for Jonathan paintings. So glad to have found you! Happy painting!