zip-a-dee-duo: part II

Mr. Armitage speaking to our group before the show opening.*
“I paint what I want, when I want, how I want.
Who could ask for more!”
– Frank Armitage

The work of Frank Armitage makes up the second half of the “Zip-a-dee-duo” show that opened last Friday (in the Showroom Gallery) sponsored by the Paso Robles Art Association.

First a bit of background: Originally from Australia, Frank was inspired by the work of Mexican muralists and moved to Mexico in 1949 to pursue painting. He worked with David Alfaro Siquieros and Diego Rivera, among others. Frank still produces astounding murals today for Disney and private homes. You can see his current work, and his wife Karen’s work, on their website.

After moving to Los Angeles, Frank worked at Walt Disney Studios on the animation and backgrounds of feature films such as Peter Pan, Sleeping Beauty, Mary Poppins and The Jungle Book. He was also a part of Disney Imagineering and went on to later become a noted medical illustrator. What an amazing career!

When he retired in 1989, he completed a course in Oriental Medicine and pursued post-graduate work in China. He volunteers in rural Mexico with the Flying Doctors.

Frank’s paintings and drawings vibrate with energy! Some of the themes that his work explores in this show are the West, exotic animals, Mexican peasants and paintings inspired by the novel “Water for Elephants”.

“I began painting murals in Mexico in the late forties
when the mural movement was strong.
The paintings were large and full of energy.
So, that’s my influence.”

“Market Woman”
“Turkey Vendor”

These two paintings, “Market Woman” and “Turkey Vendor”, show a definite influence from the time Frank spent in Mexico. His work is very bold and eye-catching from across a room.

“Indian Woman”

This piece entitled “Indian Woman” was one of the many loose pieces of art that was for sale and was by far my favorite. Every time I look at it I see something new. I am in love with the way Frank plays the cool shadows against the hot tones of the light source. The texture is mesmerizing.

“I want the viewer to be aware of the paint.
I love to create energy, even in a portion,
if not the whole painting.”

The following two drawings are a couple more of my personal favorites from his many works that are Western in theme.

Again, I have to say I did my best to capture these works of art with my iPhone. They are all even more astounding in person!

Frank is also a working artist at Studios on the Park and is currently working at a very large scale with irregular shaped pieces of muslin that he works on and then pieces together. He says the method is a result of losing range of motion in his right arm.

One of the most interesting quotes to me from Frank is this:

“I don’t preplan a painting – if I do, then it becomes an illustration.
I try to put it down as fast as possible, then fine tune it at my leisure.”

As an illustrator with a tight style, I know I sometimes over think things when I’m in the planning stages of a painting and that frustrates me. My best work comes when I just start working and strive to keep things loose, then the creative process takes over and the painting creates itself.

Another thing a lot of artists contemplate when painting is creating a consistent style, yet in the work Frank displays in this show, it looks like he has a couple different styles. Here’s what he had to say about that:

“Over the years, I have had to adopt many styles to make a living
in the entertainment industry. So now, I don’t fight it.
If the painting wants to go in a certain direction, I let it go.”

The most valuable idea I took away from my experience of Frank Armitage’s work is not to worry so much about styles and planning when it comes to my fine art. Just create and enjoy!

*A big thank you to Janice Pluma from the Paso Robles Art Association for the photo of Frank!

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