Thursday, September 14, 2017

Interview with 1973 Prix de Rome Recipient Frank Holmes -- Part II

Artists Jill Mackie and Frank Holmes
I suspect that most art students draw inspiration from all their teachers. I certainly did. There was something in Frank Holmes' manner that especially resonated with me back then, and it is with special pleasure that I share more of his work and story with you today.

If you missed the first part, you'll want to begin here.

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EN: You were coming of age as a painter during the time of Warhol, Rauschenberg and Lichtenstein. What attracted you to realistic interiors?

FH: Yes, that was my time—or some of it—and I did care about them, and many other contemporary painters of different stripes. As regards realistic interiors, the boss in those days was John Koch. He was a fabulous painter. I was a giant fan of his. Ben Kamihira was another favorite and an influence. My friend Ron Schwerin, who had won the Prix de Rome, was, too. They were all excellent interiorists. And from a little earlier, Vuillard and Bonnard—not realists, but wonderful; I cared deeply for them. Also, Ingres—not an interiorist, but my hero for a long time.

EN: What is 3-point perspective? How does it differ from painting a cityscape?

FH: There is probably a technical definition of 3-point perspective, but I'm not sure what it is. To me it's perspective that includes convergence of verticals and horizontals—not just horizontals, as with 2-point perspective in which all verticals remain parallel with the side of the painting. In my 3-point paintings, the viewer is always above the depicted event and all vertical lines converge downward and meet at a point below the painting. I don't paint cityscapes so it's hard for me to say how what I do is different. It seems if you're painting a cityscape you may or may not want any convergence. If you do want it and you're standing on the ground, the lines that describe the buildings will converge above—if you're flying overhead, they'll converge below.

In 1969 I did a painting of a couple sitting on a sofa in a sort of living room-like space. It was a busy image, lots going on. I slanted all the verticals just slightly toward what would have been a third vanishing point. About the same time I came across a little book titled Modernized Pictorial Perspective by T. Heaton Cooper. In it was a section he called SKEW-VIEWS. My studio at the time was a former bedroom and had just enough space to plot the right and left vanishing points but not the low point which was several feet below the painting. I solved the problem by rotating the canvas on my wall easel and locating the low point. Whenever I needed to use it I turned the painting 90 degrees, drew the lines or whatever and then turned it back. It wasn't a perfect setup, obviously, but it worked. All three points were marked with nails in the wall. To each thread was tied. You can get the idea.

"Dusk Call" 68"x 57" Oil on Canvas, 1973-75
Later on, in early 1973 when I began "Dusk Call" I devised a way to draw lines accurately to the third point without rotating the canvas. I made sort of a T-square that I could slide back and forth above the painting, always aiming at the third vanishing point. It, and the surface it would slide on, would both be part of a circle whose center was the third vanishing point. I did a scale drawing that showed exactly how far away and where that point would be. It was about 21 feet below the top of the painting. A lightweight chain served as a compass which, when extended the correct distance, enabled me to draw curved line on a ten-inch wide board a little longer than the width of the painting. I then sawed the board in two along the line. I attached half to the painting's top and made what would be the T-square from the other half. When I'd attached a long straight edge to it and made sure it would stay securely on track above its mate, it would slide back and forth and always aim exactly at the lower—15-feet away—third vanishing point. Yes!

EN: What are you working on now while awaiting your next commission?

FH: I'm just packing up the sarcophagus painting I mentioned earlier and getting ready to ship it to the client. Also, my wife, painter Jill Mackie, is having a show in October, so I am her Guy-Friday at the moment. I think now and then about those 3-point perspective years and wonder if there's something there I need to re-kindle.

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"Andy's Picture"  40"x 50", Oil on canvas, 2004

"Studio Sunset"  62"x 60" Oil on Canvas, 1993
"August" 66"x 58", Oil on canvas, 1979
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Frank Holmes continues to be active as a painter 
and is available for new assignments.

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