Question & Answer with FRANCIS BOAG

The artist adds to our library of informal interviews about his inspiration and working environment...
March 16, 2024
Question & Answer with FRANCIS BOAG

Have you always known you wanted to be an artist?

Probably, though I'm not sure how old I was before I had any idea what an artist was.
Artists were historical figures from school books. I don't think I had any conception of living artists...maybe Picasso? But at some point during maybe 2nd or 3rd year at school, I knew I wanted to be an Art Student!


What route did you take to achieving that goal?

I 'stuck in at the school'...that was my mum's evocation every day. I knew if I 'stuck in at the school' she would be, I did.


Which artists influence your work?

The major influence to my student work was David Hockney. I had never heard of him, but by pure chance I stumbled into the seminal exhibition featuring his California swimming pool paintings at the Kasmin Gallery in 1969. When I got back to Art College I completely changed direction in my work.


What do you love most about being an artist?

I'm not sure I do love being an artist…I love being a painter. And I love being able to make a living at it...but calling yourself an artist seems presumptuous. Maybe I suffer from 'impostor syndrome'?


What's the biggest challenge?

Finding enough studio time…'real' life keeps intruding.


Tell us about your studio. Is there anything about it you'd like to change?

When other artists and also clients visit my studio you can see them looking round in disbelief…it's tiny! However, like most artists, even if I had an aircraft hangar, I would soon be complaining that it wasn't big enough.


How would you describe your painting style?

When it's going well, it's dynamic, free, splashy and fun. At other times it can be constipated, niggly and boring.


What media do you use and why are they your preference?

I mentioned the David Hockney exhibition earlier and it was after seeing that that I changed from oil to acrylic paints. And I have stuck with them ever since. Though in 1998 during my MA at Grays School of Art, I introduced collage which I have also continued to use.
Although I still miss some of the qualities only oil paint can give you, they would be totally impractical in my small studio.


Where do you get your inspiration?

It may sound trite, but I have found if you invest in some perspiration then you're more likely to find some inspiration.


What equipment could you not do without?

Apart from the obvious ie brushes, paints etc. I find that at some point in every painting I need to pick up a straight edge, usually a plastic ruler, to use as a mask to achieve a precise edge to a colour.


What colour could you not do without?

I'm sure most people who know my work would say 'red', but actually I think that I often use a purple/violet colour to hold everything together, and would struggle to replace it.


What's the starting point for your paintings?

I always have canvases at different stages around the studio, and when I feel I have done enough for the day on the painting I am working on, I take it off the easel and very quickly transfer all the paint remaining on my palette to one of these.
Usually as very liquid washes but sometimes a thick impasto using a palette knife. I don't have any plan as to what the painting might become at this stage. I just want to get rid of the blank white canvas.


How do you know when it's finished?

If I think a painting might be finished I put it to one side and start working on something else. But at the start of the next session I'll put it back on the easel to see if there are any areas which I'm not happy with and can improve.
I'll repeat this process several times until I'm sure I can't get it any better, then it goes into the rack ready to be varnished.


Do you know what you're going to paint when you approach the canvas?

Not usually. During the early stages I'm trying to make the mark-making and colour placement as dynamic as possible. I find that if your painting doesn't have energy and excitement at the beginning it's really difficult to add it later.


What's your favorite gallery to visit?

Apart from GalleryHeinzel?…when I moved up to Aberdeen to teach at the Grammar School, I fell in love with the Aberdeen Art Gallery.
It has such a beautiful interior with so many different unique spaces making up the whole. I timed it, and it was a seven minute walk from the Grammar, plenty of time to get there during lunch hour or with a class.


If you could collaborate with one artist, from any time, who would it be and why?

That's difficult. Maybe Joan Eardley?

I can just see me getting a lift on the back of her scooter for the short trip down the road to Catterline. She could teach me how to paint the sea…or maybe just paint, full stop!