By Emme Nelson BaxterZoey Frank is a Renaissance woman. At age 25, she finds herself comfortable in the sixteenth, nineteenth, and twenty-first centuries. As a child, she entertained herself at home by copying Old Masters paintings in her makeshift studio in the basement. As a young adult, she trained four years in the nineteenth-century-conceived “atelier” system. And today, she is a professional, award-winning artist whose recent sketches have been published in Lessons in Classical Drawing by Juliette Aristides.
A native of Boulder, Colorado, Frank’s artistic proclivity was fostered via years of schooling in the Waldorf system. The Waldorf philosophy involves educating the mind, body, and spirit of a child through an emphasis on arts.
“Art was an important part of my life growing up,” she explains. “That was the way I played. I made little sculpture installations and watercolors and masters copies.”
She became increasingly interested in Renaissance art as a young teenager and fantasized about being an apprentice in Raphael’s studio. After high school, she spent a few semesters at the liberal arts Earlham College
in Richmond, Idaho, before deciding to pursue art studies more intensively. She subsequently moved to Seattle and enrolled at Gage Academy of Art, a non-degree-granting institution that offers figurative drawing, painting, and sculpture.
The academy has several ateliers. Frank was granted admittance to the classical atelier, the contemporary equivalent of the Old Masters’ studio, with about eighteen students. She spent four years drawing and painting in the atelier system under the mentorship of Aristides. Mornings in the atelier were devoted to working from live models. Afternoon training focused on master copies, cast drawings, and still-life projects.
She spent her first year drawing exclusively. The second year involved painting in grisaille to gain understanding of value relationships. During her third year, Frank transitioned from a warm/cool palette—ultramarine blue, burnt sienna, and white—to full color. Finally, with a deep understanding of her craft, she spent her fourth year in the atelier exploring her own ideas as she prepared for her thesis exhibition.
Today, in addition to developing her professional career, Frank is pursuing her Masters in Fine Arts at Laguna College of Art and Design in Laguna Beach, California. The advanced degree will not only provide her with credentials to teach at the university level but is also helping her to develop her own voice within her work.
“Atelier training is completely skills based,” she notes. “You have one teacher for four years. You can get stuck in the Classical Realism world.“
She is now incorporating a few handy tools of the twentieth century into her practice. She has started using photo references and photocopier to enlarge her drawings for transfer rather than working with a traditional grid.
In her thoughtful manner, she states that she is in transition. “I want the figures to be more than just beautifully painted figures. I want them to have something beyond that, to have more of a narrative element,” she adds.
It is vital to Frank that her work couples the formal concerns in painting with subject matter. She explores personal experiences and emotions through imagery and metaphor.
“These paintings represent specific states of mind for me,” she says, “but I use images that bring up the same feeling that I had at moments in my life rather than illustrating the moments themselves.”
Her favorite medium is oil. She is inspired by artists such as Raphael, Rembrandt, Andrew Wyeth, and Antonio Lopez Garcia and finds herself “intrigued” by American Realist Bo Bartlett’s work.
Frank’s work is attracting attention. In addition to having drawings published in the Aristides book, Frank won grand prize at The Artist’s Magazine’s All Media Art Competition this year. In addition to Nashville, her paintings have been exhibited in Laguna, California; Jackson,
New Hampshire; Seattle, Washington; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and Boulder, Colorado.
Do you paint in classical realist style? Share with us what inspires you and what helps keep your work fresh.