Ask the Expert…Nancy Franke, OPA

Question: Do you have a mindset before starting a painting? Any techniques to center yourself and allow the painting to take shape without wrestling it to the ground?


EASE and FLOW, Find and Express Your Joy in Painting

Possibilities, 40x30
Possibilities, 40×30

One of the things that fascinates me about painting is that the time spent on a painting has little or nothing to do with the success of the result.  In fact, very often, my most soulful work is done in the least amount of time.

So, should we set a timer to limit the painting session?  Rush through the subject to keep it loose and free?  

Alas, those techniques have not been a path to success, at least for me.  No, it isn’t limiting time, or even increasing time that seems to make the work resonate and be strong.

It is, in fact, time spent BEFORE beginning to paint that is most important. Relaxing into happy thoughts and centering the mind will enrich the painting process in so many ways.

At the easel

Being impulsive and energetic, of course I want to just dive in! Alas, I have learned — through much experience and lots of wasted effort — that prior to diving right in, if I take a bit of time to do one or two of the things outlined below, my work will come closer to flowing with ease.  Make a career of happiness and all else will follow.

Londolozi, 12x12
Londolozi, 12×12
  • Take a Walk Outside!   (or run, swim, stroll or sit in a chair and listen to the birds)… open the door and go.  Happiness and peace are there, always.
  • See the light, feel the air, and clear the mind by listening to music, all kinds and varieties!

“To find the best ideas you have to go deep within yourself. To do this I practice meditation every day. I believe it keeps the ideas coming,” artist Olivia Loche

Holding Tight, 16x8
Holding Tight, 16×8
  • Meditate and Breathe!  If you do these exercises for just even 3 or 5 minutes…no more is necessary — such moments have an amazing capacity to center the mind and keep performance jitters at bay.
  • Some Chinese painting teachers recommend meditating in front of the actual subject to be painted for two minutes: just two minutes, worth a try.
  • Before painting, look at beautiful work that inspires you!  We live in a time when just a click of the mouse can bring us images of the most amazing historical and current painters…what a resource and inspiration. Take one painter a day, and see how he or she resolved simplification of shape, value and color to capture the magic!
Anders Zorn
  • Travel near or far, but get out of your immediate surroundings, if only for an afternoon stroll through some galleries… and breathe new air.
Five O'Clock, Paris
Five O’Clock, Paris
  • OK now, let’s paint — squeeze out the colors, crank up the music, and …don’t try too hard!  Oh this is so true – we as painters want to wrestle that subject matter to the ground.  Instead, squint and dance with your painting, trying spots of clear color and moving back and forth.
  • I call it the Dance between Joy and Skill – retain the underpinnings, but let the energy show and flow!  As is often heard in my workshops, use BIGGER brushes, inexpensive chip brushes, palette knives, silicone tools, or anything to keep out of the rendering mode and into the large shapes; seek the strong, confident look.
  • And maybe, before actually painting the “real” one, do a small oil sketch from life, something simple like a pear or a cup – light it up, and paint this study in 20 minutes.  Get the colors going on the palette and loosen your hand, all while tuning your eye.
Outlier, 8×16
  • Always, read anything on creativity or painting or whatever inspires.  The wisdom in Robert Henri’s “The Art Spirit” continues to amaze; try Stephen King’s book “On Writing” – it’s very much applicable to painting too.  


nancy franke book collage
The Art Spirit, Robert Henri & Stephen King, On Writing

Most importantly, take several moments each day to appreciate and embrace the gift of this special painting life we share… and the quest for “Ease and Flow!”

Nancy Franke, OPA is an artist and teacher. Please visit her website to view more of her beautiful works.

We are honored to announce that Nancy will be our November Judge for Art Muse Contest.





2 thoughts on “Ask the Expert…Nancy Franke, OPA

  1. Sharon

    I love Nancy Franke! She is an energetic and inspiring teacher! Nancy has a big, fun personality and becomes an instant friend. She is someone that just makes me smile,……the “happy, forget all your worries” smile. I appreciate ALL of the art cafe/studio advice and your asking her to share her heart! Thanks!🤗


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