Frankie O, short for O’Toole, is an Eaglehawk artist who recently
exhibited her works in the Bendigo Open Studios Program.

Frankie, Ballarat born, grew up in the Mallee region in the town of Ouyen where her mother is originally from. During her high school years, she recalls that it was always a bit of a battle fighting people to say, you know,
I do like art and it is creative, but I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it.

There were always people saying, “make sure you do some maths and some
biology and chemistry”. Frankie did all of those subjects in Year 11. But in Year 12, she gave in to her creative urge and dropped them all.

“I was good at them too. But then I knew my passion was in art”.

“Art is strange because people didn’t always encourage you to do it”.

After Year 12 Frankie decided to apply for TAFE in Mildura which was an hour away from Ouyen. From there, she was encouraged to apply for
university. Frankie wasn’t keen to go to university as she felt it was a bit scary and a big step to move to either Melbourne or Bendigo. But once accepted, she was quite excited with the fact that they liked her work. She moved to Bendigo and went to La Trobe undertaking a three year Bachelor of Visual Arts degree. Upon completion, Frankie thought, what am I going to do now?  She didn’t think that she could make a living as a practicing artist, so she took a year off and did some work before returning to university to undertake a Diploma of Education. Then she was qualified as a teacher and was able to commence a career in teaching.

Frankie’s first teaching post was at Rushworth P – 12 College where she taught mainly secondary art. She ended up staying there for 12 years,
teaching subjects  right across the board. Presently, Frankie is a full time mother and feels that she is more productive than ever with her art. Her aim is to become a full time artist instead of a full time teacher once her two daughters commence school.

Frankie’s first exhibition in 2006 really invigorated her, consolidating the fact that she was indeed a real practicing artist.  From there, she undertook a trip to Europe studying art in Rome for four weeks in The Rome Art Program. This involved going out daily to draw on the streets in blistering heat of 40  degrees. She was required to draw every morning and paint every afternoon as well as visiting museums. Frankie found this experience to be exciting and reengaging as it was so wonderful to be creating again. Upon returning home she had a strong urge to get back into her art.

Frankie’s style has steadily evolved over the years. She started off as an oil painter but now is predominantly a digital artist encompassing a lot of embellishing. She paints everything, from teacups, to birds to fashion to faces and places. The elements that tie it all together are the really bold colors and lines. Her style has gone from being realistic to expressive where she works quickly to capture the mood and essence of her subject matter.

Frankie’s transition to digital art was easier than expected. Her background of teaching art for 12 years didn’t involve a lot of digital skills and she found programs like Photoshop very complex. Starting with a simple drawing app which was called Paint Joy she commenced her digital journey.

“It became fun. It was like a game”.

Now that Frankie is starting to transition back into traditional painting, she does find it difficult because “I can’t just click a button and choose a color. You have to mix it.  You can’t click the back button if you’ve made a mistake”.

“You have this idea in your head that it’s not real art. That’s a barrier I think we need to break down”.

Frankie gets her inspiration from Pinterest and Instagram. She was recently scrolling through and noticed a lot of fluorescent pink and thought, this is a really vivid happy color. And that laid the foundation for some of her current florals.

Frankie works alongside her sister who is also a practicing artist. Their joint exhibition in the Bendigo Open Studios Program this year was well attended and received much acclaim. They currently have work in Valentines along with six artists in residence. So there’s a range of work on

In the future, Frankie would like to see her work in the surrounds of Bendigo – Daylesford or Castlemaine, maybe even Melbourne. Her aim is for her art to be continually evolving.  At the moment she is doing a lot of embellishing with gold leaf and collage over her floral works, but she would love to transform that into portraiture and plans to make a combination of
digital, drawing, painting and collage.


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