Artist Snapshot: Frank O’Cain

Exploring the mind and habits of an artist in twenty-five questions

Artist Snapshot: Frank O'Cain
Frank O’Cain in the studio

At what age did you decide to become an artist?
Twenty-five, when my wife brought me into the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and I found a reason to be.

How did your parents react when you told them you wanted to be an artist?
They were overjoyed for I had found a value in our time on this planet.

Who are your favorite artists?
Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Cézanne, and the creators of Japanese screens. They always bring me to the deeper meaning of what a creation can bring one to the many layers that is life in constant flux.

Who is your favorite artist whose work is unlike your own?
Afshin Ghaffarian, dancer and choreographer, and Louis Kahn, the architect.

Art book you cannot live without?
Romare Bearden’s The Painter’s Mind: A Study of the Rlations of Structure and Space in Painting, Born Under Saturn by Rudolf Wittkower and Margot Wittkower, Modigliani by Pierre Sichel, Materials for the Artist and Their Use in Painting by Max Doerner, Formulas for Painters by Robert Massey, and R.v.R.: Life and Times of Rembrandt van Rijn by Hendrick Willem van Loon.

What is the quality you most admire in an artist?
The ability to transcend the surface into a force of quiet energy that brings you into a world that stops time and provides one with eternal energy.

Do you keep a sketchbook?
Always, not only to draw but to write an action that passes into the eye of the mind and will not be ready to be visually described.

What’s your favorite museum in all the world?
The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

What’s your go-to NY museum?
Same.

What’s the best exhibition you have ever attended?
Too many: Pioneering Modern Painting: Cézanne and Pissarro, 1865–1885, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline.

If you were not an artist, what would you be?
I would not be.

What is one thing you didn’t learn in art school that you wish you had?
The ability to be with anyone outside the community of creative energy.

What work of art have you looked at most and why?
Asian, African, Native American. They find the path from concrete to spirt and allow us to embrace the all that is.

What is your secret visual pleasure outside of art?
I have none.

Do you listen to music in your studio?
Often, classical and opera; sometimes, twelfth-century choral.

What is the last gallery you visited?
It was one of Bruce Dorfman’s exhibits, and I found a depth of a new reality.

Who is an under-rated artist people should be looking at?
Romere Bearden and Louise Nevelson.

What art materials can you not live without?
Oil.

Do you paint/sculpt/create art every day?
No, sometimes I sit and ponder the sounds of nature.

What is the longest time you went without creating art?
Three months.

What do you do when you are feeling uninspired?
The joy in life comes to me when confronted by the life that expels about us. I find myself looking into the majesty of a tree.

What are the questions that drive your work?
The transfer of idea through a unified surface and finding an action that helps to bring about the idea.

What is the most important quality in an artist?
To be able to embrace all success with the same joy that may or may not be your own.

What is something you haven’t yet achieved in art?
A true balance.

What is the best thing about art in the era of social media?
The hand that holds the spirit is still about.

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