CCA&C: How old were you when you began creating artwork? At what age did you decide to become an artist/crafter? Was it obvious from childhood or did it evolve over time?
Franc: I started as soon as I could hold a pencil! always loved to draw, and was stimulated and encouraged by my older siblings, and father, who was an artist. The idea of making a living at it only came after leaving high school.
CCA&C: Were you formally trained or self taught? Either way tell us a little about your journey. What were your biggest hurdles?
Franc: After much appreciated art classes in high school, it seemed inevitable to go to art college. My parents insisted on my getting a teaching degree in order to have a measure of job security job-wise. I learned a lot in college (in Amsterdam). all the usual techniques. The emphasis was on getting things “right”. If it didn’t look good then tear it up and start over! This seemed kind of harsh at the time, but also healthy in a way. Teaching itself did not turn out to be my calling and after a few years I devoted all my time to my own work.
CCA&C: Were your family supportive of your creative endeavours? If yes how so – if not what were their feelings? What influence do you feel this has had on your success?
Franc: I think that growing up, my artistic environment was hugely important for me. Spending time doing art was never looked down upon. My older sisters were good at drawing and painting, and I learned a lot from watching them work. And of course having a dad who made his living writing and illustrating children’s books helped!
CCA&C: Do you work with different mediums? If yes what is your personal favourite? If no have you ever been tempted to try something new and what has held you back from doing so? How did you decide on the medium you have chosen?
Franc: My mediums of choice are etching and watercolour. I have done both all of my life. I started etching in high school art classes and loved it from day 1!
CCA&C: What Inspires you? Where do you seek inspiration? How do you incorporate this inspiration into your artwork?
Franc: I get inspiration from many things, but mainly from the landscape around me. But inspiration can come from going to art exhibitions, museums etc. I got a huge kick out of seeing an Escher retrospective exhibition at the Hague when I was a boy and I have never quite recovered! Being an etcher, I of course I studied Rembrandt and still do. Another inspiration was discovering Andrew Wyeth. Travelling is a huge inspiration to me. I take a sketchbook on every trip and usually fill it with impressions later to be worked out in my studio.
CCA&C: Are there any messages, political, economical or social, that you are trying to share in your work or are your pieces strictly for beauty?
Franc: I think my pieces are strictly for aesthetic beauty. Any political message has yet to emerge!
CCA&C: Do you belong to any art/craft associations? How do you find such alliances? Are they helpful and if yes, how so?
Franc: I have been part of art associations over the years but am mostly a bit of a loner, happy to be puttering awayin my studio rather than spending time talking about art.
CCA&C: Do you see any trends in Canadian Contemporary art and craft? If yes, what are they? Of these trends, are there any that you feel inspire you and if yes how so? Are there any trends that you see that you will not follow and why?
Franc: I guess I am aware of some trends in contemporary arts and crafts but feel that they don’t necessarily influence me personally. I am certainly not casting about for trends to follow!
CCA&C: How has social media affected your art/craft? Do you take advantage of social media? If so how? How do you support the galleries/spaces that sell your work? Do you feel this is important and part of your job as an artist?
Franc: It has helped me having a website, though it took some convincing from friends and colleagues to start one. But apart form that I do not use social media so far.
CCA&C: What would you like to have people think or feel about your work once you have moved on from this little planet? What do you think your legacy will be?
Franc: Wow, that is a big question! To have my work hanging in other people’s walls and giving them pleasure is satisfying, and I don’t ask for much more. Maybe some of my pieces will still be around in a few decades. That would be very cool!
Franc van Oort was born in Soest, Holland, in 1953, into a long line of artists. Among his forefathers are a master printer, a political cartoonist, and his father, an author and illustrator of children’s books. As a boy, he had a fascination for illustrations and prints, which were abundant in his environment. He was especially inspired by a large retrospective exhibition of M.C. Escher’s work, and amazed at the effect these pictures had on him. As young man, Franc was encouraged by his family and his highschool art teacher to pursue his artistic inclinations.
From 1972-1975 Franc attended the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam, where he earned a teaching degree. Shortly afterwards, Franc met his future wife Sylvia, whom he followed to Canada, taking printmaking courses at Concordia in Montreal, and depicting new and interesting scenery.
Returning to Holland he took a job teaching art at his old high school. After two years however, he decided that teaching was not his calling, and turned his attention to illustrating, watercolour painting, and etching. After a few years of frequent exhibitions and appearances at art and craft shows around Holland, Franc and his family, meanwhile augmented with daughter Linda and son Marcel, emigrated to Canada in 1985. Happy in his newly adopted country, Franc enjoyed the open spaces, relaxed atmosphere, and ready subject matter. Continuing to establish himself as an artist, Franc spent many years attending craft shows in Ottawa, Kingston, and Toronto, and exhibiting his work in numerous solo and group exhibitions in galleries across Ontario. Far from slowing down, Franc continues to add to his oeuvre of over three hundred etchings, remaining as enthusiastic as ever about his art.