Lex Frank under his Queenslander home, where he likes to paint.
Lex Frank under his Queenslander home, where he likes to paint. JOCELYN WATTS

The art of enjoying retirement

LEX FRANK sold his first painting for $20.

It was 1975, Lex was 36 years old and he was on a family day trip at Gootchie, south of Tiaro.

He was painting an old house when the owners spotted him and asked whether the artwork was for sale.

They wanted an image of their home to send back to relatives in England.

So it was that Lex the professional artist was born.

These days Lex is well known in the Fraser Coast art world.

But it was only when he retired as the dealer principal and director of Tarrants Maryborough in 2002 that he allowed his passion to really take over his days.

There is no doubting his wife, Kathy, has been a large influence in that decision.

“She’s a very important part of it all; she keeps me on the straight and narrow,” laughs Lex.

“Kathy is a very good art critic, a great lot of inspiration, puts up with all my moods and knows a heck of a lot about art.”

It is clear Kathy admires her husband and his talent.

She points out colours and brush strokes in his paintings that hang on the walls of the couple’s Maryborough home.

She praises his skill.

Despite that, Lex remains humble about his ability, even though he has held three exhibitions at the Oriel Gallery in Brisbane, where his very first solo was in 2004.

Art lovers would have noticed Lex’s scribble in the corner of many works displayed across the region and it does not take long to be able to identify his style.

Lex started painting when he was just eight years old. He was introduced to pastels and crayons at school and later charcoal.

He also painted with oils but eventually became fed up with how long they took to dry.

In the 1980s he returned to watercolours and today continues learning about art by attending the USQ McGregor Summer School.

Last month over 11 days he took part in McGregor classes held by watercolourist David Taylor at Toowoomba.

“The David Taylor class is regarded as the advanced class,” Lex said. “He goes into mood, light, technique and composition.

“David Taylor, as well as being a nice bloke, pushes you; he teaches that you really have to work at it to succeed.”

Lex attends as many McGregor classes as possible and, in between, travels overseas for a touch of plein air painting, which he describes as a “big thrill”.

He particularly loves the atmosphere of early morning and afternoon and says painting outside provides better lighting.

“I love seascapes and rivers; I love painting water.”

For 16 days in 2006, with Kathy by his side, Lex travelled France and Spain as part of an art tour; the paintings from the trip adorn the walls in his home.

Lex has recently received a Regional Arts Development Fund grant from the State Government for about $800 which will help cover attending the McGregor school.

“I think they look at me as a developing artist,” Lex says of why he was awarded the grant.

“I just think it’s a great thing, especially as a self-funded retiree.”

Also keeping Lex busy are art classes he holds every Thursday morning, starting this month and running through to December.

On the side he paints commissioned works: “I enjoy doing commissions but on one basis, that people actually like what I’ve done,” he says with sincerity.

When asked what inspires him when it comes to watercolours he replies: “It’s a real buzz.”

His style leans toward impressionism, he says, although he would like them to lean that way a touch more.

When asked why it was not until after he retired that he started painting professionally, Lex joked about the lack of reliable income.

“I’ve got good friends that are professional artists and it’s a rough ride,” he says before adding, “I’ve always been mixed up with business.”

So what is on the horizon for this dedicated Maryborough artist?

“No exhibitions are definitely planned, although I hope to put something in the Maryborough festival.

“I won’t do as much plein air painting this year but I would like to go to Italy in September on an international artist trip.”

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