Delving into the creative world of independent artist, Frank Creber, we had the pleasure of exploring his inspirations, creative processes, and the fascinating journey that has shaped the evolution of his art. Unveiling insights into their unique perspective and artistic development, we gained an intimate understanding of what drives their creativity.
His work is informed by many topographical cityscape drawings made on location in East London; figure drawings made from observation and memory feed into the narrative process that is part of an unfolding personal visual chronicle, about the new emerging East London, both physical and social.
(Image supplied by Thames Side Studios by Phil Ashcroft)
What inspired you to become an artist?
I became an artist as a child of 9, my parents took me to the National Gallery and back at home I began to make paintings. Living in East London for thirty-five years, I have made a visual chronicle, that is structured around the idea of a tension between individuals and the physical city buildings, the micro and the macro, but the city isn’t top down or bottom up, it’s inside out, to understand the city is to observe the private lives and the public spaces too.
London is a world city and a city of dreams, we are born here, move here or find ourselves here and want to make something of our lives. My paintings are about individuals carving out a space for themselves, and those around them. A drama of success and failure is played out in the neighbourhoods as people seek, positive personal relationships, a decent home and a sense of purpose, in order to become part of mainstream life.
My paintings are informed by many observational drawings of east London, and listening to stories told to me by local families and professionals in Bromley by Bow where I worked as a community artist since 1986. I am inspired by narrative figurative artists from the past. Nicholas Poussin, Pieter Breughel, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Edward Hopper, George Bellows and Carel Weight.
What inspires your art?
I am inspired by people and how they live in the city, I am more intrigued by how people inhabit the public spaces of the city, rather that domestic private space. I am more inspired by how we live as communities rather than how with live out individual lives.
I am inspired by London, with its wealth of history, and its abundant regeneration that is both a challenge to communities and a way that amenities and housing are improved for each successive generation. The cityscape is constantly changing this makes the city an exciting visual environment for a visual artist.
London is a cultural City, with communities sharing their rules, rituals, traditions and shared realities. I am an Artist of east London, I am also inspired by other city painters, such as L.S. Lowry who created compelling portraits of his city and it’s people.
What gets you in the creative headspace?
I get into a creative headspace through storytelling, when I bring together drawings of four or five characters that I have created, and combine them, I start to have something that takes on its own life. Storytelling is not just entertainment. It's a fundamental part of being human.
I am interested in what happens between these people I am depicting, almost like I am observing a group of people who don’t know I am watching them. Stories let us share information in a way that creates an emotional connection. They help us to understand that information and each other, and it makes the information memorable.
Because stories create an emotional connection, we can gain a deeper understanding of other people's experiences.
Can you tell us about the techniques or mediums you enjoy in your work?
I work initially in drawing, with ink or pencil, I go out drawing the cityscape, and draw people from observation in cafes, on the street and I draw people from memory and imagination. Then I combine all these drawings into compositions and this guides my painting, I use a grid to scale up my composition onto the canvas, some canvases are 2 metres in length. Then I work in Oil paint, I like this medium because it allows me to layer transparent colour, and also use the pigment in a thick way too.
Are there particular messages or themes you strive to communicate through your artwork?
Ultimately, while my art may display signs of human suffering, anxiety or distress, I am more concerned with promoting well-being; life’s experiences have taught me to focus on making images that are about how people can overcome challenges in life and build strong healthy communities.
Can you share how your art has transformed or evolved over the years?
I tend to work on a series of works for two or three years and then experiment and shift direction, as each successive new approach is adopted and I learn new ways of giving emphasis my work gradually grows in richness. I have noticed that if you remain open to new influences and experiment a little - sometimes this seems to lead down dead alleys at the time.
However looking back at these pieces of work with a separation of months I suddenly you have a self realisation that a past batch of paintings have an insight to them not apparent at the time. I call this ‘getting lost on the journey’, and so I have now come to value this risk taking as 'getting lost on the journey’ can enrich life and bring us closer to reality.
Could you discuss how you maintain the authenticity of your artistic vision while also navigating shifts or trends within the art world?
My painting is a combination of internal and external motivations; the method is to create compositions in a collage technique that is guided more by an internally motivated chemistry than an externally motivated existing narrative.
However the story I want to visualise is about a group of people coming together in a place, maybe with a common purpose, or just brought together by chance; sequential art and murals have influenced the style and making of the work.
Is there a particular piece of your artwork that stands out as a favourite? What about it makes it special to you?
Comedy Club oil on canvas 2020 Being curious and observing people together socialising or working together I began to notice the characters I was creating in my drawing reflected different kinds of personality traits: (I stumbled across the theory of ‘Big Five’ personality traits): Extroversion, Openness to experience, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Neuroticisms.
For me painting deals with how I negotiate these preoccupations about community life into pictorial space, recent years have demonstrated that our health and a healthy life style is clearly connected to being together with people and with our relationships in the community. I like the Comedy Club oil on canvas 2020 because it expresses these ideas.
Thank you, Frank, for generously sharing your insights and creative journey with us. Check out his website for more examples of his work.
His blend of cityscape and figure drawings offers a profound glimpse into the evolving landscape of East London, both physically and socially. His art becomes a vivid testament to the transformation unfolding in this vibrant cityscape.
At Industville, we value more than just handcrafted lighting and furniture. We support skilled craftsmasters and artists, dedicating our showroom walls to showcase talented individuals. This initiative aims to make a meaningful impact by providing a platform for aspiring artists to gain recognition and reward for their exceptional work.