How Rose Frantzen inspires you to paint at her Alla Prima Workshop – Part II

Closeup of a Rose Frantzen painting,Vaulting the Disproportionate Illusion of a Transparent Wall.

This is part II of a two-part post and continues with the painting process Rose Frantzen modeled for us at the workshop. If you missed part I, you can see it here.

Rose Frantzen starting a painting
Rose starting her painting

Rose has tremendous energy. She moves around a lot while she paints, walking back and forth, turning around and sometimes fairly dancing with excitement. 

She makes a lovely connection with the models as she paints, talking to them all the while and learning about them as she goes, asking questions and getting to know them. In the midst of the conversation, she’ll put an index finger alongside her nose and move her face one direction or another as she says, “a little to the left, kiddo”. One senses such affection and respect for the person she’s painting. This is probably one thing that helps her get more than just a likeness.

She did 180 portraits for the Maquoketa project, all ages, and all painted from life. The folks she painted were not models and some did not sit still. She said if she works with a model who is a “head mover”, she doesn’t ask questions and she talks or listens to music or an audiobook. In the workshop, we had professional models so she asked them questions and made comments to them as she went along.

Rose Frantzen painting a portraitRose begins the face by finding an anchor point to which she can compare all her measurements. For her anchor, she used the glabella, which is the little area above the bridge of the nose and between the eyebrows. As she painted she would continually check her measurements ‘walking out’ from her anchor point, measuring as she went and asking, “Do I agree with myself?”

“When you’re working, how do you know what you can trust?”, she said. “Always return to proportion. Return to your first anchor, your first stroke on the canvas, something you know is correct.”

“Don’t think, I can’t paint it, I can’t see it. Return to what you know is right. Then ask, is it more red, more yellow or more blue? Is it lighter or darker? Is the proportion right?”

“Always ask, where do I agree with myself? Always go back to the anchor.”

She had placed a full-size mirror behind her and used it regularly to check her work as she progressed.

After 30 minutes she had established the background and the main features and drawing of the face/head.


Closeup of a Rose Frantzen painting,Vaulting the Disproportionate Illusion of a Transparent Wall.
Early stage detail of the painting, Vaulting the Disproportionate Illusion of a Transparent Wall.


Class notes on the painting process

One thing I find amazing about Rose’s work is how colorful the skin is, how painterly, and yet how alive and real it is at the same time.

First, regarding color mixing, she does all her experimentation on the palette.

Mixing color on the paletteIf it’s too orange, she mixes piles that are a little pinker and a little greener. She mixes them to the same values and then mixes color pools in between the two hues.

She mixes a lot of pools. Yellow, red and blue. Lighter, darker, warmer, cooler.

She also cleans her palette a lot.

In the cheek shadow, she used transparent paint. It can change the color without changing the value so much.

There is a hierarchy of colors. The bluest blue, the reddest red, etc. Mixes are modified from that.

Every person or race has a dominant color. Within that, there is a hierarchy.

Use the right size brush for the job.

Determine a hierarchy of edges from the hardest to the softest.


The thing you need to know about Rose is…

She is totally dedicated and she doesn’t waste time.

An example of that is the fact that her demo was an actual painting, rather than the usual small study.  The advantage to the student is that it gave us the opportunity to see how she develops a painting, not just how one paints a face.

One student mentioned how traumatized she was by something her high school teacher said to the effect that she was terrible at painting.  After talking with her about it, Rose’s final remark was, “You only have one life. If you want to paint, paint!”  That seems to be a good description of Rose’s attitude about painting. She appears driven to make the most paintings she can and make them the best she is able to. Driven.

Rose Frantzen starting a painting
Rose Frantzen starting a new piece

Rose took advantage of having her set up at the school to work late at night on her own work.  She even worked in the early morning hours in her hotel room. After hours, she painted a male model and let those of us stay who wanted to watch her. For many teachers just doing the workshop is exhausting enough, but her energy seemed endless.

Later stage of Rose Franzten painting
Unfinished painting by Rose Frantzen

Once the workshop was over she stayed an extra day to work on her painting of the model. Of course, it was much changed by the time the painting was done. Even her concept for the work changed from her original vision of the painting as one panel of a diptych to a stand-alone piece.

Rose Fratzen paintings in Fine Art Connoisseur magazine
Rose Frantzen’s final painting published in the Fine Art Connoisseur magazine, Nov/Dec 2017

During the workshop, Rose moved seamlessly between painting on her demo and helping students, never neglecting them. She always made sure she gave us the help we needed and was very conscientious.

These days with videos and YouTube, you can learn so much about painting online. Rose has a video as well.

So why bother taking a workshop? The answer is Rose herself.  She is energetic, dedicated, driven, hard-working, committed to her practice and to continually improving her work. That alone is such an inspiration. Because she asks so much of herself, it makes everyone around her want to improve too. You get personal attention, feedback, and help. She makes you want to be a better artist and gives you a glimpse of what it takes to do that.

You can see the finished painting along with others in her show, In the Face of Illusion, at the Old City Hall Gallery in Maquoketa, and see more information about it on her website. It is up through Feb 10th.

If you are interested in painting portraits or the figure, I really recommend her workshops. She teaches in her studio in Maquoketa, Iowa and at Scottsdale Artists School in Arizona. I only took the portrait class from her. She also teaches a figure workshop, and if you can afford to take both – priceless!

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