SFEtsy Store Highlights: Frances Marin, the Storytelling Painter

Have you ever seen paintings that remind you of visual imageries from your childhood? Maybe it’s that image of the treehouse where you spent carefree childhood summer evenings, or that birthday party your parents once held for you in the carport. Or maybe none of that actually happend but the daily familiarities portrayed in the artwork opened up your imagination of the simplicity of life and closeness to nature as a child. That’s how I felt when I first saw the artwork of painter and illustrator Frances Marin.

“Sausailto Houseboat” (Left) and “Step” (Right) art prints by Frances Marin.

Continuing our blog highlights featuring artists and makers from the San Francisco Bay Area, we head down south to San Jose to check out Frances Marin’s freshly re-painted studio and learn about her artwork and the business of selling art prints and custom portraits. We caught Frances a couple weeks before she was about to head to the Linea de Costa art residency in Cádiz, Spain, and very happy to learn that a she has already settled right in.

Frances in her newly re-painted San Jose studio, no longer just bright yellow!

Frances paints, draws, and prints on paper and wood, and sells both her original and printed work online on her website www.francesmarin.com and on her Etsy store. You can also find her work showcased in galleries, shops, and libraries throughout Northern California. As an active member of SF Etsy, we first met her at a pop-up event organized by SF Etsy and West Elm Emeryville. This time, we had the opportunity to hang out at her studio and chatted with her in depth about her work.

Where do you get your inspirations? The natural world and exploring through road trips, travels, or even walks as inspiration. Often you’ll see places both familiar and mysterious since I reference places I’ve been or invent anew. Memory plays a big role, so my work can feel nostalgic at times. My themes can range from people to dwellings like treehouses, or rooms and interiors, boats and other modes of transportation.

How long have you been making art and how have you evolved as an artist? I’ve been making art since I can remember; I’ve always liked drawing. I didn’t have formal art classes until I studied fine arts for my Bachelor’s degree. During that time I was making really big work, work 6-feet tall. My media was different then. I used oil paint or screen printed. I’ve found that as time goes, my work has almost looked more like how it did when I was a kid, more simple with storytelling, lighter color, that kind of thing. It feels much more natural to work this way.

When did you start working in your own studio? I had a studio while I was in school because I was fortunate to live in a house that had a converted one-car garage. It had wood-paneling and was probably remodeled in the 70’s. That was my first studio for a couple years while I was in school. Then after that I had a room in my house, then lived in a warehouse with a live/work space. I’ve been in my current space for 4 years.

What material do you use and what is your production process? My favorite materials include watercolor, gouache and Sumi ink. I love the versatility of these mediums. When I made paintings in oil, I always painted in very thin layers, so it makes sense that I would move to different materials. My process involves some research, exploration and experimentation until more solid ideas form. One thing leads to another until I decide it’s finished. My drawings and paintings are scanned and edited after they are finished. Most pieces are then made into prints. I have learned that some work just doesn’t translate to print, so some exist on their own. My prints are made with an Epson printer on velvet fine art paper. The paper is a beautiful quality, with a light texture that results in looking almost indecipherable between the original.

What’s your favorite aspect of the work: The process of making the work. When I’m working at my best I get lost in time and lost in the work. It’s meditative and intuitive, rather than planned out.

What’s been the most challenging part of the work? Finishing a piece or deciding which idea to settle on and stick to. Now that I have been working for years, I finish work more easily than before.

Where do you sell your work offline? I sell at art galleries and once in a while at fairs or pop-ups. I used to do craft fairs, but I found them to be a lot of work and unpredictable because of weather and other circumstances. I wholesale to a few stores, including Seeing Things gallery and Petite Galleria in San Jose and an art gallery called Delta Workshop in Sacramento. I’m looking to grow wholesale out of the Bay area and out of state, but I’ll need to find time to do that, Maybe this year.

Where do you sell your work online and how do you like it? I sell online on Etsy, my own website, Great.ly, and Scoutmob. I love online selling because you can reach so many more people across the US and internationally. I’ve shipped as far as South Africa, New Zealand, and throughout Europe. The artwork I sell online is relatively small so it is easier to ship; the larger pieces I like to offer to buyers more locally or for gallery shows. More and more artists are finding success selling online.

How did you get started selling on Etsy? I don’t remember when I specifically first found out about Etsy; I had heard about it as a place to sell art, handmade, and vintage. I started out selling vintage clothing. My intention was to sell art too but because I had vintage clothing and I was good at finding it, I thought I’ll build up some business first. After a couple years, I realized I didn’t have time for my art, so I closed that shop and I started an art shop. When I was first on Etsy, I was just exploring and trying to see what I could sell. In retrospect, I wish I started right off the bat with art instead of vintage clothes, because that’s where my passion was and I would’ve had two years head start in figuring things out.

Can you share any strategies or tips for selling artwork online?

  • Crisp Photos: Take really good pictures of your work. It’s the number one thing when you sell your work online. Even for me it’s a constant work in progress.
  • Customer Service: Have really good customer services by excellent communication, showing them your appreciation and staying in contact with them.
  • Social Media: Posting on Instagram and other social media is important. I like Instagram over Facebook because Facebook’s business page limits the reach on posts. I also use Pinterest a lot; visual social media is good.
  • Concise Descriptions: I used to write longer descriptions, but now I try to keep them concise. It’s better for mobile shopping. Also as part of SEO for Etsy, you want to describe the item with keywords, but do it naturally and give it some personality and life.

With the interview wrapped up, It’s time to take a look at some of our favorite pieces from Frances.

“Four Eyes” Tree house fort art print

I love this print because it instantly brought me bits and pieces of memories from my childhood, of my summers spent outdoors. This type of imagery is inherent in many of Frances’ work.

Custom Couple Painting on Wood

Doing custom portrait paintings is a great feature that Frances offers on her Etsy store, and I think the vintage-styled portraits painted on wood makes it particularly special for couples and great as future heirlooms.

Tough RV Camper Typography Art Print

I loved the drawing as soon as I saw this in Frances’ studio, but especially impressed after reading about the story behind this piece. Frances drew this in a few hours to meet the deadline for an art show, during a period where she struggled with multiple projects simultaneously. The sentiment I’m sure many creative entrepreneurs echo, especially in the ability to maintain perseverance and determination.

A Guide to Not Doing What You Said You Were Not Going to Do

One of my favorites in the series of Fake Books Frances has created using acrylic paint on wood, this print with the funny phrase shown is a great light-hearted motivational tool every time we see it.

You can find Frances on the following social media channels: Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FrancesMarinArt Instagram: http://instagram.com/francesmarin Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/francesmarin/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/FrancesMarinArt Tumblr: francesmarin.tumblr.com

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Originally published at blog.boxtiq.com on November 18, 2014.

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