I enrolled at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art in
Dundee, just 3 days after my 17th birthday in 1965.
This made me one of their youngest ever graduates,
when I completed the course in June 1969, still only 20 years old.
I taught Art in schools across Scotland before
arriving at Aberdeen Grammar School as Head of Art in 1989 – a role I loved for more than 10 years.
had done at all my previous schools, I tried to create a
small studio space in the art room,
where the pupils could see me working.
It was part of my teaching philosophy that the pupils should see that
as well as their teacher, I was also a practicing artist.
I had always drawn and painted since leaving Art
school, and had exhibited sporadically over the decades, but I had never truly
tried my hand at being a professional artist although it was something I had
always aspired to.
1993, for the Christmas show at the Riverside gallery in Stonehaven I first
exhibited a few small postcard size landscapes and was shocked and delighted
when they all sold.
The next year after being encouraged by friends and on
the back of the sales in Stonehaven, I set out to approach galleries in
Aberdeen. After one abortive attempt, and a quick pep talk to myself, I finally
plucked up the courage to enter Gallery Heinzel and speak with Chris, the then owner. She asked to see my
paintings and seemed to like them, so said she’d give them a try. To my delight, the following Saturday
afternoon I received a phone call to say that one of my paintings had been
When demand for my pieces started to gain some
momentum in 2001, I found myself at a fork in the road in terms of my career.
It was at that point, at the age of 53, that I took the decision to leave my
post at Aberdeen Grammar School and focus on becoming a full-time professional
It was a decision I have never regretted.
Most inspired by:
For a while now, I have been inspired by Claude Monet
and the garden at Giverny, which he created and painted exclusively over the
latter part of his life.
At this stage in my life, I find am attracted more and
more to painting my immediate surroundings both the beautiful garden my wife
teresa has created at our house at Ury, or the landscape I see all around me on
my thrice daily walks around the Estate with Mac, our Labrador.
If I’m sketching or painting just for fun, which I
still do sometimes, then I like to use water-colour, but for my ‘day job’ it
has to be acrylic paint.
Advice to others looking to become a professional
Take up Sumo wrestling instead, there’s enough
completion out there.
Francis Boag was born in Dundee in 1948 and studied at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art in the late sixties. His tutors included Alberto Morrocco and David McClure, whose influence can be readily seen in his love of vibrant colour and the sensuous application of paint.
Francis continued to paint throughout a successful teaching career, which saw him teach in Dundee and Perth before being appointed Head of Art at Aberdeen Grammar School in 1989. It was this move to the North East which signalled a major change of direction in his work and in 1995 his expressionist interpretations of the local landscape first began appearing in galleries in the North East.
The demand for his vibrant, colourful paintings grew rapidly and his work was soon in demand from art galleries throughout the UK and Ireland.
In 1999 a major commission from John Lewis plc for three large paintings for permanent display in their new flagship store in the Buchanan Galleries in Glasgow prompted Francis to take a year long sabbatical from teaching. During this period he studied for an MA at Grays School of Art, a research-based course which required, among other things, that he reflect deeply on his own work to see it in the wider context of current contemporary art practice.
Fortunately for the artist, the developments in his work triggered by this challenging period met with great enthusiasm in the commercial gallery market and demand for his work increased. This enabled him to leave education and become a full-time, professional artist in 2001.
Since then, Francis has worked steadily to establish himself as one of the leading figures in a new generation of “Scottish Colourists”.
In the 2007 Christmas edition of the Sunday Herald’s Arts supplement, Francis was featured in a list of Scotland’s 50 most collectable artists. The list included such international names as Jack Vettrianno, John Bellany, Alison Watt and Peter Howson, as well as Royal Academicians Elizabeth Blackadder and Barbara Rae. This list of “artists to invest in” followed a similar compilation in the Irish press over last summer where Francis found himself selected in a completely different list of artists, almost all of whom were Irish.
Francis now exhibits widely at home and increasingly abroad.
New York, Dublin, Belfast, Paris, Cannes, Munich, Seattle, Michigan, Russia, and Australia are all recent venues for his work.
He is one of only a very few Artists to have work held in the national collections of both Scotland and Eire.
His paintings have also found their way into a host of public collections including Dundee and Stirling Universities and Aberdeen and Ninewells Hospitals and his work is increasingly sought after by large corporate collectors.
The Royal Bank of Scotland who own several of his largest paintings purchased a major work in 2008 for their new headquarters in Beijing and as late as march 2009 they purchased another four large paintings underlining Francis’ status as a most ‘collectable’ artist.
His images feature regularly in the catalogues of the international children’s charity, UNICEF and he is the only Scottish artist to be included in their Fine Art collection.
His best selling, limited edition prints and artist cards have made his images familiar across the globe and his website ‘blog’ confirms that his joyous paintings speak to a great diversity of different nationalities and cultures.
In my work, I try to evoke in the viewer, a sense of pleasure of a remembered day or time or even just a good feeling. To achieve this I use a combination of visual references, intellectual elements and emotional triggers to try to release the memory.
The visual references are the trees, cottages and other recognisable objects, the intellectual elements are the sense of it being a ‘real’ place e.g. a Scottish glen or a Spanish hill farm, and the emotional triggers are the colours, shapes and rhythmic ‘marks’ I make as the painting develops.
The paint surface, the brush marks and gestures, the colour relationships should appear spontaneous, to have an internal energy and an organic life of there own independent of the ‘scene’ they portray. The surface of the painting should have a discrete appeal which is not necessarily connected to the content of the painting, but at the same time the place or elements portrayed should appear familiar and inviting.
There should be a feeling that what you are looking at is somewhere you remember having a good time or somewhere you want to go someday. My still life paintings also contain elements which should awaken happy memories e.g. champagne, flowers, ribbons and wrapped birthday presents have all featured in recent work. Content is important in achieving the first crucial step of making someone stop to look at your work. One of my artist heroes is Matisse. Not only do you enjoy the world he has created in paint but I, for one, would love to inhabit his paintings and share his world.
My painting style has been pared down and simplified over the years. I try to avoid anemphasis on skill or facility by using old scrubby brushes which simply don’t allow precise manipulation of the pigment. I think the viewer can sometimes be overawed by the level of skill shown by an artist and this can come in the way of a proper dialogue with the painting. I would ideally like to reach the stage where I could paint with both hands at the same time!
One of the best compliments I have been paid about my work was by a Professor who had bought quite a large painting. He said he had hung it on a wall at the foot of his bed so it was the first thing he and his wife saw when they woke up each day. He said it made him start each day with a smile!