Frank Sullivan showed an interest in art at an early age, drawing incessantly as a child. Through high school, he studied with a local artist, George Lynch. In 1986 he earned a B.A. in Visual Arts from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA, where he studied drawing and printmaking with Elizabeth Peak. While at Holy Cross, Frank was fortunate to be exposed to the work of visiting artists Michael Mazur and Richard Sheehan, whose work had a lasting impact on him. He later attended The American University on a graduate fellowship in printmaking, but left after one semester to pursue a career in music for the next ten years, while continuing to draw regularly as well as teaching drawing classes and doing freelance illustration. In 1998, when his music was stalled due to an over-use injury, he enrolled in the Graphic Design Certificate program at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston where he studied 2-D design, color theory and advanced drawing under Maggie Fitzpatrick and illustration under Joe Landry. After completing the Graphic Design program, he worked in the Boston area for seven years as a Graphic Designer, Art Director and Illustrator. During this time, he began devoting much of his spare time to making and studying art, first in pastels and later in oils. In January of 2006, hIe moved to northern Maine to focus on art full time. He converted an old potato house on his property into a studio and gallery where he currently displays his work and teaches classes in drawing and painting throughout the year.
When I moved to Aroostook County in 2006, I had every intention of devoting myself to painting, but I hadn’t the slightest idea what I was going to paint. The decision to search for one’s artistic voice in rural, isolated surroundings, rather than seeking “success” in one of the numerous art Meccas of the world, is certainly nothing new, and many of my own favorite painters did just that. My decision to move to such a seemingly remote area had more to do with a desire to work in relative isolation, far away from the art world and the temptation to follow whatever the current trends in painting were, than from any desire to become a landscape painter and yet, it would occur by looking at the majority of my work, that a landscape painter is what I have become.
My choice of subjects, however, stems primarily from an aversion to driving (most of my subjects are less than four miles from my house) coupled with a preference for working outdoors and for the challenges that the ever-changing light and climate bring to my process. Over the course of a single day, any given outdoor subject can provide a multitude of color and light variations and the sounds, the smells and the feeling of the hot summer sun or the icy winter wind on my face, while the clouds race across the sky and the sun makes its way from one horizon to the next, can trigger my imagination and push me into heightened states of awareness that have a profound influence on my process, in a way that sitting in a comfortable, air-conditioned room with the radio playing and a photograph clipped to my easel can never do. The time that I spend walking around the roads, woods and fields of my neighborhood are as much a part of my artistic process as the drawing and painting are. I am sure that the many battles with black flies, sunburn, mosquitos, unfriendly dogs and arctic winds somehow make their way into my pictures. After all, the real subject of my work is actually myself and, in a way, my paintings are as much self-portraits as anything else. I paint because of a compulsion to create work that is a physical manifestation of my own personal, emotional experiences; work that can, hopefully, allow me to share those experiences with the viewer. I find the process of working with colors, shapes and pliable art materials like oil paints and pastels to be infinitely fascinating. Allowing my subconscious to work alongside my formal training, searching for ways to get those materials to do things that both surprise me and translate my own personal experiences into tangible form, has always been a primary motivating force in my work.
I used to say that I don’t choose subjects for my paintings at all, I simply paint whatever is around me, and, to some degree, this is true. I certainly don’t seek out “picturesque” subjects for my pictures. If anything, I consciously avoid such things. But after having made hundreds of pictures in the past few years, I can’t help but notice a recurring theme: namely, the ultimate decay of man-made structures in the face of time and the persistent, unstoppable growth of nature. I suppose that somewhere in that theme, I find a kind of profound truth and beauty. This was never intentional but, as a friend and fellow artist once pointed out to me, even choosing not to choose my subjects, is itself a choice. And if my subconscious decisions about what to paint or not to paint may reveal something personal about me to you, that’s fine with me. If your own experience in viewing my work reveals something to you about yourself, even better.