To Be Frank, I’d Have to Change My Name

June 4, 2021

I have a funny story to tell you.

Three or four years ago, I was having an estimate done for tiling my balcony. The gentleman took a look at a painting hanging on my wall and asked, “Is that supposed to be a wave?” I said, “Yes, it’s supposed to be.” He responded, “Well, is it finished?” I answered, “I guess it’s finished until Frank Ferrante comes to my house and tells me what else I need to do.” The tiler said, “Well, I’m an artist and I guess I’ll just call it an abstract.”

Recently, I told the story to Frank Ferrante and showed him a photo of the painting. I’m sure he was underwhelmed, but HE recognized it as a wave, true artist that he is!

I actually did that painting in Frank Ferrante’s class, but please don’t think that he is anything less than a teacher extraordinaire! I had admired Frank’s work from the time I walked into The Hub on Canal and glanced to my right. That studio was loaded with exquisite masterpieces of my beloved ocean. At the time I never ventured into any of the studios to actually speak to the artists, fearful of disturbing them, although now I know that the artists welcome guests and enjoy interacting with them. When I saw that there was a workshop actually offered by Frank Ferrante, I signed up, and with my heart beating out of my chest, I ventured to take my very first oil painting class. And let me tell you again that Frank is not only a master painter, he’s a master teacher. He patiently describes processes and travels around the classroom giving individual guidance to each student. I feel that everyone left that workshop with a piece of art they could be proud of.

Through the four years that I have been a member of The Hub on Canal, I have gotten to know Frank somewhat, but I was delighted when he agreed to chat with me for this blog. He is an interesting, charming, talented gentleman with a great sense of humor.

One of the first things I asked about was his family. He’s driving to Colorado Springs this summer to visit his two children (whom he states are what he’s most proud of in his life) and two grandchildren. Drumroll, please! Frank will be celebratng his 80th birthday! I was astonished! (On my way to chat with Frank, I was trying to figure out how much younger he is than I.)

So, a little background. Frank was born, almost 80 years ago (still astonishes me) in New Jersey, an only child. Constantly pencil drawing to entertain himself, early on he found an avocation which would evolve into a vocation. In 1961, he entered the Newark School of Fine and Industrial Arts studying advertising design. He did cast drawings, which were plaster casts of feet, hands, torsos, etcetera, as well as charcoal drawing and figure drawing. He did black and white washes of items such as furniture and plants. All his studies while in the School consisted of drawing and composition, no color whatsoever. On his own, he decided to experiment with color, an easy transition from charcoal to pastels. He then progressed to watercolor, which he didn’t enjoy, then to acrylics, but he had no training at all in using color.

For Christmas, 1965, he was gifted a little tin starter set of oils to try, but a month later he was drafted into the Marine Corps, where he was fortunate enough to serve in the Marine band playing saxophone. Living in a little trailer, he did countless oil paintings, “each one uglier than the next,” he chortled.

Because Frank loved the advertising field, after his stint in service, he began working for a pharmaceutical company in marketing and sales. Continuing his education, he earned a B.S. in marketing at Rutgers University. Luckily, he then “stumbled upon” Ridgewood Art Institute, where he began his serious relationship with oil painting after meeting John Osborne. Frank stated, “I loved, loved his work.” John Osborne is a master painter who was influenced by Frank Dumond. Dumond is known for his circa 1880 “prismatic palette.” John Osborne is a devotee of this pallette and taught its use to our Frank as they painted together every Wednesday night in the studio and every Sunday morning doing plein air, for 22 years! Frank still uses this palette, though slightly modified, and pointed out the concept to me on one of his landscapes. It uses a progression from yellow to orange to red to violet, like a prism. (The result is subtle; I need a few more lessons, maybe even longer than 22 years worth!). Ninety-nine percent of his classes were still life. Frank says, “Still life is to painting as scales are to music,” a statement that surprises me, but makes perfect sense as I ponder it.

While continuing his painting, Frank’s career path forked and he took the road that led to the formation of a full service advertising agency with two others, Salthouse Torre Ferrante, Inc. The agency’s first successful product launch was for Zantact, developed by Glaxo Pharmaceutical. After eight years, he took off on his own and established Frank Ferrante Marketing Communications, Inc, a one man shop with a secretary. Ten years ago, he left New Jersey and moved here. I am always curious as to what draws people to our state, and to our particular area. Frank’s reason was simple: “I got taxed out of the state.” He put everything (including painting supplies) in storage and moved south. He had been so involved in painting and in teaching painting, that the move hit him hard. He did nothing with painting for nine months. “I was the most miserable person in the world,” he said. However, he found painting and teaching opportunities at The Art League of Daytona Beach, the Artists’ Workshop and, luckily for us, The Hub on Canal. He had heard of The Hub, open only a year, and brought his paintings to Sally Mackay, one of the founders of the facility. After talking with others, Frank was allowed one of the studios, though not in his present primo spot!

One thing that particularly interests me is that Frank tubes his own blues, greys, and greens, meaning he mixes his paint and puts it in a 40mm metal tube and crimps the end, resulting in a tube of paint that is mixed with the other palette colors, prior to painting on the canvas. The most important thing in a painting, Frank asserts, is that there is a triad; there must be three values: light, medium, and dark, whether you are painting “a pebble on the beach or the Taj Mahal.”

When I asked Frank what the worst thing he had seen someone do to a painting, he chuckled as he told me of an event that happened when he was judging paintings. He related that an individual had evidently left to go to lunch in the middle of a plein air painting, but failed to realize that the lighting had changed. So, in part of the painting, the shadows were to one side of the objects and to the opposite side in the rest of it.

Besides being an oil painter, many people familiar with The Hub on Canal are aware that Frank is a saxophone player, beginning at age 9 all the way through his military days. But what they may not know is that he put the sax down and didn’t touch it for 50 years. He actually had to buy finger charts when he reacquainted himself with the instrument. An accomplished musician, he actually raised $10,000 for the outreach program at The Hub. As an aside, you may not be aware of all the wonderful work The Hub sponsors. Since the beginning community outreach has been an integral part of the focus of The Hub on Canal, and hopefully will be the subject of a future blog.

Returning to the current subject, I asked Frank what he wanted people to take away from his work, he replied,“If they could share in my enjoyment.” I have shared in his enjoyment on more than one level. I have two paintings hanging on my wall from his workshops as well as one of his actual demo paintings. Everytime I walk into The Hub, I get to share in his enjoyment as I look into his studio, often able to watch the artist creating. Obviously, this is a man who loves his avocation/vocation. How fortunate we are to have the delightful Frank Ferrante and his fabulous works at The Hub!

Addendum: After I finished writing this, a little bird told me that Frank is a fantastic cook, emphasizing the word “fantastic.” Frank, given the opportunity, I’ll be glad to give you my opinion!

Written by Donna Bradley