Lifetime of being a student of art

Monday, August 28th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

GORE, Okla. (AP) -- Moving to Oklahoma has been one more step in the life of Frances Fraser, a Vian painter who said she will always be a student to her art.

"In the art world, they say you have to pay your dues and that's to try every day and be the best you can be. ... The rewards are incredibly wonderful if you try. If not, you get nothing. It"s very cut and dry."

Growing up on the West coast in Washington, Fraser, 65, always knew what she wanted.

"I started drawing when I was 5 (years old). My mom would give me a pencil and paper in church just to shut me up. ... Then I started getting (art) lessons in the fourth grade," Fraser said.

Art lessons in grade school led to more instruction in high school and several local awards for her work.

"Mom kept all my paintings on the walls," she said.

She married in 1954, had four boys and two girls and gave family her complete attention throughout her husband's career in the U.S.

Air Force.

His enlistment took the family all over the U.S. and overseas to Germany and Japan, she said.

"It's certainly been interesting, but it was hard on the kids moving around so much. ... They had to pick up and leave and move from all their friends," she said.

Several of their children adapted to the lifestyle well enough they entered the armed forces themselves.

Fraser said in her own life she always wanted to keep painting.

Her life changed in 1979 when she and her husband of nearly 25 years divorced.

"After the divorce I went to art school. I'd always wanted to go to art school."

At 45, Fraser moved to New York City where she began taking classes at the Art Students League of New York. The school was founded in 1875 and has had influential American artists such as Georgia O'Keefe, Winslow Homer and Jackson Pollock as students.

"It was like going to the moon and finding out how to live,"

she said.

One of her best memories of her stay was the opportunity to go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and paint a copy of an original work that was on display. She also remembers selling some of her own works in front of the museum and doing pastel portraits for passers-by in New York City's Central Park.

"I could write a book about my experiences there. ... It was the most fun, most interesting and most wonderful time in my life."

For one year she faithfully attended classes. She then returned to California and continued to paint.

Another phase for Fraser began when she opened her own portrait shop in Calico Ghost Town in San Bernardino County. With a history of silver mining activity, the town brought in a steady flow of tourists from around the world and into her shop. She stayed there two years before retreating from the dry heat and relocating to Oklahoma to be closer to family.

"I love it (here). I've met lots of fabulous artists in this area," she said of living in eastern Oklahoma for nearly one year.

Today Fraser has 10 grandchildren. She works from a studio located in the Garden Gate Variety Shop on Gore's Main Street, where she also teaches weekly art classes and encourages her students.

She continues to paint portraits in all mediums and plans to open a larger studio in the same shop.

She paints landscapes, Western scenes and native subjects, but children are her favorite subjects.

She is still learning about painting even outside the typical classroom setting.

"You have to keep studying to keep going. When you think you're the best there is out there then you're already dead, no longer growing."

She believes that everyone has their own gift to create.

"Very few people do anything with it (talent). I see people everyday staggering with talent, gifted with creativity, that perhaps I thought their (level of talent) was far greater than mine," she said. "You have to really be motivated to do something with it."