How did you get started and then develop your career?
Frank M. Costantino: I had always been drawing as a youngster, which eventually grew into my own successful career as an architectural illustrator; during those many years I also kept sketchbooks. My first exposure to the genre of plein air happened to be through my long-time friend and colleague in the architectural illustration field, Stewart White, then of Baltimore. Stewart had been painting for a while with a local plein air club, and was also a member in the Maryland Plein Air Painters group (MPAPA). In conjunction with a show of invited illustrators hosted by a local architecture club, we first painted scenes together around Baltimore Harbor. Though using watercolor (& other media) for my professional architectural illustrations for some decades, painting on site with watercolor was a very different, but thrilling experience. Stewart mentioned to me the various groups around the country hosting plein air painting events. After those early sketch attempts in Baltimore, my very first critical exposure to what plein air was really about came after my acceptance into the Plein Air Easton event in Maryland. After a taste of that overwhelming exposure to so many amazing artists and that event, I was hooked into the plein air experience ever since.
How do you describe success?
An enduring success is the gratification one derives from just knowing that you have captured a chosen scene with honesty, freshness, and visual impact. Whether one’s work sells, which had earlier been uneven for me (since my main commissions were still illustration), is not necessarily the only criteria for one’s assessment for success. Certainly, awards and sales from plein air events and shows (which has been my case) are very good indicators of appeal, as are commissions from various collectors; but the main success comes from knowing when one has achieved that magic spark of freshness, luminosity and visual impact that any worthy painting conveys.
How do you find inspiration?
Inspiration derives from my own previous works, assessing what worked, what didn’t, and the struggle to address the finer elements of plein air painting. For me in watercolor, it also comes from reviewing over and over again the work of the great watercolorists, like Sargent, Homer, Hopper, Turner, C.R. Mackintosh, Demuth, Whitney, and so many other masters; as well as learning from my own friends and contemporaries like Stewart, Charles Reid, Tom Schaller, Richard Sneary, and many others in the plein air field.
What is the best thing about being an artist?
From so many attempts to capture or portray my own reality in the plein air genre, one of the finer rewards is the ability to keenly observe and more spontaneously record the nuances of my vision, and achieving dependable visual results in using those capacities with my chosen medium of watercolor. Another satisfaction also comes simply from the expansion of my own awareness of this beautiful world — of light, color and forms all around, and within artistic reach.
Who do you collect?
I have works by Charles Reid, Samuel Chamberlain, Wolf Kahn, Yoshida Hiroshi, James Gurney, and others of my illustrator-fine art colleagues.
To see more of Frank’s work, visit: www.fmcostantino.com