Fran Parzanese, a Reading native, GoggleWorks Studio Artist and Board member, and avid painter since the ‘80s, shares with us some highlights of a lifetime of curiosity and creating art. Whimsy, wisdom, and wonder are in no short supply for Fran! When she is not in her Studio 203, you can sometimes find her teaching classes here at GoggleWorks! Read on to learn more about how Fran discovered her artistic passion and found her place at GoggleWorks.
- What is your preferred medium and subject matter?
My preferred medium is watercolor, and I love to paint flowers, landscapes, seascapes, koi fish, and still life.
- What’s your educational or career background?
I graduated from Kutztown State College with a degree in elementary education. I taught in the Reading School District for 30 years. I learned how to paint by taking local classes at the Wyomissing Institute and week long summer workshops, mainly in Massachusetts and Maine.
- Tell us about the first creative experience you can remember. Did it impact you? If so, how?
I remember painting on large pieces of paper on an easel when I was in kindergarten in the Reading School District. My parents always valued my artwork and because of that, I remember thinking that drawing and creating are very important.
- What was your first experience with GoggleWorks? What made you decide to apply to be a studio artist here?
I got a studio at GoggleWorks the 2nd year after it opened because at the time I was living in a townhouse and painted on my kitchen table. I wanted a place to paint where I could leave my paints out without putting everything away when I painted. I shared a studio with an existing artist.
- What’s your focus while you’re here making?
My focus is painting large watercolors and alcohol ink paintings. I also sell my paintings and notecards in The New Store. Before the pandemic, I was taking ceramic classes in our program and I’m hoping to continue that.
- How did you find your love for watercolors?
I just thought watercolor was something anybody could do. The only watercolors I knew about were the little pan sets we had first graders use, and so that’s what I used in the beginning. I just really thought ‘who can’t fool around with colors and have fun,’ and I had no idea that with watercolor, you really have to know how to control how much water to use or else the paint just goes everywhere. There is really a lot to learn about watercolor!
- Are you rigid or spontaneous with your creative process?
I’m very spontaneous with my artwork and watercolor and alcohol ink are the perfect mediums for spontaneous painters.
- Is there any place in particular you hope to go with your craft, a milestone you would like to achieve?
I want to paint the best painting I’ve ever painted! I’d like to start selling note cards of my paintings across the world.
- What’s your most memorable creative achievement in your career so far?
Every time someone buys one of my paintings, it gives me great joy to know someone likes my work enough to buy it and live with it. Right now, I’m preparing for an event which is a huge accomplishment for me, the Yellow Springs Art Show, because getting juried into it was a big deal since it attracts some of the best artists in SE PA, NJ, and DE.
- What do you do when you feel a lack of inspiration/motivation?
I read art books, magazines, or visit a museum when I need motivation.
- What does a day in your studio look like? From the moment you park in the parking lot to when you walk out the door… outline a typical studio day!
Since I’m basically an unstructured person, I don’t have a typical day. Since the pandemic, I haven’t had much interaction with other studio artists, so when I come into my studio, I play some music and either paint or organize my mess. I also walk around and look at exhibits in either the Schmidt or the first floor galleries. I frequently give private watercolor lessons in my studio.
- Have you found that your time at GoggleWorks has shaped your artistry or creative process in any way? If so, how?
I can’t say that my time at GoggleWorks has shaped my artistic process. I still paint in much the same way. I do think, though, that I was getting really inspired to create in ceramics until Covid shut things down. Other classes I’ve taken at GoggleWorks, like jewelry making and glass bead making were fun, but I didn’t stick with them. I’ve tried other painting mediums like oil and acrylic, but I always go back to my first love, watercolor, because of its transparency, spontaneity, and fun splashing with water.
- Anything else you’d like to share?
As I said, I’m getting ready for the Historic Yellow Springs Art Show, which will be held from April 24 to May 23. I’m also a member of Art Plus Gallery, so I’m always creating new artwork for their shows. I was juried into the Plein Air West Reading event this coming June, which will be held in conjunction with the Art on the Avenue event in West Reading.
Armed with a passion for educating, a colorful paint brush, and a skillful hand, Fran Parzanese is a painter to be reckoned with here at GoggleWorks. Just last year, she received a special award at the 41st Juried Berks Art Alliance Exhibit for Excellence in Watercolor, in honor of Ineke van Werkhoven, for her painting “koi no.10.” Fran is just one of many examples of great creators in our community, who help us show that you do not have to go a traditional route to create art you are proud of. All you need is the help of some knowledgeable teachers and the will to keep on practicing! Curiosity always helps, too!