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12 Questions: Brian Frink

Updated: Oct 27, 2018

Brian Frink, Winter River, Oil on Canvas

I had the pleasure of meeting Brian last year when he exhbited with us for our first Art of Water show and again in October.  I was immediately drawn to his dreamy abstract paintings and to this day he is one of my favorite living artists. Here is a brief bio and the questions to follow. 

Brian Frink lives in Southern Minnesota in the town of Mankato.  He and his partner, Wilbur, live in the old Blue Earth County Poor Farm.  They have renamed it the Poor Farm Studios.  In it they have space for the creation of artwork and work related to Wilbur’s social justice theater groups.

 Brian has been an active artist for over forty years. For the past twenty-nine years he has taught painting and drawing at Minnesota State University, Mankato.  Currently he serves as the Department of Art Chair.

1. What are 1-3 books that have influenced your life?

In the Stillness is the Light, it's a collection of poems and wisdom that the minister of my church gave to me when I was confirmed. 

The Once and Future King, a great book that I constantly think of. 

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, art school de rigueur. 


2. What are you currently working on?

A series of paintings I am calling "Magical Landscapes".  I received a 10,000 dollar Minnesota State Arts board artist initiative grant to produce them.  I can't wait to get them going!


3. How has failure set you up for later success? What was your favorite failure?

 Gosh, this might sound weird and hopefully not arrogant, but I don't feel like I have ever failed.  I mean I have failed at things, or things maybe didn't work out.  Yet I always feel like those sort of things always end up being a positive so I never feel like they are failures.  I don't mean to be evasive that that's really how I feel about it. 

4. What is your most unusual habit?

I get really hung up on certain articles of clothing.  Then I wear them until they are in tatters.  My family always laughs about it.


5. If you could have any painter, living or dead paint your portrait who would it be and why?

Francis Bacon.  I would love to sit and talk to him while he painted me.  I'm not sure if he would let me sit though.  He worked mostly from photos and I find this so interesting about him.


6. What is the most indispensible item in your studio/workspace/office?

My computer.  I was going to say my brushes etc but then I decided to be honest.  My computer has become an important tool in so many ways.  Marketing, research, communication, archiving, music, playfulness.


7. When you feel overwhelmed or uninspired what do you do?

What do you do to get out of a funk? What questions do you ask yourself?

I go to an art museum to get inspired.  To get out of a funk I will often either go for a walk or get involved in planning a non-art type project, usually something on the house.  I clean/organize my shop and studio.  I clean my brushes. 

The big question I ALWAYS ask myself is Why/Why Not?  I constantly try to think backwards on problems.


8. What is the most life-changing thing you have bought for under 100 dollars in the last year?

Ta-Nehisi Coates amazing book Between the World and Me.  It's a simple, clear and devastating book.  I'm a very liberal person, aware of the many layers of discrimination yet this book opened my eyes much wider.


9. Do you collect anything?

When I give tours of our building/home/studio the Poor Farm Studios, I always joke that I collect furnaces.  We have four of them in this place!

10. What words of advice would you give to your younger self?

"While you are living in Brooklyn take Freddy Lakers airline to England and wander around Europe for a month or so."  At that time, 1979 a round trip ticket to London was something like 80 bucks.  Or maybe that was one way…can't remember.  Anyway it was CHEAP.  I would tell myself to GO!  In my defense, Wilbur and I moved to a very rough neighborhood in Brooklyn, Williamsburg.  As Midwesterners we felt like we were living in another country anyway.


11. In the last five years what new belief, or habit has most improved your life or studio practice?

I have become much more vulnerable and open to change.  I think one of the more destructive things artists learn is to be defensive about their art.  A work of art is not an argument it should be open and initiate dialogue, not engage in defensive strategies.  I've also come to feel that my painting is no longer encumbered by the idea of style.  I just paint what I want and don't worry about consistency.

12. Share an inspiring image:


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