Art with narrative

Lover Leaving, oil on panel, 60x70cm cr Frans Wesselman

Lover Leaving, oil on panel, © Frans Wesselman

I’ve recently come to realise that quite a few of the artworks that have attracted me in recent years have two particular things in common: 1) they offer the sense of a larger story; 2) they’re by the same artist.

Shropshire-based artist Frans Wesselman has been creating narrative paintings, etchings and stained glass since his childhood in the Netherlands.

Godiva window 1, stained glass panel, detail cr Frans Wesselman

Godiva window, stained glass panel detail © Frans Wesselman

“When I was a child, my interest in visual art was kindled by my mother pinning illustrations, cut out from magazines, onto the wallpaper,” he recalls. “They were done in a kind of Arthur Rackham style, presumably to children’s stories, though I don’t remember the subjects. But they were drawings, graphic art. I was fascinated by this alternative way of telling stories and at about 17, decided I wanted to do this myself. Ever since, drawing has been the basis of all my work.”

Owl cr Frans Wesselman

Owl © Frans Wesselman

Frans’ parents insisted that he study a subject that could lead to a living wage, and he initially attended an Art Teacher Training College. “After completing my military service I topped that up with a few years at art college, studying print making and photography,” he says. “I went abroad, doing odd (but often interesting) jobs for a few years, drawing, etching and painting all the while. Eventually the odd jobs became fewer, the exhibitions more successful. I was elected a member of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers.”

I love the atmospheric fairytale quality of Frans’ works, but when I ask him what drew him to develop this style, he says it wasn’t a conscious decision.

“I don’t think it worked that way. I made the images that interested me and tried to express what I felt was important, and this is what came out,” he explains. “I think art is based in one’s attitude to life. Over time the accent changes and the handling of the materials develops, I always try to make the work more direct, better conceived and more spontaneously drawn or painted. But for better or for worse, this is the result.”

Father, oil on panel, 69x70 cm cr Frans Wesselman

Father, oil on panel, © Frans Wesselman

Much of his work is inspired by literature, poetry, and even the bible, which he finds “a great source of fascinating thoughts and stories, especially in conjunction with the work of the old masters who took similar subjects as their starting point, Rembrandt for instance or Murillo. Sometimes my own experiences are the beginning of a series of sketchbook scribbles that may lead to finished work. And from time to time I get commissions that may lead on to the exploration of other themes.”

Frans also draws from nature a lot, saying that “though that rarely leads to a finished piece, it underpins all the rest.”

Swimmer II, woodcut, 42x49cm cr Frans Wesselman

Swimmer II, woodcut, © Frans Wesselman

Key pleasures in his craft include “having the freedom to explore through drawing and painting the subjects that interest me. To be able to get out of bed in the morning and think ‘I must change the stance of that woman in my new painting’ and to be able to just go and do that.”

The Owl That Sang In The Night, oil on panel, 35x28cm cr Frans Wesselman

The Owl That Sang In The Night, oil on panel, © Frans Wesselman

Frans will be exhibiting at the Bristol Affordable Art Fair from 18-20 September on the Churchgate Gallery stand. He also exhibits pieces at the Montpellier Gallery in Stratford on Avon, at the Bankside Gallery, London, and will have works at the Great Print Exhibition at the Rheged Gallery, Penrith, from 19th September to 22nd November and at the Glaziers Art Fair, Glaziers Hall, London, on 27-28 October 2015. Find more of his art at

Know an artist you’d like to see showcased on Give me a shout at judy(at)