Artist Profile: Frank M. Costantino, watercolorist
For more than 40 years, Frank M. Costantino has translated his ability to see structure and detail into architectural illustrations. The highly acclaimed artist has taught seminars at the Rhode Island School of Design and for the Boston Society of Architects. Sharing his skill and techniques in classes helped Costantino create a prodigious body of work.
The artist migrated into watercolor when an interior design client asked if he worked in watercolors. He said “Sure” and took it from there. Along the way, a friend introduced Costantino to plein air painting. Although the Winthrop native had produced artwork for most of his adult life, it took his friend’s suggestion for him to realize that creating a piece on site and usually in a single day was its own genre.
Gathering inspiration from the works of Winslow Homer, J.M.W. Turner, John Singer Sargent, and Andrew and Jamie Wyeth, Costantino honed his skills in watercolor painting workshops with other professional artists. He admired the work of watercolorist John Whorf, who also hailed from Winthrop, had a successful career, and worked in Provincetown until his death in 1959.
To begin a painting, Costantino favors graphite pencil on hot press watercolor paper. “The paper is not as textured—it’s slick,” he explains. “[Using it is] derivative from my architectural work, which is highly detailed. Hot press paper leaves an option for correctability, but color lies on the surface and reflects light while intensifying color.” He works steadily, with the changing light setting the pace. It usually takes him five to six hours to complete a painting. “Control is really critical for making the watercolor go where you want it to go,” he says. Costantino tends to favor subjects that have clear structure and form, so his works feature buildings, statues, urns and gardens rather than panoramic landscapes.
Costantino and his family have been going to Surfside, on Nantucket, for almost 40 years. During this family time, the artist enjoys “the phenomenal scenery, the vistas, and the history. There’s a magic to the island that is unmistakable.” Previous summers have inspired paintings of the island’s Orange Street Church, the memorial planter in the center of town, and the Rainbow Fleet. This summer, Costantino hopes to focus on ’Sconset and the Nantucket Windmill.
While on the island, Costantino leads workshops for the Artists Association of Nantucket. “Teaching, workshops and live demonstrations are ways to share what I enjoy doing,” he says.
Frank M. Costantino is represented by South Street Gallery, 149 South Street, Hingham. For more information, visit fmcostantino.com.