There’s a store on MakeTank that stands out amongst the rest. A series of watercolour paintings of pebbles, in lovely hues, which upon closer inspection are overdrawn with minute patterns in ink. Water, pigment, ink and cotton paper are the tools of Francesca Lancisi, a self-taught and self-managed Florence-based artist. There’s no hidden, high tech secret behind these materials, nor a nerdy interpretation of the subject matter (although fractals may be involved). I went to the artist’s home studio in a chic residential area of Florence to meet the woman behind these calm and lovely paintings.

The pebble paintings that I’ve seen on MakeTank are for sale exclusively here, but are in fact just one part of a highly consistent body of work both for its subject matter and for the medium in which it is created. Francesca takes out one series after another of works to show me; they are of different sizes, but always in watercolour on the same very high quality, thick and textured Fabriano white paper, preserved neatly in folders and portfolios in a very neat room.

There’s nothing of the disorderly, crazy artist about her, dressed equally neatly in a dark shift. Even her mistakes are neat, as are the strips of coloured paper she preserves from those mistakes in order to compose geometric cut-and-paste works.

Maybe this neatness explains the appeal I personally find in Francesca’s work, with its uncertain yet defined lines, either geometric or organic in shape, that contain, with precision, areas of colour, leaving blank paper in full view at times. Francesca says it’s colour that she likes best, and not any one colour in particular, for the hues she uses change a lot based on the season, as well as with mood or inspiration. Colours that are often semi-transparent, in which the shimmering wetness of watercolour is enhanced through the use of extra gum arabic.

Francesca’s primary inspiration is nature – she grew up in the countryside near Sansepolcro (in Tuscany) and cultivates this love in a healthy container garden on the terrace of her city apartment. But she doesn’t create her works as you might expect a “watercolour artist inspired by nature” might do. The patterns and shapes are already in her head. She works out colour palettes, and creates sheets to plan a series of paintings, but then she works directly on the final paper – no sketchbook, and certainly no easel in a field.

Colour and line fuse harmoniously in Francesca’s work, which encourages you to look closely at the lines and patterns that she develops with white or black ink. My favourite paintings, in fact, are inspired by the weft and weave of fabric which is represented by hundreds of precise white lines over neutral tones. I've photographed these with a macro lens, a close-up of a painting inspired by looking close up.

The results are paintings you can totally live with. Abstract yet evocative of what they represent, they leave enough interpretation up to the viewer to attract a lot of people. They verge on design, especially when displayed as a series in a certain ambience. The pebble series would be at home in a yoga or pilates studio; other works might liven up an office, a baby’s room or a sunlit study.

Francesca is, in fact, a practical artist. Asked if she paints every day and has a working process, she says that she has to spend a lot of time not making but working on selling her art. For this is not a hobby but her career, one she chose while she was pregnant with her first son and finds compatible with motherhood.

Indeed, a big part of being an independent artist, like being a maker or independent designer, is figuring out the many facets of marketing, from photographing pieces to pricing, to using social media to share them. She has had dozens of shows in Italy and Europe over the past few years, and with time she has observed what works, and what needs to be better developed. For example, when selling art, be it through a gallery or online, you have to consider standard frame sizes as well as practical sizes for shipping. Not everyone has access to a custom framer, so making watercolours that fit into IKEA frames is a good solution! And yes, the pebbles series on Francesca’s MakeTank store do fit into IKEA frames.


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