An interview with Franz Spohn, artist extraordinaire:

1. You are the “Artist Extraordinaire” at Faber-Castell.  What is the best part about being the Artist Extraordinaire?


To begin, I consider it quite an honor. To have the opportunity to work with lots of kids, families, educators and of course, the many wonderful folks at Faber–Castell. This is what I love best, the opportunity to amuse, educate, and help others, especially kids! And….I get to use the fabulously awesome art materials, whether they are the materials for kids or professionals! For me, it makes a huge difference that the art materials enable me to do my best, rather than limit what I can do when following my imagination.


I also have expanded my own range of techniques as a professional artist in my illustration work while experimenting with the Premium Children’s Art Products. In the case of the versatile and fabulous kid’s Connector Watercolor Paint box, I discovered one of the characteristics of the watercolors is that they can be opaque when built up and when less water is used. It reminded me of gouache, a classic illustration medium. The results I achieved when using the Connector Watercolors inspired me to tackle gouache and now it is another favorite technique to put in my ever expanding bag o’tricks!


2. When did art become an important part of your life?

I have been drawing ever since I could remember! Being a child of the 1950’s, (still think of myself as a 5 year old but with an additional 61 years of experience), I grew up during the cowboy craze. One of my fondest memories is when I spent Saturdays at my grandparents’ house with Roy Rogers and the Lone Ranger on TV in the background as I built very intricate and fanciful buildings with my wooden blocks (pre-Lego days). Everyone anticipated I would be an architect or engineer….there were no artist role models for me at that time. However, I did want to be a cowboy, anyway….or at least until I won the Montrose Elementary School pancake dinner poster contest. That made me think that perhaps I could be an artist even if I had no idea what that would entail!


Many years later, after exhibiting prints and drawings,, teaching college classes (started this in 1973), illustrating children’s books, hosting/co-hosting a few PBS art instructional TV series, and orchestrating over 200, large scale audience participation collaborative gumball murals (, I think of myself more as a creative person rather than just an “artist”. Even when I bake I like to horse around (in this apple tart “fish” around)!

3. If you could only pick one art material to use, what would it be and why?


I would pick whatever is immediately available! When my daughter Gina was not quite 2 years old she found a nice stick on our way to the park. She dipped it in a fountain and began making line drawings with the dripping water on the slabs of concrete. (Earlier attempts with crayons were not so successful!) To a creative, artistic person, anything can be used to make art.

The idea itself , for me, dictates what materials I should use. Since I have so many different types of ideas, I prefer to use all sorts of materials (printing ink, charcoal, pencils, watercolor, and cupcake sprinkles, to name a few). If I don’t have a particular idea, I love to use old fashioned dip pen points, India ink and watercolor. Some of my best ideas for other projects have evolved this way. You never know when there is something anxious to pop out of your imagination! Drawing just for fun can often turn out to be very serious indeed!


4.What would the world be like without art?


Imagine a never ending, absolutely flat landscape with no trees or bushes or grass and flowers, all a dingy grey. And a sky that is overcast and blocking out any rays of the sun and also the same dingy grey so that it is almost impossible to distinguish the horizon line. It is totally silent and there is no movement.

5.You’re a new addition to the crayon box. What color would you be and why?


I would be a neon blue gel crayon! On white paper and on my own I am an electric and bright blue sky or ocean. I can be a brighter type of shadow. Because I am transparent, when I am layered over other colors I interact to form new colors and tones. With yellow we make green, with red purple and with colors like orange and tan we create never imagined shades and tones that we never imagined we could be. I help to expand their aspirations and dreams to be more!


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