Frances (Francie) Walsh - Portrait Pencil Artist

An interest in art and drawing came early to Frances.

Growing up in Lynn Lake, Manitoba, in the 1950’s and 60’s was creative inspiration for a child.  With television far from being a reality in the remote northern mining town, the local children found other activities to occupy their leisure time.  Games of Hide & Seek, Red Rover, Dodge ball, and Capture the Flag kept the neighbourhood kids playing outdoors for hours.  Quieter times were devoted to comic book trading and reading.

Drawing came easy and was a perfect pastime when the comics were read.  Frances drew a multitude of different subjects, not knowing yet what path her passion would lead her.  Even then she did know she liked pencil and charcoal as her favourite mediums.

She always did well in art class in school, and had very supportive teachers who must have seen the talent developing, and tried to encourage her with new challenges.

“Art” seemed the most logical path to follow once high school was over.  With a scholarship from the mining company, Frances moved to Winnipeg to take Fine Arts at the University of Manitoba.  After completing one year, she moved back to Lynn Lake and in 1974 hired on with the mining company.

With the love of her life, Jim, an up-coming marriage at hand, and a great job … she would stay in Lynn Lake for another 16 years.

Her talents and skills as an artist had improved during her year at the U of M, and besides working on her own art projects, she was often called upon by the community, as well as the mining company, to showcase those artistic skills.

It was in the early 1980’s when Lynn Johnston, creator of the comic strip “ For Better or For Worse”, asked Frances if she would like to do some freelance work for her.  Lynn now lived in Lynn Lake with her husband, Rod, who had come back home to set up a dental practice.  For the next two years, Frances spent many weekends working on Lynn’s Sunday comics, as her “colour coder”.  It was fun and rewarding choosing all the colours from a colour indication chart.  She also did the shading and some texturing.  All the close attention paid to the previous comic book reading was coming in handy!  Frances was thrilled to be working with Lynn, a world famous artist, who proved to be a great mentor.  It was actually Lynn who taught Frances how to draw “hair”.  Lynn, Rod, and family left Lynn Lake in the mid -1980’s as Lynn needed to be closer to her professional contacts for the comic strip.

The void left by the absence of her weekend job, was soon filled with a beautiful baby daughter, born to Frances and Jim in the fall of 1985.  With camera in hand,
Frances took loads of photos of her baby girl, knowing that someday they would provide her with hours of great drawing material.  It was then that Frances saw and appreciated the pure innocence of the child’s face and wanted to capture that image in her artwork.  A portrait artist was evolving.

With the downswing in the mining industry’s economy, Frances, Jim and Paige, along with many other families, saw themselves leaving Lynn Lake in 1990.  With memories of home and friendships behind them, they sought to develop a new start, finally, in Hudson Bay, Saskatchewan.  With Hudson Bay as a base for Frances and Paige, Jim would work and live in mining camps and come home for his time off.

Hudson Bay was the farming and logging community that Frances’ parents had originated from before moving to Lynn Lake in 1952, and 35 years later, retired back to.  So although Frances had never lived in Hudson Bay before, she had a deep-rooted connection with the area and it very quickly felt like home.  As a matter of fact, the Blake Beattie Building (formerly Blake Beattie School) in Hudson Bay was named after her grandfather.

With family and friends encouragement, Frances took another serious look at her artwork.  Working mainly in pencil now, she has become the portrait artist she dreamt about when Paige was born.  She has a studio in her home and devotes her time to drawing portraits, and framing and marketing her Limited Edition Prints. 

Her style is to capture the realism and develop fine detail.  She accurately portrays the subject and has been tearfully praised for the uncanny likeness.  She continues to improve on quality and is dedicated to detail and variation of tone. Frances enjoys the challenge of drawing “people”, especially children and the elderly.  She has become more confident with each and every drawing as she realizes her dream.


All works are copyright by the artist and may not be reproduced by any means without prior written consent by Frances Walsh. Website design by Ian Granberg.