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Frank H. Spink

Painter, Potter, Urban Planner

 This month – June 2023 – GHBC resident Frank Spink is among the featured artists at the Sumi-e Society of America’s 60th Annual Juried Exhibition at the Chinese American Museum in Washington, D.C. He has painted in the Sumi-e tradition, using rice papers, hand ground ink and special East Asian brushes, since the late 1960s, and Frank’s paintings have won many honors, including Best of Show, at past Society exhibitions.

 Sunset in Sumi-e style

His objective, Frank explains, is to develop a personal style of “American Sumi-e” that bridges Western and East Asian artistic traditions. He has exhibited paintings in this bridge style with the Virginia Watercolor Society, Potomac Valley Watercolorists as well as with the Sumi-e Society, winning many prizes with paintings that fuse Western and East Asian elements.

  In his home studio at GHBC   For the juried Sumi-e show  

Frank’s artistic gifts emerged early. As a child he painted in oil, but his pictures “were terrible,” he asserts today. He was intrigued with photography as a young boy, building his own dark room and enlarger. As an undergraduate, he began selling watercolors professionally.

Born and raised in Chicago, Frank received his B.A. in architecture from the University of Illinois at Urbana. Following a three-year stint in the U.S. Navy Civil Engineering Corps in Concord, Calif., as Officer in Charge of Construction, he received a master’s degree in urban and regional planning at the University of Washington in Seattle.

  Frank at 4   and as a Navy officer  

Still in his 20s, Frank became an urban planner in Fremont, Calif., the first city in the U.S. to have a plan unit development ordinance and a plan district ordinance (think of Reston, Va., or Columbia, Md., where such planning concepts were later applied). “Pleasanton, California, wanted to be like Fremont,” says Frank, so they hired him away as planning director.

In 1967, just 32 years old, Frank was recruited by ULI – the Urban Land Institute in Washington, D.C., for a three-year assignment. Those three years turned into 30, and Frank retired from the Institute in 1997 as vice president and publisher. ULI is the oldest and largest network of cross-disciplinary real estate and land use experts in the world. With over 45,000 members today, ULI sets standards of excellence in development practice.  Frank held various positions with the organization over his long tenure, and traveled worldwide.

  At the Great Wall of China   He skied until diagnosed with MDS at age 81  

After retiring from ULI, Frank became president of the International Land Economics Society and launched the Spink Consultancy.

While living in northern California from 1958 to 1967, Frank’s paintings were shown all over the region, including San Francisco’s DeYoung Museum. His painting ranged from abstract to traditional transparent watercolor, but always with landscapes and architecture as the primary subject sources.

  Chateauneuf-du-Pape ruins   Memories of France  

In 1998 Frank expanded his artistic expertise into pottery. Using the outstanding resources at the Northern Virginia Community College Annandale campus with its dozen wheels and three kilns, Frank began to wheel throw and hand build in earthen ware and stoneware. He focused on functional pottery of one-of-a-kind designs, he explains, where each piece remains unique from any other piece of his pottery.

  White glazed vase   Frank on the wheel  

Today Frank is primarily a watercolorist. His paintings are in several corporate collections, including Giant Food, Virginia Bankshares, Benihana of Tokyo, St. John’s University, and numerous private collections around the world.

  After the storm #1   Lotus in the rain  

Frank is proudly of Scot, Irish, Swedish, French and German heritage. His father was Scot, Swedish and French, and “Spink is a Scot name, dating back to the twelfth century,” he explains. His mother was of Irish and German heritage. Frank and his wife Barbara, who died ten years ago, have two daughters. Christina, the elder, is a lawyer in Albuquerque, N.M., and Suzan, the younger, lives nearby and is an association executive with the national Parent Teachers Association.

  Frank’s 75th birthday with family   Barbara and daughters Christina and Suzan  

Frank moved to the Crossroads at GHBC five years ago, and his work is regularly featured in the Art Gallery. In August and September 2022, his paintings were honored with a one-man show at GHBC. Goodwin Living has purchased two pieces for its permanent collection, so future GHBC residents can enjoy Frank’s work.

  One-man show at GHBC   Christina and Suzan came for the show  

Even as a working artist in his late 80s, Frank makes time for other interests. Since 1969 he has been a member of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Annandale, where he is “house architect” and has designed and built unique furnishings. And he is a house captain for the Annandale Christian Community of Churches’ Rebuilding Together program, formerly called Christmas in April. As house captain, he is responsible for planning and executing the rehabilitation of houses for needy and elderly neighbors. And not least, Frank is Pete’s best friend and care giver.

  Frank and Pete   Pete surveys his kingdom  


By Nancy DeMarco


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