Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, Francois Koch now splits his time between his homeland and Arizona. As a child, Koch received support and encouragement from family members and drew “every chance I got. And sometimes I drew when I should have been doing my lessons. In primary school, I was called to the head office on more than one occasion for drawing pictures in the back of my book.” Koch later decided to focus on commercial art, a decision he does not regret. “Commercial art requires discipline, which has stood me in good stead over the years.”
After completing his three-year commercial course, Koch accepted a position with a publishing firm and then moved into illustration. However, Koch quickly reached a point where he craved the freedom do draw what he wanted, rather than meeting the requirements of clients. “At a very early age – I was only 18 – I resigned from my job and went out on my own as freelancer,” he says. “After less than a year, I discovered it wasn’t enough to get along and returned to publishing.” After three or four years, Koch moved into advertising, but became very frustrated.
Koch continued to paint in his spare time and, when he reached the point where his job was interfering with his painting, he went out on his own. “I truly believed I could do it, and suddenly there I was at age 26, a professional artist….I had to teach myself by studying the work of other artists.” Dealing with South Africa’s limited art market brought about a turning point in Koch’s career; he decided to test the market overseas. Koch and his wife Cecilie made their first trip to the United States in 1996.
When the couple reached Arizona, Koch had to make some adjustments: “I found myself working in very subtle, almost pale colors as compared to what other artists were doing. And next to the work of other artists, my paintings looked faded…I became quite brave with my use of color.” After astounding success at his one-man show in Tucson in 1999, Koch considers Arizona his second home.
Since he firmly believes that he must experience whatever he is painting, Koch travels in search of inspiration. “I love nature,” he says. “My inspiration may come from taking a walk, looking at the shape of rocks, the texture of grasses. But my ultimate inspiration is always light, shadow and atmosphere.”
Reference: Art of the West January/February 2002