Why I paint: a look at Helen Frankenthaler's 60s evolution


Helen Frankenthaler with Alexander Liberman, in her studio, New York City, 1967. via

I have to admit I discovered Helen Frankenthaler late.

But when I did, I almost felt like my ribcage feeling crushed.

Her massive pieces (see above) are magnetic and draw you right in.

The paintings I first recognized as hers date from the later half of the 60s. So, being the nerd I am, I really wanted to know when did Helen Frankenthaler become THE Helen Frankenthaler whose colors implode in my stomach and lungs. So, I looked for a painting of each year of the 60s decade.

Before I show you, have a look at one of the very first (if not the first) piece that made her famous:

Mountains and Sea, 1952, oil and charcoal on unsized, unprimed canvas, 219.4 × 297.8cm. via

Make no mistake. It lets me breathe normally, unlike later work, but it's still revolutionary because of the color soaking technique she invented.

But it's not enough to invent something, you have to explore it.

So let's take a super fast look at the development that took place in the 60s:

April IV, 1960, oil on canvas, 35 x 42 cm

Summerscene, Provincetown, 1961, acrylic on canvas mounted on paperboard 50.9 x 61.0 cm, via.

Seascape with Dunes, 1962. Oil on canvas, 177.8 x 355.6 cm. via

The Bay, 1963, acrylic on canvas, 6 feet, 8-7/8 inches x 6 feet, 9-7/8 inches, via

Small's Paradise, 1964, via

Canyon, 1965, acrylic on canvas, 44 x 52 in, via


Tutti-Fruitti, 1966, acrylic, 296 x 175 cm, via

Flood, 1967, Synthetic polymer on canvas, 124 x 140", via

Coalition, 1968, via


Monoscape , 1969, acrylic on canvas, 266.07 x 315.28 cm, via

Her career continued well into the 2000s, and this is just a tiny peak into this decade, but you can still see something clicks halfway through.

I don't know about you, but having this perspective makes me feel elated.

I create everyday not because of what I get at the end of it; but because of how excited I am to wonder what will I be making in 10 years. You need to make the decade happen day by day. In 10 years there won't be colors left as a legacy unless you commit to facing any doubts now and seeing your evolution through.

Start today.


Brain tickled? You can do several things: get into the creative routine workshop I'm preparing for you, share this article with the share button underneath, or send me an email to tell me what you think.


creative nerdMaria Gil