Frank Nelson - Biography

“A life-long obsession with drawing and carving, combined with a love of simple logical mechanisms, has led me to the things I make – three-dimensional objects, with a fourth dimension of humanity, the ability to tell stories and a touch of bawdy fun. In fact – LIFE – if you’re lucky”

Frank in his studio

Frank Nelson was born in Blackpool in 1930 and attended Blackpool Art School during the 1940’s. He then spent some years in motor and aircraft design, becoming self-employed in 1960 and undertaking a range of model-making projects and design works for architects, museums film and theatre.

Frank Nelson started to carve and create automata in the early 1970’s and for over 35 years he concentrated exclusively on automata with his own distinct figurative style using carved and painted wood. Over the years he has exhibited in most major galleries and art centres and acted as guest lecturer in a number of Universities, including the John Makepeace School for craftsmen in wood at Parnham House in Dorset. Many of his original automata are in public collections but of the many private commissions - he is proudest of the ‘Barnum’ automata commissioned by the actor Michael Crawford and based on the stage musical.

Archived Automata

This website shows the large coin-operated automata that remain in his private collection, as most were sold at Bonhams in London before his retirement in 2000. Despite recent ill-health, he is currently developing some new limited editions of Lion and Tiger Tamers –which can also be viewed on this website.

Frank Nelson has always argued that the ability to draw is the most essential discipline in all branches of the visual arts. Since 2000 he has concentrated exclusively on life drawing and painting in oils - working from his studio at home. In 2006 he completed his BA in Visual Arts at The Metropolitan University of Leeds.

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