A GLASGOW-BASED artist is the only Scot to have their work accepted into two prestigious exhibitions. 

Frank To, 40, is based in Dennistoun and has had his work accepted into both the Royal Ulster Academy in Belfast and the Royal West of England Academy in Bristol. 

To, originally from Newton Mearns, crafts his pieces using gunpowder – a technique he looked to develop over lockdown. 

Speaking to The National, he said: “I was going through lockdown in the Highlands and experimented with gunpowder which is obviously usually black and white and it’s impossible to get colour in it. 

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“I wanted to try incorporate that because not a lot of people have exhibited works like this. 

“It was through experimenting that I had some eureka moments where I was eventually able to combine colour powder with the gunpowder and the works in the royal academies are the by-products of those experiments.”

To admits the process of designing his art is a very tricky one. He used to make his own paper but now uses specially hand-crafted material from France to prevent the paper from burning so easily. 

He said adding the element of colour into his work was a way of challenging himself. 

“Although lockdown was difficult, it was a great way for me to develop and create the work. It’s easy to have a winning formula which you know works but for me to be engaged I want to take risks and break the boundaries”, To explained. 

He added: “If I don’t I’m just going to become an old hat and someone else younger and exciting will take over. 

“Life would be boring if I just did the same thing over and over.

“My process is similar to a sculptor's. I create a sense of chaos with the gunpowder and then use the marks it creates to carve the image out."

The Ulster Academy had over 3500 works submitted to it with only 300 making the cut, whilst the West of England Academy took in over 3000 entries with around 500 being chosen. 

To has garnered international recognition for his work and has some high-profile collectors including actor Sir Patrick Stewart. 

One of To’s most striking works is titled My Name Is Bee (below) which shows the blend of colour and gunpowder he had been working on. 

The National: My Name Is Bee by Frank To My Name Is Bee by Frank To (Image: Frank To)

Although he has managed to find success, he admits that the cost-of-living crisis is taking its toll on the industry.

He said: “I think what’s happened is the cost-of-living is hitting everyone. People who used to have disposable income don’t have so much anymore. 

“People are having to decide between heating and eating and paying for fuel. I hate to say this but art can be seen as a luxury expense. 

“Now that might be the case for people buying it but for artists that’s their bread and butter.”

To studied fine art at the University of Huddersfield before completing a masters at the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design in Dundee. 

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He added: “I was lucky enough to be taught by lecturers who had come through difficult periods. I had one who had to sleep in shed at one point in his life because he didn’t have enough money. 

“It made me think if he could weather the storm then I could do that as well but I’ve no doubt this is going to be a difficult time financially for a lot of artists.”

To’s artwork is on display in Belfast until January 3 and in Bristol until January 8.