Frank McElwain was born in Ironton, Ohio, and began his lifelong career of drawing and painting at an early age. His artwork reflects a high degree of study and masterful use of pastels, watercolors and oils. Commissions for oil paintings and pastel portraits paid his way to Cincinnati where he enrolled at Xavier University, receiving his Bachelor of Science Degree in 1966.
Now, firmly planted in Cincinnati, he joined the Cincinnati Art Club where he had two successful one-man shows in 1973 and 1974 and another at Court Galleries in 1975. Frank enjoyed creating and painting nostalgic scenes depicting life during the early 1900's, showing the fashion, architecture and transportation systems of the period. These paintings attracted the attention of several corporations that commissioned paintings of their company's history. His ability to draw and paint people enabled him to contract his work to local art studios.
In 1976, Frank and his artist wife, Dianne, opened their own studio: McElwain Fine Art and Illustration. As an artist-illustrator, doors opened to new opportunities which presented new techniques to explore and a wide variety of subject matter to master. During this period, Frank was awarded the Becket Paper Award, the Strathmore Award for Excellence, and the Art Directors Gold Award.
By 1983 he had thirty paintings for his first show with Closson's. This exhibit would bring more commissions including nine historic paintings of Procter & Gamble and a portrait of John Smale to be printed in their 1987 annual report; Paintings for the Aronoff Center and the opening of RiverBend; and "The Queen City Public Landing" for the Queen City Club.
In 1988 the Fifth Third Bank commissioned McElwain to paint the Bicentennial Tall Stacks painting. He would paint four more. That Fall he received the Post-Corbett Finalist Award.
After 1988 McElwain concentrated on oil paintings for his exhibits at Clossons where he continued to have his one-man shows every two years . In 1996 he exhibited at the Southern Ohio Museum of Art and in 2005 and 2008 he and Dianne showed their work together at the Phyllis Weston Gallery.
His paintings are in many private and corporate collections including Fleischman, Cincinnati Financial, USB, University Club, and Queen City Club.
In total, Frank McElwain has had 16 one-man exhibits. He continues to accept commissions and paint for future exhibits.