January 20, 2022

13. A Tribute to Sid Francis, First Printer, 1930-2006


Sid Francis was born in Maryland on May 16, 1930. He died April 24, 2006 in a nursing home in Chatsworth, California.

A long-time Topanga resident, Sid moved to Topanga following the 1959 fire with his wife, the former Jean Blackburn. The couple built their own home and Sid’s studio on Cheney Drive, where they had three children—Evadna, Paul and Mathew. Although Matt predeceased his father, losing his life in a tragic auto accident in Africa, Sid lived to see two grandchildren, Angelica Francis and James Isadore Buchet.

Sid studied art at UCLA and went on to become a remarkable artist whose paintings grace the walls of many Topanga homes. Close friend and fellow Topanga artist Arnold Schifrin introduced Sid to the art of printmaking, and Sid went on to create lithographs and prints with and for many other artists. One such work—a 35-color plate lithograph titled “Swept Away,” Sid hand-printed with fellow Topanga artist Valerie Walsh—was featured as the first full-color cover of “Centerpiece,” an arts supplement to the Los Angeles Times.

13.    A Tribute to Sid Francis, First Printer, 1930-2006

Sid was also instrumental in the founding of the Topanga Messenger, printing the early issues on an old press in a goat shed on his property, using high-quality paper and different colored inks. “It was via his artistic ability, his good nature and his offset press that the creative impetus of the Messenger was translated into print, a truly home-brewed Canyon paper,” says Messenger founder Merrick Davidson. “There are many of us who will never forget the long nights of printing and collating the paper, watching as it took form as if birthing a communal child.”

Active in the Topanga community, Sid was president of the Topanga Art Council in 1975-1976. Friend Barbara Rice recalls, “Sid was a witty, versatile man and an amazing artist. Our families used to have a lot of happy times together. We both had goats back in the old days.”

“We studied with a yogi and were enamored of the practice,” relates former wife Jean Francis of the couple’s decision to become Sikhs.

“He was a wonderful man,” says daughter Evadna. “Though my parents divorced when I was eight, he walked me down the aisle at my wedding.”

Sid had moved to Portland, where he lived with his second wife, Marilyn McDonald, until she died of cancer last year. Sid returned to California after her death, quickly declining in health.

Sid’s legacy will live on in his art and in the Messenger.