An Interview with Bluethumb’s Best Seller of 2019
Just under two years ago, the Bluethumb team met the man behind the mysterious moniker Franko. The alias of Paul Franklin became synonymous with colour and texture within predominantly abstract and pop-themed artwork. In our last interview, multi-disciplinary artist Franko took us through his journey from graphic designer to an emerging, unequivocally experimental artist. Since then, Franko has become one of the most prolific names on Bluethumb. As our best seller of 2019, this year has been testament to his achievements as an artist.
On the easel in Franko’s studio is Oceanic Ripple, part of his abstract oceanic series. “I’m very much enjoying this series. Perhaps the greatest change, or lesson learnt in some of those pieces is that sometimes more is less. I have always painted by the mantra with abstracts that it’s often what you take away, rather than add, that has the most impact. At the moment with a lot of pieces, I am not adding anything at all.”
Franko has spent almost a decade creating art that customarily explores various realms of abstraction and pop art. Consequently, he is constantly discovering from the process of production. “As an artist that has been full-time for nine years, I’ve enjoyed some success along the way. It suggests that things are, in some way, improving,” Franko smiles. “I find more often than not, it will be mistakes and experimentation that takes things to a different place. To me, my work is ever evolving and constantly changing. I am learning more about how atmospheric conditions alter the look, expectations and work flow of particularly my abstracts. It’s taken me a long time to work out that I can only achieve certain looks with my abstracts over cold winter nights, and of course the vice versa applies too with summer.”
Since Franko’s way into art started from experimenting with the walls of his ‘renovator’ years ago, an undulating common factor of his work has been sheer size. “I have always painted huge pieces. Perhaps a slight change in direction for me has also been in the pursuance of ever larger and larger scale works available as completed works, rather than only commissioned.”
Can you guess whose headpiece this is? Franko gives his own layered take on one of the most celebrated artists of the 20th century.
While many artists use art as a means of social commentary, or invoke complex and deep emotion as a muse for painting, Franko’s primary concern is working with what’s happy and fun. “I always say that I paint mechanically. Influences? No, not really. Milestones? Oh yes. This year was my 9th as a full-time artist, and record sales in volume and value. Being the the Number 1 best selling artist on Bluethumb this year is up there too! Being chosen for 2 apartments on The Block this year was also a lovely experience, including winners Tess and Luke. I love what I do, and the ’emotional context’ comes from that. I work huge days, but I am still excited to walk into (or fall asleep in) my studio every day.”
Franko putting the final touches on his latest Geisha piece, Rubine Kanzashi, part of his hugely popular Book Club series.
“This is also going to sound super weird, but it wasn’t until recently that I actually met anybody else that painted for a living. I really enjoyed that. It was wonderful to swap stories about many things that this crazy life throws up. Us artists – we all have so many things in common, regardless of the level we are at. For me, I struggle mentally and emotionally with many parts of the journey. Whilst I have generally always enjoyed my own company, the huge amounts of time that the brush is doing its thing and the mind is free to wander is often not a positive thing. I didn’t realise that I was actually a bit loopy until some things started to go off the rails last year with a few things in my family life. I most definitely suffer from bouts of depression and anxiety. I haven’t cut my ears off yet,” Franko jokes, “but it’s been a learning experience. I now have a greater appreciation for the power of the mind, and have greater empathy for people that have much bigger obstacles than me.”
“This industrial piece, Mighty Vegemite, is coated with my new Concrete formula and troweled to a thickness of approx 10mm (including the edges). It weighs a little more than a standard canvas and all up is about 10kg. But the look on wall is basically a 45mm thick slab. It is permanent and sticks like the proverbial.”
Of a career that has spanned over several years, Franko’s time on Bluethumb has been just a part of the journey. He identifies himself as an entrepreneur at heart who “loves to paint and to ‘business'”. “Since joining BT, I have most enjoyed being part of a highly successful brand with like minded business people. So it’s actually the personal interaction that has meant the most to me – having support and being able to talk to people that are incredibly driven and rowing in the same direction as me.”
One of Franko’s most recent works sends Miffy into space!
As Franko is soon to move into a decade as an artist, his hopes for the future only seem natural from his current trajectory. “As Bob Ross would call them, more and more ‘happy mistakes’ on larger and larger pieces of art. I guess that will mean bigger and bigger mistakes too.”
Much like his pieces, Franko’s approach to art involves working with all things business in volume. “I tend to bulk everything. I’ll reply in bulk to enquiries, despatch paintings with my beautiful wife Wendy in bulk, reply to socials in bulk and I also holiday in bulk. So whilst I will have no days off for 6 months or more, I’ll take 2 months off at one time and travel slowly.”
Stating himself as no longer a spring chicken with his youngest just finishing school (to which Franko exclaims, “I cannot find the words to explain my joy over this… this comes close: FUCK YES!”) there are a few thing waiting to get crossed off his bucket list, meaning that in this respect, 2020 will see change. “I reckon I have 15 ‘good years’ left to do all the heavy lifting – and I have some other itches that need scratching. How will I find balance? No idea. Some people say, ‘I’m living my best life.’ Well, I am still trying to work out how to do that. This year, I hope to ‘unfuck’ myself. Again,” Franko cheekily explains.
“Layer upon layer of yumminess.” Coastal Rain encapsulates all of Franko’s renowned techniques – not to mention the size!
What advice would a best seller give to someone who wants to pursue having an artistic career? Franko emphasises that everything is individual and relative. “I am not one that believes you have to ‘suffer for your craft’ and have a very open and free approach to being an artist. Client satisfaction defines success to me, other things define success to others, such as an award or peer recognition… or the number of followers on their social networks. It’s not an easy journey being an artist and finding your little niche. It can take a long time to ‘pay your dues’ and find success. I think doing anything as a creative full time is a lot of people’s dream career… and there are many routes you can take to get there. Regardless which route, I believe work ethic is king. For me, that has been working 100 hour weeks and making the personal and social sacrifices that come with that. Putting myself out there for public scrutiny and living (and often sleeping) in rags, mostly covered in paint and chemicals and wet shoes and socks is also up there. Is the reward worth that? To me it is.”
Browse Franko’s portfolio here.
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