California native Beau Frank
gained Internet fame with his series "Off the Grid" which he credits to helping him cope with recently being diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis. We asked the talented artist more about where he is from, what he is listening to and a bit of advice.
TH: Where are you from? Where are you currently living?
BF: I wish I could respond to this question in a simple easy way but it always takes me a second to answer since I'm not exactly sure where I'm from. I was born in Laguna Beach and spent the first 5 years of my life there but then my family relocated up north to the Central Coast. Since my mom's French and my dad's American, my brother and I have dual nationality so we used to alternate living in the High Alpes of southern France and here on the California coast. After graduating High School I didn't plan on going to University so instead I've been moving back and forth between Europe and the US. As of today, I'm currently living in Pacific Grove and working in Big Sur.
TH: When did you start painting/creating art?
BF: I've been drawing for as long as I can remember but painting came much later in life. I was always so intimidated by paint brushes since I thought they were hard to control and lacked the precision of pens and pencils. All that changed when I took a painting class in Florence, Italy back in 2013. It was this really expensive class that met up twice a week for 2 hours and I just remember hating it. The teachers gave me really old brushes and a stained paper canvas and the only advice given to me was that they told me to paint. There was never really any teaching involved so I decided to drop out after a month and I bought all the tools and equipment for under 150 dollars and I decided to experiment with oil paints on my own from my apartment. I ended up having two little shows in a couple coffee shops– one was near Santa Croce and the other was on the Arno river which was pretty cool.
TH: Would you mind telling us a little bit about Ankylosing Spondylitis?
BF: Ankylosing Spondylitis is a chronic, progressive inflammatory disorder usually characterized by acute pain in the joints, spine, hips, knees, heels, and ribcage. It can take years and visits to several different doctors to get diagnosed properly because symptoms ban be misinterpreted and viewed as mechanical problems rather than a blood related disease. In my case, my immune system mistakes healthy cells for foreign bodies so it attacks them resulting in physical discomfort which if left untreated can become fatal long term. Because of the constant wear and tear on my body, it took away my ability to walk for 5 months and I was bed ridden because of the intense pain and fatigue, but If you want to get the juicy details you can do some research online, but the shorter version of the story is that it's no fun! haha. I'm now taking a new medication which comes in the form of a shot in the leg which I administer to myself every two weeks. Thanks to modern medicine and access to health care, I've been able to make a full recovery and I still can't believe I went from barely being able to walk with crutches and a cast, to now being able to run and get a job!
TH: You explain that your series "Off the Grid" was a bit of a coping mechanism after you found out you were diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis, could you explain that to us a bit?
BF: 2015 was rough. I had been dealing with pain for about two years but whenever you're dealing with something that's chronic you learn to just ignore it until it gets to a point where you can't anymore. Well I hit that point when I had just gotten a new job working at a fine-dining restaurant in Pebble Beach. I thought that maybe the reason I had been having pain was because I was overworking myself but it turns out that Ankylosing Spondylitis is genetic and it usually shows up in your late teens and early twenties. I had just gotten out of a long-distance relationship, I lost my new job, had no funds in the bank, zero travel plans, and was watching my gym membership catch dust on the shelf so at that point I had basically hit rock bottom. I remember going out for my twenty second birthday with all my friends and struggling to catch up with them since I couldn't really walk. My friends were just going their regular speed to go to the next bar while I was there struggling and limping thinking to myself that I'm supposedly living the "best years of my life," as I'm watching them all pass right by me. I thought your early twenties was a time of working hard, traveling, adventure, partying and total freedom.
TH: Who are some artists you look up to/ are inspired by?
BF: After three months of feeling sorry for myself, wasting time, and watching my health gradually deteriorate, I decided that I was going to do something about my current situation. That in spite of everything, I would make something good come out of this terrible situation. That's when I decided to pick up a paint brush and just paint. I din't have a vision when I started but I had the idea of painting a face with a wave within it. The model is painted in black and white and one of his eyes is showing and I think you can feel a lot hurt coming off from the painting but the wave kind of distracts you and makes you think it looks cool. I didn't really understand what was going on but I liked the overall composition so I decided to expand from that one and create another painting, and then another and another. I started to incorporate the landscapes in different ways and use places that reminded me of my childhood or of my most recent trips abroad. I wanted to combine my love of art with travel and thus the "Off the Grid" collection was born.
TH: Who are some artists you look up to/ are inspired by?
BF: I'm obsessed with Erik Jones, Soey Milk, Jen Mann, Tristan Eaton, James Jean, Alex Garrant, Charmaine Olivia and so many more just to name a few. I recently came to the conclusion that I have this fascination with portraits, probably because I think that faces are easy to empathize with and to feel the emotion escaping from the canvas.
TH:What about living in Southern California inspires you?
BF: I'm a bit of a beach bum and in the summer time that's where you'll find me. If I had to wear one outfit for the rest of my life it'd be board shorts, a tank top, flip flops, and sunglasses. Nothing beats playing beach volleyball then going for a dip in the ocean to cool off. I almost moved back to Laguna Beach for my senior year but that didn't end up happening because It was a bit too unrealistic. I was really sad to move up north to Pacific Grove though since it's always foggy up here but over time I've found to appreciate the quiet life. I still go down south to visit family in Santa Ana and it's a nice break from Nor Cal but to be honest I'm really happy to be where I am now. Especially since I got a new job working in Big Sur and I love it out there!
TH: What are your thoughts on Talenthouse and the briefs we host?
BF: I thought Talenthouse was a great place to share and promote work for creative types. I think it's great to have access to other artist's work and to be able to reach out and talk to them, network, and learn more about their process. I think we're all born with this curiosity for the world so to be able to see what others are doing, not only helps get their work out there but it also helps to inspire us to pursue our own goals and pushes us to be better versions of ourselves.
TH: Do you listen to music when you create artwork? If so, who are you currently listening to?
BF: Yeah, I also have music going on in the background or I listen to podcasts and Ted Talks. I'm currently listening to a lot of Odesza, Blackbird Blackbird and Cristallin.
TH: Is art your main source of income or do you have a "day" job?
I never really saw my art as a possible career until recently. I've done some freelance graphic design and mural work but now that I've gotten back into painting, I'd like to see if I can do something with my art. I created a magazine catalog featuring the "Off the Grid" collection and I also made some prints available on my online shop honestwork.bigcartel.com
. I was talking to an art curator about my collection and the inspiration behind it and someone overheard me and wanted to know more so I gave them a copy of the magazine. Next thing I know, they are commissioning me to do 5 installation pieces for restaurant opening up and they also want me to create a mural and do the graphic design for the menus. They really liked my story and they thought my style would fit perfectly with the vibe of the restaurant. The best part is that I have total creative freedom and they want my input for the interior design, so I'm really excited to be working on that for the next couple months. Anyway, I'm meeting with the investors in a couple weeks to discuss contracts so I'm still processing the fact that I'm going to be paid to do what I love doing.
I suffered a lot last year and it was hard on me but I think life wasn't supposed to be easy, otherwise there would be no fun. I had a lot of moments of doubt and rough days but now I'm in a really good place. I'm working as a server at Sierra Mar restaurant in Big Sur and it's really a beautiful place with fantastic, kind, genuine people and so far I love it. Things seem to be looking up so I'm just going to take it one day at a time and enjoy it while I can.
TH: What places have you lived in your life? How has living in different countries affected your artwork?
BF: I come from a multicultural family and traveling from place to place gave me a greater understanding of how people think and live. I was able to put myself in other people's places and to see things from a different perspective. There is no right way to travel and the possibilities are endless. Doing so opens our minds to there cultures, lifestyles, foods, music, languages, and people, thus allowing us to better understand ourselves, and each other. I've lived in the US, France, Italy, and Spain and I've traveled to over 20 countries but I feel like I've only seen the tip of the iceberg. I'm just very excited to see what's in store for the future but I'll let you know when I find out! haha
TH: What advice would you give to up and coming artists?
BF: I don't really know if I'm the right person to be giving advice since I'm the one desperately searching for some. I feel like I'm an up and coming artist but all I know is that what helped me get through all of this ordeal were the people who loved and supported me, even when I felt like I didn't deserve it or felt like I had lost it all. Life is too short to complain, waste time and make excuses. Don't start things when you think you'll be ready because that day will never come. No one is ever ready to do anything–we just have to do it anyway and have faith that things will turn out okay. If you're an artist, then be one too.
It's all about the process, not the end product so just hang in there through those first few ugly layers, and eventually the painting will come around and surprise you with some beauty!