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My Journey to Art

This is rather indulgent...but if you would like to know me a little more personally...read on! 

If you are a bit “Franko” curious (aren’t we all!), I thought it might be nice if you had a bit of an idea about where I came from. It’s a bit of a long and tall swashbuckling tale of pirates and treasure….so grab a coffee or stiff drink if you are keen, for some otherwise useless trivia

So, I was born in 1969 in Newcastle NSW. My Father Glenn was a sporty business type gent and my Mumma Janice was an artistic, loving home maker. My first school was “The Junction Demonstration School” and it was at this school that a love of art started to take place. I won an art prize! See I am indeed a “Prize Winning Artist” !

I had a younger Brother (Dane) that was born with bad Cerebral Palsy. He was wheelchair bound for all of his life and as an older rooster now with my own kids, I look back with respect upon the sacrifices my parents made to give us both an equal upbringing and make his life (and mine) as normal as anyone else’s, though it was surely a crazy nonstop household filled with roaring laughter and love 99% of the time.

In those early years, Dane used to paint a lot with a mouthguard that had a brush in the middle of it and at the opposite end of the table, I weirdly used to love redrawing maps and flags with intricate detail but the pencils gave way to sport and I followed in my Dads footsteps with Hockey and Cricket. Sadly Dane passed away from Pneumonia not long after his 18th birthday. 

Thru my teens, I used to draw and paint and of course, art was always top of the list as an elective. Like most, I didn’t find a great love for art theory but mostly loved the challenges that prac almost always presented. Halfway thru 1986 a movie called Top Gun hit the screens and being in year 11, (like many young men) decided I wanted to be an aviator. However, not having selected the needed subjects, my parents were shocked when I decided to actually repeat year 11 to pursue this new dream. After term 1, finding that Chem and Physics and I didn’t really like each other… cruised thru the year using it as a refresher course of sorts.  

Year 12 came about and saw me living in Brisbane as my Dad had a new business role and at my new school (Sunnybank high), art became about having to work in particular types of mediums as part of the curriculum. Well, being a sketcher, I hated being told I had to make stuff out of clay for an entire term so, decided Art was sadly going to be my "6th" subject, meaning it didn’t count towards my “TE” Score. I proceeded to sit there and make Easter Island heads and penises from clay. Had a lot of fun but ended up with a VLA in art. Just so there is no confusion …. that is a “very low achievement”. It was ok, though I had ideas of doing business/law and was set up for that and art was a thing for fun.  In my spare time, I was mainly batting and scoring goals. I had a successful sporting life in those days having played at state level and first grade in both sports ….. giving it up in my early 20s when a little clothing business I had started at 19 was making waves.

I had attempted to do Uni externally and start a business in screen-printing but work got too busy. Something had to give, so business it was for me. Not long afterwards, I met the love of my life Wendy whilst grooving at a local haunt called "The Underground". An older woman!

Wendy and I were living in sin almost immediately (though she will tell you it took her a few weeks to warm to me), and about 2 weeks after we met she resigned her job, and we had a crack at making the Clothing business work. We bought a renovator house at Wollongabba and a 486 computer that had a programme called “Corel” installed on it. Like version 1. In the early days, it was called Squeegee Clothing (named after a Cocker Spaniel we named Squeegee) and was mainly focused towards Promotional clothing and Indoor Sports. In 2001, thru a new contact, we ended up producing sponsored uniforms for the Boomers playing in the Goodwill games in Brisbane. Nike had let them down and they needed gear stat! I had never made a basketball uniform. Seemed like a great idea to start with guys that were like giants and pros LOL. Our logo at the time was a dog with a ball in its mouth. We couldn’t have the national basketball team running around with that logo on their gear….so the concept of, and brand “Kombat” came to life.  Over the next 17 years, we grew that business from a garage, to a bigger garage, to a bigger garage and a shed. Then to an industrial shed, bigger shed, 2 sheds, 3 sheds and a massive factory we thought we would never outgrow. Then we did, and plus 2 other storage facilities and a base in China. It was tough. Every level of expansion we funded thru increased values of our very modest home that we had bought and renovated. There were lots of tears shed along the way, no holidays, 100 hour weeks, growing pains only really other entrepreneurs could understand and 2 kids. By 2007, we had 120 staff and were one of the largest businesses of our type in Australia. We had a fantastic crew, and many we now regard as family. It still wasn’t easy and the pressure was never ending but after 18 years, I didn’t know any other life. Wendy and I were seemingly a team made in heaven and managed to run the gauntlet to stay alive. Then out of nowhere, we were approached for an acquistion. We ended up doing the deal to cut a long melodrama short. We were both looking forward to a little breather. Wendy and I were off on our first ever real holiday with our little family. We went to da da da America for a few weeks. Whilst we were there, we visited some art galleries looking for a nice memento to take home. I found a few that I liked but scoffed at the price! Heavens, I can’t afford that! Then I thought (as you do), I’ll just paint my own when I get home...it will mean more to me :)  … and so, I did. I went to Riot Art and purchased the biggest canvases I could, paint, brushes etc and painted my memento of a painting I had seen in our Kitchen (Image below). It was perfect to me. I also painted an Urban Pop painting of Wendy (nude of course!) and a huge piece of our little family with New York in the background. All of which still hang in our home today. Friends and family said, “they look great, you should do some stuff for sale”. Of course, you don’t know if people are being polite or genuine. I had a look around the industry and thought, I can do this. So, I spent the next 6 months developing 2 ranges (abstract and pop art) and learnt everything I could about website development. I released about 30 pieces on Ebay and had my own website. First week, I sold 7 pieces on Ebay and that was the beginning of my new career as an artist. I remember the very first piece. Someone offered me $700 for a painting of Marilyn I had listed for $1000. I ran upstairs excitedly and asked Wendy what I should do. She calmly said to counter back at $900. F#ck that, I wasn’t going to risk it for the biscuit, so I took the $700 and settled my first ever transaction for something I had truly made with my own hands. It was an incredible feeling.

Wendy and I had purchased a huge dump of a renovator in about 2009 on 160 acres (it’s still not finished!!) I didn’t have a studio. I painted outside in the elements in an unfinished besser block gazebo on the property (the very top banner image was in that gazebo). I made it look like a studio in photos (from all the right angles). That was where I painted for the next 2 years (rain, hail and freezing!). As I started to develop artistically, so did sales and I needed more space (Sound familiar?) as my paintings were starting to get pretty big, the future pool gazebo was looking like Jackson Pollocks studio, and I was tired of braving the elements . So, I moved into an unfinished shed (no lining or floor) we had built to use as a gym. I was in there for a few of years (shared as a gym) and outgrew that and moved into a more purpose built Shed. My current Studio, which has now expanded to include a decrepit shipping container that I do messy stuff in, about 150 sqm of racking for drying layered pieces and a massive storage shed for blank canvases and cartons. It might sound fancy, but its all pretty rough...its grotty work.

As far as interests go for my current season of life... travel, fitness, TaeKwonDo and adventure are at the top of the list. I travel for inspiration. Beauty is everywhere...So if you see pieces "inspired by travels to Norway, Greece, Himalayas, Svalbard, Whitsundays, USA" ... You'll know that these places have been impactful, and the creative juices have flowed from such interactions with some of the most remote, raw places imaginable.

I joined a website called Bluethumb in 2018 and soon after, a new website called Artlovers. I decided to make these moves after the work experience kid apparently took over Ebay and decided (for no apparent reason) to get rid of a category called “Self-Representing artist” and sales plummeted as my stuff was lost in a sea of factory painted crap. My career actually shifted gear working with these galleries and the wonderful clients that I had come to love after 12 years in this profession at 2023. I have developed some lifelong friendships and met some of the most beautiful people all over the world. I often comment that being an artist is completely different to anything that was at Kombat (aside from them both being creatively geared). At Kombat, I normally only heard from a client if something had gone wrong. Being an artist, quite often clients contact you to provide compliments for your work. It seemed so foreign all those years ago, and still does. I have had work featured on TV shows, Magazines, Exhibits etc etc....mind blowingly lucky and grateful.

In 2020 Covid hit. On that exact day we went into lockdown, I had a new container of blank canvases arrive (my 7th or 8th). I thought “when we come out of this, I am going to have sooooo much stock done, I won’t have to work for a couple of years.” It was quiet for a week, then it went “whack”. Things went crazy in most of the art industry as people were locked up looking at blank walls, renovating and buying houses!

My Daughter had just been sent back from a short time overseas. so didn’t have a job on arrival home. My son had just finished school. So, as it turned out, they both started working within my practice. Both had in depth knowledge of how I work from “helping out Dad” thru their later school years and had developed some artistic skills beyond their years. Franksetta (or Ms Franksy) and Franksy are what I call them. My Son actually earned that name when he was expelled from his school in year 12 for spray painting on the art room back wall during a lesson. I still don’t know if they were tears of laughter or anger that I cried but it was a most bizarre and ironic situation.  So with my spunky bride Wendy at my side from the start in 2009… as CFO, occasional helper artist and in charge of client liasons and despatch...if has become a bit of a family affair.

It's now 2023 and after 3 crazy years, both of my understudies work with me on a much higher collaborative level and continue to expand their own skills and knowledge. Where this will end up, who knows…. but the decisions were essentially made for us by Covid and as Wendy tells me often “just enjoy it for as long as it lasts”. Its an unusual gift to be able to work and teach your offspring in a creative field.

With all this going on, Wendy and I are still trying to travel to inspiring places. We fell in love with sailing during covid, and in 2022 I was able to grab my Day Skippers licence, allowing us to sail bareboat charters pretty well anywhere. We have enjoyed many weeks at sea now, many terrifying moments, and toooo many jaw dropping things to mention (often within minutes of each other.)...and oh the immersion in beauty... like the sunrise below in the Greek Cyclades on our rented Catamaran Narnia.

With that, you have done well to get to the end of the journey so far...thankyou for looking in on me. Hugs and happy trails! Franko.  

 

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