Michelangelo has a famous quote of his ability to look at a piece of marble and envision what it could become, “Every block of stone has a statue inside it, and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” Artist Kelly Franké hones her view on a piece of wood to see how its intrinsic nature can add to her creative vision. A talented illustrator, she finds individual pieces of wood upon which to depict her scenes where the natural grain becomes part of the picture. Her particular process started with a happy accident when a windy day proved frustrating as she was drawing en plein air. She recounts, “The wind kept picking up the paper, and in a fit I crumpled up the paper and started drawing on the board instead. I thought wow that’s kind of cool.” Subsequent forays into Home Depot were sources of amusement for the staff who were surprised by the girl with all the plywood looking not for building material but palettes. “It’s different from starting with a blank canvas,” says Franké, “I’m already getting a lot of information from the wood. It gives me a starting point.”
Her next inspiration arrived when her boyfriend delivered her the most thoughtful gift of a visit to a veneer warehouse in the Berkshires. She arranged to get samples to use for her work and expanded into more exotic woods like French walnut or curly maple.
“Originally the wood grain was an abstract element like wind or water or the sky but then I looked for more specific patterns where the grain would enhance the story and be very specific to that location and vision,” says Franké, “I was drawing Mitchell Park in Greenport and found the perfect piece of wood where the grain is the horizon then a stretch of darker grain becomes Shelter Island. It’s the serendipity of matching the particular piece of wood to the image I am capturing.”
Franké’s love of drawing started from birth and was inspired by her father Phil Franké, a renowned illustrator especially lauded for his iconic golf illustrations. “He worked at home,” notes Kelly, “And I would sit under his drafting table with my own little easel set up.” The family talent even dates back to her great grandfather who did illustrations for the famed Agatha Christie novels. She kept the family line, earning a Bachelor of Fine Art at Alfred University and a Master of Fine Art at Indiana University and taught as a professor at Caldwell University.
Making the move from Astoria to the North Fork was a game changer. “Out here I can breathe,” says Franké, “It’s not only the inspiration but physically having the space for a studio and my business.” Franké who exudes positive energy knows the importance of her work space and even enhances it with crystals for creativity and prosperity.
Connecting with her audience is paramount, and Franké has found a devoted clientele both through galleries and directly online. “The fact that people make a purchase and put your art over their mantle in their home speaks volumes. I can pass on what I love to someone else who really loves it.” She also appreciates that art is not just to be enjoyed in the present but as an investment and something to be passed down as an heirloom to other generations. Her works can range from intricate larger drawings that take at least 200 hours to small wooden ornaments adorned with local lighthouses which she sold on Etsy. Franké also accepts commissions to draw a place that has special meaning to someone or to be given as a thoughtful gift.
Devotion and drive as well as talent are Franke’s keys to success. “It’s a labor of love but involves hard work and hustle. On top of being creative you need to be organized and follow through on leads and meet deadlines.” The only thing missing? “Italy. I’ve always wanted to go and draw in Italy.” Well, as they say when you have a hope for the future: touch wood.