THE ARTFUL FRO: RACHAEL FRANCIS

LONDON | “THE ARTFUL FRO” RACHAEL FRANCIS

LONDON | “THE ARTFUL FRO” RACHAEL FRANCIS

INTERVIEW: REALIFE

VALIDATED: WHICH COUNTRY AND TOWN ARE YOU FROM ORIGINALLY?

RACHAEL FRANCIS: I AM FROM THE UK AND ORIGINALLY BORN IN A SMALL TOWN JUST OUTSIDE OF LONDON CALLED BEDFORD. I MOVED TO LONDON IN 1994 TO STUDY GRAPHIC DESIGN AND HAVE LIVED HERE EVER SINCE.

VALIDATED: HOW DID THE NAME “THE ARTFUL FRO” COME ABOUT?

RACHAEL FRANCIS: I HAD JUST STARTED PAINTING AGAIN IN 2014 AND REALLY WANTED TO PURSUE THIS PROFESSIONALLY AND WANTED A NAME THAT PEOPLE WOULD REMEMBER.  ‘ARTFUL’ IS PURELY BECAUSE I AM CREATIVE AND ‘FRO’ WELL I HAVE AFRO HAIR AND IT’S SOMETHING PEOPLE ALWAYS REMEMBER ABOUT ME.

VALIDATED: CAN YOU RECALL WHEN YOUR PASSION FOR ART BEGAN TO SURFACE?

RACHAEL FRANCIS: THE PASSION HAS BEEN WITH ME SINCE MY FIRST CRAYON AND IT NEVER REALLY LEFT ME AS AN ADULT AND IT'S SOMETHING THAT I HAVE ALWAYS LOVED DOING. IT'S SO SATISFYING FOR ME.

VALIDATED: HAVE YOU HAD ANY ART EDUCATION OR ARE YOU SELF TAUGHT?

RACHAEL FRANCIS: I ONLY REALLY HAD THE USUAL SCHOOLING YOU GET IN SECONDARY SCHOOL IN ART SO HAVE A GCSE AND A’ LEVEL BUT BEYOND THAT, I DIDN’T GO TO ART COLLEGE SO I AM PRETTY MUCH SELF-TAUGHT.  FOR ME AS MUCH AS I LOVED ART, I THOUGHT BEING AN ARTIST WOULD BE A STRUGGLE TO SURVIVE SO INSTEAD, I OPTED TO STUDY GRAPHIC DESIGN. THIS ACTUALLY WORKED OUT WELL AS THIS TRAINING MADE ME LOOK AT ART IN A DIFFERENT WAY AND THE WAY IT CAN BE USED MORE COMMERCIALLY. MANY ARTISTS ALSO HAVE INSPIRED ME GROWING UP AND STILL ONE THAT STANDS OUT IS DREW STRUZAN HE HAND-PAINTED MANY OF THE FILM POSTERS I GREW UP LOVING, SUCH AS INDIANA JONES, STAR WARS AND  THE THING TO NAME A FEW AND THESE ARE THE DAYS BEFORE THE DAYS OF PHOTOSHOP AND ILLUSTRATOR. I WORK IN A SIMILAR WAY AS WITH IMAGES I TAKE PHOTOGRAPHS AND CREATE SOMETHING THAT DOES RESEMBLE A POSTER FEEL.

VALIDATED: WHAT DOES ART AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION MEAN TO YOU?

RACHAEL FRANCIS: INTERPRETING YOUR INSPIRATIONS AND IDEAS WITH A NO HOLES BARRED APPROACH.  IGNORING CRITICISM AND JUST BEING FREE TO EXPLORE AND EXPRESS YOUR INDIVIDUALITY. JEAN - MICHEL BASQUIAT I WOULD SAY WAS A GREAT EXAMPLE OF SOMEONE WHO HAD THIS APPROACH AND IS ONE OF THE REASONS HE IS ONE OF MY FAVOURITE ARTISTS.

VALIDATED: HOW HAS ART AND HIP-HOP INFLUENCED YOUR LIFE?

RACHAEL FRANCIS: TOGETHER THEY HAVE OPENED UP A WORLD OF OPPORTUNITIES FOR ME, A FEW YEARS AGO I WOULD HAVE NEVER BELIEVED I COULD ACTUALLY MAKE A LIVING FROM ART, LET ALONE CONNECT WITH THE PEOPLE I AM PAINTING WITHIN THE MUSIC GENRE I LOVE.  

VALIDATED: WHAT IS YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS?

RACHAEL FRANCIS: I ALWAYS GET A SUDDEN URGE TO PAINT SOMEONE AND WHEN THE IDEA IS CEMENTED I HAVE TO PAINT IT AS IT WON'T LEAVE MY MIND. SO ONCE I HAVE DECIDED ON THE VINYL, I TEND TO SPEND A WHILE REALLY RESEARCHING WHO I AM PAINTING, WATCHING INTERVIEWS, SOURCING IMAGES AND LISTENING TO THEIR MUSIC PARTICULARLY IF IT'S A COMMISSION AND THE ARTIST IS UNFAMILIAR. THE REST JUST FLOWS!

VALIDATED: WHAT WAS IT THAT PUSHED YOU IN 2014 TO PURSUE ART BEYOND JUST A CASUAL HOBBY?

RACHAEL FRANCIS: MY SON WAS GETTING OLDER AND MORE INDEPENDENT, SO I WAS HAVING MORE FREE TIME OUTSIDE OF MY DAY JOB AS A CREATIVE RECRUITER TO CREATE MORE PIECES. EQUALLY, THERE IS NOT ENOUGH SPACE TO STORE MY WORK SO SELLING THEM SEEMED A GREAT SOLUTION.

VALIDATED: YOUR TRADE MARK, VINYL ART, WHICH COMBINES YOUR LOVE OF MUSIC AND ART, HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE IDEA?

RACHAEL FRANCIS: I HAD SEEN A PAINTING BY FRENCH ARTIST JACQUES PUISEIX,  HE HAD PAINTED AN ACTUAL VINYL RECORD ON CANVAS FEATURING PIN-UP GIRLS. I LOVED THE CONCEPT BUT THOUGHT WHY NOT USE THE ACTUAL VINYL AND PAINT THE ACTUAL ARTISTS THAT PERFORMED ON THE RECORD.  NOT KNOWING IF IT WOULD WORK OR IF PEOPLE WOULD REACT WELL TO ME PAINTING ON VINYL, MY FIRST ATTEMPT WAS ON THE 7 INCH SINGLE “SEXUAL HEALING” BY MARVIN GAYE. THE FEEDBACK WAS SO POSITIVE IT THEN BECAME MY WAY OF COMBINING MY LOVE OF ART AND MUSIC TOGETHER. 

VALIDATED: WHAT’S YOUR EARLIEST MEMORY OF HIP-HOP CULTURE?

RACHAEL FRANCIS: IT WAS AROUND THE AGE OF 17 (1992) THAT I TRULY FELL IN LOVE WITH HIP HOP, I REMEMBER WATCHING MY FIRST EPISODE OF “YO! MTV RAPS” AND BIG DADDY KANE WAS PERFORMING A MEDLEY OF HIS HITS, IT BLEW MY MIND!

VALIDATED: WHEN AND WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO FOCUS ON HIP-HOP ARTIST? 

RACHAEL FRANCIS: PURELY FROM BEING A FAN OF HIP HOP, PRODUCING ARTWORK FOR IT WILL ALWAYS BE A NATURAL THING FOR ME AND IT CONSTANTLY GIVES ME SUCH A BUZZ.

VALIDATED: WHAT ARE A FEW OF THE HIGHLIGHTS AND/OR REWARDS OF WHERE YOUR ARTWORK HAS TAKEN YOU SO FAR?

RACHAEL FRANCIS: IT DEFINITELY HAS BEEN AN OPPORTUNITY TO MEET MY FAVOURITE PEOPLE AND KNOWING THEY OWN MY ART IS VERY MOTIVATIONAL.  THIS INCLUDES DJ JAZZY JEFF, LORD FINESSE, BIG DADDY KANE, MONIE LOVE, ROXANNE SHANTE, PETE ROCK, FLOETRY, ROBERT GLASPER, DJ SPINNA, SKYZOO, SNOOP DOGG, TYRESE GIBSON, AS WELL AS ACTOR JASON MOMOA. I HAVE ALSO GAINED AN AUDIENCE OF COLLECTORS THAT ARE KEEN TO INVEST IN MY ART AND MANY ARE REPEAT CUSTOMERS.

VALIDATED: WHAT’S YOUR REACTION TO HOW THE HIP-HOP COMMUNITY HAS EMBRACED YOUR WORK? 

RACHAEL FRANCIS: IT'S BEEN GREAT! THERE IS A HUGE COMMUNITY THAT HAS A LOT OF RESPECT FOR THE HIP HOP, SO IT'S MY WAY TO CELEBRATE THE LEGACY AND ALL THAT ARE PART OF THE CULTURE.

VALIDATED: WHICH ARTIST HAD THE MOST MEMORABLE REACTION TO YOUR DRAWING OF THEM? 

RACHAEL FRANCIS: THERE HAS BEEN A FEW THAT HAVE STOOD OUT,  BIG DADDY KANE WHO IS SOMEONE I HAVE KNOWN FOR MANY YEARS AND WAS THERE WHEN I WAS STARTING OUT. HE HAS GIVEN ME GREAT ADVICE AND I CREATED A VINYL ART PAINTING WITH HIM AND MARVIN GAYE TOGETHER WHICH IS SITUATED IN HIS MAN CAVE.

ROBERT GLASPER LOVED THE ARTWORK I DID FOR HIM OF MICHAEL JACKSON ON THE ALBUM  “OFF THE WALL” AND I MET HIM ON MY WAY BACK FROM THE NORTH SEA JAZZ FESTIVAL AGAIN HAS BEEN AN AMAZING PERSON IN HELPING ME TO CONNECT TO PEOPLE IN THE INDUSTRY.

LORD FINESSE WAS ANOTHER THAT STOOD OUT, HE HAD FOUND ME ON INSTAGRAM AND ASKED ME TO DO A COMMISSION. WE SKYPED AND HE MENTIONED HE WAS A HUGE FAN OF MY WORK WHICH WAS SUCH A GREAT FEELING AS HE WAS SOMEONE I GREW UP LISTENING TO AND EQUALLY A FAN. 

ACTOR/SINGER TYRESE GIBSON WAS ONE OF MY FIRST BIG CLIENTS AND PURCHASED 5 OF MY VINYL ART PAINTINGS AND ALSO PUT ME IN TOUCH WITH SNOOP DOGG OF WHICH I CREATED A PIECE WITH HIMSELF AND FRANK SINATRA.

VALIDATED: YOUR ARTWORK HAS BEEN EXHIBITED IN THE UK, EUROPE AND INTERNATIONALLY, AS AN ARTIST HOW DOES IT FEEL TO SEE YOUR WORK ON DISPLAY IN ABROAD?

RACHAEL FRANCIS: AS MUCH AS SOCIAL MEDIA HAS BEEN A GREAT WAY FOR ME TO SHOWCASE AND TO SELL MY ART GLOBALLY, EXHIBITING WILL ALWAYS BE THE BEST FEELING AND THE BEST WAY FOR SOMEONE TO CONNECT TO MY PIECES.  MY VINYL ART IS HAND-PAINTED AND THE VINYL SURFACE IS REFLECTIVE SO THIS CAN BE DIFFICULT TO PHOTOGRAPH. SO OFTEN IT DOESN'T GIVE A TRUE IMPRESSION OF THE DETAIL IN THE PAINTING AS IT WOULD IN REAL LIFE.  

VALIDATED: WHAT’S NEXT FOR “THE ARTFUL FRO”?

RACHAEL FRANCIS: I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN KNOWN FOR PAINTING HIP HOP AND OF COURSE THIS WILL CONTINUE BUT I HAVE NOW STARTED TO EXPLORE THE AREAS OF FILM AND TV. IT'S BEEN AMAZING TO FIND VINYL FOR THE MOST UNUSUAL THINGS AND THIS JUST ADDS TO THE EXCITEMENT OF WHAT I AM DOING.

VALIDATED: WHERE CAN THE READERS FIND YOU ON SOCIAL MEDIA AND THE WEB?

RACHAEL FRANCIS: PLEASE FEEL FREE TO FOLLOW AND COMMENT OR MAKE ANY SUGGESTIONS OF WHAT VINYL ARTWORK YOU WOULD LIKE TO SEE ME DO.

INSTAGRAM: @THEARTFULFRO

WEBSITE: WWW.THEARTFULFRO.COM

FACEBOOK: WWW.FACEBOOK.COM/THEARTFULFRO



Troy HendricksonComment