Angelo Franco’s paintings will stop you in your tracks—their colors and composition are immediately appealing. But once you spend a little more time looking at his canvas wall art, you’ll see something else. It’s not just a gorgeous vase of flowers, it’s a grouping of dots and circles. Sometimes, the opposite happens—you suddenly realize that all those dots and circles define a forest, or a vase, or a human face. We recently sat down with this Ecuador-born artist and discovered we’ve got a lot to talk about!
GreenBox: What is your process? How do you even know where to begin to create your subject?
Angelo Franco: Usually I don’t have a predetermined image. I just put color [oils] on the canvas and let it dry and turn it around 90 degrees every once in awhile and then 90 degrees again every once in awhile—I don’t even know if it’s a portrait or still life. It takes 24 hours to dry each layer of the oil, so I can keep working on them until I am satisfied.
GB: Can you tell us about the technique you use to make the circles and dots?
AF: To make the smaller circles I put on gloves and make a circle. The thumb is obviously the biggest finger so I just use that and then use the pinky in middle. I also use sheets of Styrofoam cut into rough circles. I use it as a stamp and let it dry and then use my finger for a different color in the middle.
GB: How did you come up with this technique? Was it a long process?
AF: The technique has come over time. I am 62 years old and went to art school in the late 70s and early 80s [at the Art Students League in New York]. A very traditional school that teaches you how to see the figure or object and draw it as accurately as you can. I attached myself to the idea of doing that with portraitures and still lifes, all the things that require observation. But if that is not your call in life (after awhile) it becomes a little annoying. I decided to break it up.
GB: That’s when you turned to pointillism [a style of painting in which dots of color blend to create an image when viewed from a distance]?
AF: Yes, but that has been done, 70 years ago. So I have made them [the dots] bigger!
GB: Do you remember how you felt when you sold your first painting?
AF: A very good question! I cannot say that I remember because my art has always been rewarded with some amount of money even when I was a kid, like for ice cream. So I can’t remember the first time. But maybe that was the incentive! As you learn art, there is always someone to buy your first paintings. Maybe family, or friends when they hear you are an artist and they feel sorry for you. Later you realize, of course, they were very cheap, so it was a learning experience.
GB: How did you first start selling your paintings through GreenBox?
AF: I had an affiliation with a gallery in Atlanta and someone there told the people at GreenBox that they should check my work out. I had been approached by other companies before but there was always something, and I had never done it yet and still do not sell through anyone else. At GreenBox, they told me they will not crop my art. That was very important to me.
But originally, as an artist, you don’t think of the ramifications of the marketplace. My plan was to just keep producing and showing in galleries. The reality is that’s hard and a lot of very good galleries are going out of business. It’s sad. So you have to diversify a bit, just like any other person who is earning income. If there are good people handling your work then I feel comfortable with it.
GB: And so you are an artist full time?
AF: Yes, full time. I have a home in Ashland Virginia with a studio in the back of the house, the garage. I like to work from home. Other people have a problem with that because of the isolation, but I don’t. When my children were little, I stayed home with them while my wife worked outside the home. I’d carry them into the studio with me. Now, when I get lonely I will go to the Y or something.
GB: How does it feel knowing so many people have your fine art canvasses hanging on their walls?
AF: The way that I see it, there is wonderful art all over the place. That’s one of the ways we humans express ourselves the best. I have met people who followed my art for years before ever approaching me or bought anything. They follow the trajectory of my work and then they approach me and I think they’ve just discovered me and they say, “No, I have been following your work for twenty years!” That’s a nice feeling.
GB: One more question, just for fun: If you couldn’t be you, what animal would you want to be and why?
AF: Hmm. Not a bug—I don’t want be squished or stepped on. I’d kind of like to be an iguana. Growing up we had a lot of iguanas. They are very tricky customers and they hold their ground. They’re beautiful and they like to bask in the sun and they can swim. Of course a wild boar can eat them, but what can you do about that?
Take a moment to browse Angelo’s beautiful canvas wall art.