100 Creatives: Cliff Franks

Categories: 100 Creatives

photo by Christopher Patronella, Jr.
Cliff Franks in his studio
What he does:While artist Cliff Franks is an illustrator and painter, he is just as much an astute philosopher. Incorporating elements of sensationalism into his art in the same way that that those "lovers of wisdom" incorporate provocative ideas into the questions they pose, he strives to incite others to search themselves and the world around them for those answers.

"I like to inspire outrageous thought, reaction, an all around feeling of mystery -- what is this guy talking about, what is he trying to say?" Franks says. "To say to people 'learn, question authority, break outside of the box, put yourself in other people's shoes.'"

The subject of religion is probably the largest part of hisbody of work right now, Franks says.

"It's the absolutist idea that I want to destroy...the ones that will stare you straight in the eye and say you're going to hell, with no idea, no idea of my moral code, my ethics," Franks says. "With my artwork I want to say, nothing is for certain, nothing is absolute, there are questions that need to be asked, and you need to live your life according to those questions, and not to this absolute belief that you've been told is true."

He employs textures and subject matter in his work to do the talking; to challenge the fundamentalist attitudes that he sees as blind thinking, contradictory and false notions of reality.

"Flesh and bone," Franks says, "I want to say, no, we're not going to deify this, we're going to make it human, and we're going to show blood, and we're going to show these mortal aspects of religious icons, or idols, which they've become -- in my opinion."

Cliff Franks
"LaCreation" Colored pencil on artboard

What inspires him: It was all sort of a personal soul searching, Franks says, a search for reason...sure, everyone goes through bad times, but it's what you do in those bad times that builds character, integrity.

"And for me, a lack of fear and a thirst for knowledge...to be this sort of artist who conveys these emotions that I view as false...it's almost like a proverbial punch in the gut, to the middle of the line religious people, that believe or say they believe...a wake-up call to them, and to myself."

Cliff Franks
"Nietzsche (ubermensch)" Oil on artboard

"I have no physical mentor," Franks says. "It's only the dead -- Nietzsche, Sartre, Leonardo Da Vinci -- the philosophers and the science minded artists. I admire Nietzsche because he was so unafraid to speak his mind despite the majority view, and I feel like I'm living during 'the world is flat mentality' and I just want to say 'look, your absolutist ideal is not true, there are too many holes.'"

He compares Christianity to a Jenga tower that loses its base with every block of information from the Bible that is proved wrong.

"I convey my anti-religious views in my art," Franks says. "But it's funny, because without knowing who I am, a lot of people, when they see it, it's just a picture to them, they don't take into account my personal views."

He finds there is a duality of interpretations in religious images such as Christ suffering.

"A lot of highly faithful people will think it's pro-religious art, and it's a very ironic thing...one of my pieces was used for the Women of Faith Conference, and it got this reaction, 'oh that's so true,' but my vision of it was the complete opposite of how they took it...some do take it as something that is beautiful and a reminder of their faith, whereas to me, it's almost as if it's a weakness of sorts."

Cliff Franks
"The Light Bearer" Oil on canvasboard

Why he enjoys it: Because of situations like this, Franks says, to be able to talk to people about it and convey information freely without a fear of judgment.

"That's what really gets me off the most...and the feedback from other people, a lot of times it's really profound, and art, I think, brings out that sort of profoundness, because it's not just words anymore."

To be able to stand up amongst your peers and not be afraid of what you feel is real, Franks says, to not be afraid to stand against what you think is false. It's a sense of pride.

"I'm no longer afraid of someone who I know isn't correct coming after me...the censorship idea, sanctity, for me, it's dead, or it never existed -- it's something that people make up so you don't question, so you don't search for these different answers that you might be looking for...if you look at my art and walk away disgusted, questioning things, well that's what I want. I want you to feel that sort of raw uncertainty."

If not this, then what? "I was a graphic designer for seven years," Franks says. "And it was just rehashing the same images over and over -- for ads, signs, banners -- a corporate America graphic designer...and it made me despise what is considered art in the modern era...that is what an artists' profession has turned into these days; what company can you work for...there have got to be people still expressing emotions and opinions through art without trying to sell something."

To know yourself, and find yourself, and always learn, Franks says, to never give up and think that you know, to never become complacent in your knowledge, that's the purpose.

"I had a fellow artist at one of my showings that commented on my crowning piece, and she said, 'Why would you show that, no one's going to buy that' and I said, 'It's not for me to sell, but for people to see.'"

What's next: Franks' work will be exhibited July 9 in JJ's Tales of the Garage-Mahal Volume 1 at Obsidian Stark Warehouse, and in a solo show Aug 19 at Dionysus Hair.

More Creatives
(In order of most recently published; click here for the full page).

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Katy Heinlein, visual artist
Robert Shimko, dramaturg
Galina Kurlat, photographer
Wayne Slaten, filmmaker
Jane Weiner, dancer and choreographer
El Franco Lee II, visual artist
Chris McKay, photographer
Jason Ransom, visual artist
Mr. SINched, fashion desiger
"Uncle" Charlie Hardwick, poster designer
Avital Stolar, playwright and educator
Katherine Houston, visual artist
Christopher Olivier, visual artist
Dennis Lee Harper, sculptor
David A. Brown, photographer
Rachel Harmeyer, visual artist
Kia Neill, installation artist
Stacy Davidson, filmmaker
Jennifer Wood, choreographer
Kevin DeVil, filmmaker
Kerry Beyer, photographer and filmmaker
Robert Ellis, musician
Davie Graves, musician and visual artist
Robert Hodge, multimedia
Mary Magsamen, photo and video artist
John Harvey, theater
Bret Harmeyer, visual artist
Joel Orr, puppet master
Rodney Waters, photographer and pianist
Jeremy Choate, lighting designer
Chuck Ivy, visual artist
Tra'Slaughter, visual artist
Jen Chen - visual art, designer
Howard Sherman - Painter

Nancy Hendrick - Founder of Dance Salad
Misha Penton - Opera Singer and Theater Artist
Ben Tecumseh DeSoto - Photojournalist
Tracy Robertson aka Batty - Goth Fashion Designer
Tierney Malone - Creative Type
Dolan Smith - Painter
Jenny Schlief - Mixed-Media Artist
David Eagleman - Writer
Anna Sprage - Painter
Philip Lehl - Actor
Andy Noble - Choreographer
David McGee - Painter

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Lisa Rendon
Lisa Rendon

This is an artist who shatters boundaries in a pleantly disturbing way. Expectations are, and will, remain high for his future pieces. Whether or not people will enjoy it is questionable, but if everyone liked his work, it wouldn't have that "Cliff" appeal! So disturb who you will, because it just makes people that more interested [myself included]!

Jonathan Biehl
Jonathan Biehl

So cool, the articles great! Really inspiring. Look forward to seeing all that you have in the future.

Heather Gordy
Heather Gordy

Great article about a great artist. Cliff Franks is one of my favorites in Houston!

David Forrest
David Forrest

Great article. I have to say your work gets better and better Cliff.

Timmy J
Timmy J

Well said.  Definately look forward to catching some of your exhibits.


Way to go Cliff! Beautiful work as usual!


wow the more i see of cliff franks art the more i become a a fan  let all do are part to keep the artist feed and painting and comeing out with more thougth provoking  work.

Carolyn Franks
Carolyn Franks

Thanks Christopher Patronella Jr. & kudos for capturing my son's thoughts on his work & his credo (to perfection)! Couldn't have said it any better myself, though I'm slightly biased! Lol. Loved reading your article as I was listening to Simon & Garfunkel's 'I am a Rock'.....hope to meet you sometime at one of Cliff's exhibits.


I cannot say much more than what has already been mentioned. Great article about such an amazing person with an awesome mindset. It is always great to see what Cliff comes up with.

Eli Ashby
Eli Ashby

I like the fact that you're interested in not only expressing your emotions and opinions, but evoking others as well. Great read, this article gives an awesome glimpse into your genius mind. 


Awesome article for an awesome Artist! Love, love, love Cliff's work. His art really makes one stop and think. It never ceases to amaze me. Thank you for the article!!

Adrian Franks
Adrian Franks

Cliff, your mind is just as intense and thought provoking as your art.  Thank you for the amazing article Chris.  You portrayed him and the depth behind his artwork perfectly.

Vincent Fink
Vincent Fink

man we gotta hang some time, great read.

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