It’s always special to watch an artist build him or herself up from the ground up. Whether their medium is music, fashion, or tattoos, you feel a certain connection to that artist and their work. It’s one thing to meet your favorite established artist. But having the ability to say you watched someone grown into a star is far more rewarding. It gives you more of an appreciation for their craft. That’s how most people in Atlanta’s indie scene feel about painter and tattoo artist Paper Frank.
I first met Paper Frank 4 years ago on a college campus as he spray painted a bunny onto a large board. The bunny had large sharp teeth and looked quite scary. Then unknown to the large crowd of students who were there simply for music and food, Frank stayed focused and quiet as people walked by wondering who this guy spray painting this unique bunny was. A year later I ran into Frank at an art gallery when he stuck a sticker onto my Mac book, which was already covered in stickers, that read, “You Mad” and had that same bunny on it I had seen a year before. I still have the sticker. By this time, Frank was getting ready for his first art show. Soon after his art show, I began to see that bunny everywhere, along with a little boy named Damien. His work was hung up in City Of Ink as well as posted everywhere online. Frank was becoming a local art star in Atlanta.
Shortly after his 1st show, Frank became apprenticing under Miya Bailey and became a member of the City Of Ink family. As a tattoo artist and painter, Frank has grown from a local star to an international one. His last art show, Pink Lemonade was packed to capacity with 4,000 people in attendance. The line outside looked like a concert. Pink Lemonade brought out creatives and art appreciators from all over Atlanta. Atlanta legend Jermaine Dupri and new artist Trinidad James came out to support Frank and his new work.
I had been trying to catch up with Frank for quite some time. I was interested in getting another tattoo, but neither of our schedules permitted it. Frank recently just returned from New York City, where he held a small pop up shop for his Pink Lemonade collection, and held a few meetings regarding some future endeavors. I met Frank at City of Ink to talk about his trip:
Greedmont: When did you get back from New York?
Frank: Saturday night, right before MJQs
Greedmont: How was the trip?
Frank: Very good. Every time people ask, I don’t know how to answer because it was so awesome. Very productive, got a lot of shit done, met a lot of people. I’m trying to solidify some cool collaborations.
Greedmont: You had an art show up there right?
Frank: I did my art show at the top of this hotel in Brooklyn. It was cooler than I thought it was going to be. I didn’t know the hotel was going to be so nice.
Greedmont: It was like a rooftop show?
Greedmont: Which show do you think was better?
Frank: Of course the one down here. [The show in new york] was more like a pop up shop, but a very successful pop up shop. The fact that people came out is pretty dope. I’ve never really been to New York like that before.
Greedmont: That was your first trip?
Frank: I’ve been 3 years ago. But I wasn’t really doing anything then. I didn’t know anyone. This time I had a reason for going up there so it was a real trip.
Greedmont: what was the difference between that one and the show down here?
Frank: That one I had about 4 pieces up there. It was more of a personal show. People got to talk to me and shit.
Greedmont: This was your first show in awhile right?
Frank: Were you at Pink Lemonade? That was the last one – I forgot the date. The artwork is still up until the 29th of September though.
Greedmont: What’s the concept behind pink lemonade.
Frank: The colors. I realized all the colors in my art were pink and yellow. I just went along with it. I noticed that most of my work had the same color scheme so I kept doing it. People noticed it. I used it more as a business move. I didn’t realize how much you see those two colors together. You see them everywhere, more than you think you do. It’s almost like you get a new car and you notice that car everywhere.
Greedmont: Do you feel like this is the most successful show you’ve done thus far?
Frank: Definitely my most successful show. It was 4,000 people there. But I always feel like I can do better, so I’m over it already.
Greedmont: You’re already working on the next thing?
Frank: Yeah, my next thing is going to be really interesting the way I set the canvas up. They’re going to be more like toys. Just something really different.
Greedmont: Are you going to use the same characters?
Frank: They’re always going to be in my work. I might change up the mood of it or the composition of how I put stuff together. It may be more intricate instead of so simple. I did it so simple so that people would know the characters. Now that people know the characters, I can go where I want with it.
Paper Frank has been exploring art scenes in different cities and countries, sharing his work. He’s done tattoos in everywhere from Washington DC to London and Amsterdam. His work can be seen everywhere from his hometown of Asheville NC, to Orlando Florida. His talents and his aspirations extend beyond Atlanta’s small art culture.
Greedmont: Last time we spoke you were talking about moving out to LA. Are you still thinking about that?
Frank: I’m still thinking about that, but it wouldn’t be as soon. Maybe like 2 or 3 years.
Greedmont: What do you like about LA?
Frank: I really just like the Art Scene. There’s a lot of opportunity for artist out there. You know Georgia is 49 on the list for Art funding in the United States. That’s bullshit.
Greedmont: Do you think you’re leading the Art Culture in Atlanta?
Frank: I wouldn’t say I’m leading it. But I’m definitely apart of the new renaissance we have going on. There’s a lot of dope artist.
It was hard to hear Frank over the sound of the needle buzzing at times. He was tattooing a client as we spoke. With all of Frank’s newfound success and opportunities, he doesn’t have as much time to tattoo. So whenever he’s in the shop, he’s booked up with appointments.
Greedmont: What’s this piece you’re working on right now? (Tattoo he’s doing)
Frank: this piece represents loving unconditionally. I made a locket with it cause I didn’t want to do a regular heart, fuck that.
Greedmont: How long have you been tattooing?
Frank: about 2 and half years
Greedmont: Do you feel like you’ve gotten pretty big in two and half years?
Frank: Not big enough.
Greedmont: Are you trying to open your own shop eventually?
Frank: Oh never, as long as I tattoo, I’ll be working under Miya. I’d love to open my own gallery though.
Greedmont: How soon do you want to open your own gallery?
Frank: Probably within the next four years. I’m working on this plan before I do all that, a little business plan for myself.
Greedmont: How does Miya feel about all of our success?
Frank: He supports it. I really need his support because I can’t tattoo as much. I know that he supports me so don’t feel bad for doing all the things I want to do.
Greedmont: How long have you been doing art in general?
Frank: 4 years all together. I’ve been drawing all my life, but seriously, I’d say 4 years.
Greedmont: Do you think you got pretty big pretty fast?
Frank: Yeah, mostly because I know so many people. I’m talented, but knowing people helps too. Things move a little faster from word of mouth.
Greedmont: What are some new things you want work on? Where do you see yourself going next?
Frank: Toys. Other than that, this video series I’m working on.
Greedmont: What’s the theme of the video series?
Frank: It’s just documenting my daily life. Everything I do. A lot people assume I don’t do anything all day. I do a lot of stuff. Just people don’t see me doing something they assume I’m not doing something. I wanted to document it so people can see what I do everyday. It’s fun but sometimes it sucks.
Greedmont: You feel like people only see the fun side?
Frank: I make it look so easy. I do a lot but I party so much and shit. So people think I don’t do much. Then it’s like, where’d all this stuff come from? It’s basically me trying to balance partying and doing work.
I still haven’t booked my next tattoo appointment with Paper Frank. But I should do some quickly. With the way his career is rapidly taking off, Paper Frank will a household name very soon. His work is inspiring an art renaissance not just in Atlanta, but also in urban culture in general. His bunny is no longer just a cool figure spray painted on a board or used simply to replace an “o” in his “You Mad” stickers. His characters are recognizable parts of the Paper Frank brand. Damien is as much apart of the Atlanta art scene, and apart of fans lives, as he is a representation of Frank himself. Frank has grown into a star before the eyes of many and is continuing to grow. I still have his sticker on my old Mac book. I’m excited to see what that’ll mean years from now.
photo cred: angie luvara – creative director