In the artists’ studio: Kelly Franké, Center Moriches
Kelly Franké in her studio at the Moriches Center. Credit: David Benthal
This is part of a series of Northforker workspace reviews that help shape some of the artistic work done here. The series was written and photographed for our ‘Creativity Issue’, now on newsstands.
Kelly Franké’s highly technical designs are a mix of landscapes, harbors, bridges and houses – many clients are homeowners as well as a real estate agent who offers house designs as closing gifts. But it is the wooden “canvas” that makes them truly unique.
“The patterns in the wood grain can be subject to interpretation, but sometimes I build the design around it,” she said. A drawing of Mitchell’s Park in Greenport has a wood grain positioned so precisely that it seems almost drawn in pencil to represent Shelter Island, the skyline, waves and clouds.
While Franké mainly works indoors, it was an outdoor experience that set her on this path. “When I was drawing outdoors in the open air, I would cut or tape my paper onto a wooden drawing board,” she said. “One day the paper kept waving in the wind, and I was so frustrated that I just crumpled it up and drew directly on the wood.
A signature technique was born, and since then she has frequented local lumberyards, always eyeing the grain first to inform future work. She likes birch for its softness, but has also played in more exotic woods, such as French walnut or wood veneer from a Berkshire factory.
Daughter of Long Island, originally from Babylon, Franké grew up in a family of artists; his father was an illustrator for Lucasfilm / “Star Wars” and still does commercial projects. She received a BFA from Alfred University, added an MFA from Indiana University, and could fool anyone into believing that she majored in architecture instead of drawing and engraving. Today, she is represented by the William Riis Gallery in Jamesport and finds inspiration (and buyers) on the North and South Forks.
About a year ago Franké and her fiancé bought a 1900s house in Center Moriches, not far from the inlets, with a large courtyard and a spacious studio. Whitewashed with high ceilings, the quiet and airy space allows Franké and her work to breathe in a way she couldn’t in her old studios in downtown Greenport and Astoria, in Queens. “It really is a luxury,” she said.
It also helps in getting the pictures just right. “When I initially ‘map’ a drawing, there are a lot of measurements as I strive to achieve perfect perspective and proportions,” Franké said. “My fiancé Mike built me a fully adjustable wall easel for this purpose, and having an open space allows me to step back and review a work in progress, then react and make decisions. By standing up against the wall without support, it eliminates any chance of skewing my point of view.
Once the work is sketched, Franké goes to his office to start rendering with different types of charcoal, sometimes flipping the piece for a new perspective.
“When you break everything down,” she said, “it’s just lines and shapes. ”