We continue our series on Men in the Arts with famed illustrator, Frankie B Washington. With over 30 years experience working as a professional illustrator, Frankie has more experience than words can communicate. From advertising, storyboards and key-frames for studios, to Marvel Comics trading cards and Transformers, just have a look at his hand drawn art and see what Frankie B is all about!
“I consider myself a versatile illustrator because of my many years working in advertising and with various art & creative directors. Working with many different clients forced me to have an adaptable art style yet also retain my own unique signature. You can tell a Frankie B. Washington piece when you see it LOL”
Raising Nerd: Let’s start at the beginning. How old were you when you figured out that you had a talent for drawing?
Frankie B. Washington: My memory is pretty sketchy but I vaguely remember being very young, possibly pre-teen when my momma would come home from grocery shopping. Tear the brown paper bag that the food came into imperfect sheets for me to draw on – While she put the various items away.
Raising Nerd: How did you become an illustrator?
Frankie B. Washington: I suppose I became an official PAID illustrator when I was hired way back in 1993 by a production company to do storyboards on two feature films, Squeeze and Next Stop Wonderland. I pretty much drew a ton of things while I was in high school and eventually art school for friends and family.
Raising Nerd: How does math or engineering influence the art of your design?
Frankie B. Washington: I personally believe that in every genre (Fantasy, Sci Fi, Horror) there is some level of engineering and/or math that is utilized to make the magic happen. In school, I wasn’t the greatest at math, yet I loved science — especially robotic engineering. The various structures, giant robots and Kaiju characters I have drawn. Require some level of measurement and understanding of physics to enhance that believability of what I’m illustrating. Without it, I may actually push the viewer away from what I’m trying to pull them towards.
Raising Nerd: What’s the hardest part of being an illustrator?
Frankie B. Washington: I believe that there is still a level of disbelief when I explain to people what I do for a living. The idea that companies and/or people pay me to draw pictures is a shock to some. I find that I have to walk some through the thirty plus years of my career before they actually can process the amount of work I’ve helped to contribute to society in the mediums of print, advertising, film, animation and Toys.
Raising Nerd: Now that you have so much experience, do you still have to learn new things or train to be an illustrator? If so, tell us how you do this.
Frankie B. Washington: Even though I’ve amassed some knowledge from the years of freelancing, I’m still finding myself learning and adapting my style and marketing techniques as I work with new clients and connecting with fellow artisans. I don’t believe you REALLY can stop learning new things unless you consciously chose to.
Raising Nerd: What is your favorite piece of art you’ve created and why?
Frankie B. Washington: This is tough because I love a couple of pieces I’ve done. I would say that the self-portrait I painted of myself years ago is my favorite and has a place on my wall in the studio.
Raising Nerd: We know you’re talented at illustrating. Talk to us about doing something you’re not good at. What is it and how do you motivate yourself to do it?
Frankie B. Washington: I don’t really consider myself a really good writer. I feel that I illustrate a story and then add captions and dialogue to help give it form YET I really don’t look at my writing as being as confident and strong like my art. Nevertheless, I continue to do small writings and have increased my reading of various books to help strengthen this skill. I’m optimistic that I will one day achieve the balance I want with story and art. Rogue Mom Response: Well thanks for agreeing to do a written interview Frankie – great job!
Raising Nerd: What advise would you give to kids looking to get into your field? (or what skills would you recommend people focus on developing?) What materials should kids learn to master first?
Frankie B. Washington: My first advice is that you REALLY have to love what you’re doing. This passion will help you when times get rough and the many doors that get slammed in your face. Becoming your own cheerleader and coach will strengthen your resolve and help you to get over the hurdles that exist in art industry. I suggest you decide on what field of art you are truly interested in exploring and becoming part of. This will allow you to funnel your energies toward a viable endeavor and increase your skills to maximize your chances. Any material you chose to use is entirely up to you – Just get really good at using it… And clients will notice. The last thing is to understand that ART is a BUSINESS as well and you need to quickly understand this. Professionalism is something that is honed on the battlefields of experience. Expect to climb the ladder and respect the fact that you’ve made it up on the rung… And you’ll make it up.
Raising Nerd: If you could draw a self-portrait of yourself, what style would you make it in? (also explain what the style means, if you choose comic-book or art deco, etc…)
Frankie B. Washington: I’ve already done a self-portrait of myself in watercolor. At the time I chose the medium because it reflected a sense of fluidity for me. I also used some hard solid strokes to add a sense of conflict to the piece. The context of the overall art was based on a self-published comic I did way back in 1991 called PEACE and what it meant to me.
Raising Nerd: Lastly, if you could have a drawing contest with anyone in the world, who would you challenge and what would you challenge them to draw? Would you win?
Frankie B. Washington: I would love to challenge Go Nagai to illustrate Mazinger Z, his greatest creation – He is one of my artistic heroes who still inspires me. Most likely he would kick the cr@p out of me, but I wouldn’t care LOL.
Enjoy our focus on Men in the Arts as we share the diverse stories and perspectives of some incredibly talented artists, designers, photographers/videographers, and musicians whose creative careers all have been influenced in some way(s) by the STEM disciplines. We hope you and your Nerds will find inspiration and encouragement through the eyes of these artists.
This is our Nerd series on Men in the Arts!