Two styles make the man
Local artist Graham Franciose is a lesson in duality. Looking at the art hanging in the lounge area at Bagali’s Italian Kitchen in West Vail, one might expect two artists to be responsible for the work, rather than one. Images of industrial middle America – train crossings, water towers, and power lines – adorn pieces of stained wood he used as canvases. On opposing walls, watercolor and ink illustrations of surreal characters hang – a giant-nosed old man, a young girl fishing stars out of the sky with a long hook and a chubby man in an antler suit among them.The reason for the drastic difference between the styles is simple, Franciose said. “Sometimes I get bored doing just one thing – I like mixing it up.”Franciose took a series of pictures from the window of his car while he and his girlfriend drove cross-country, from Louisiana to Vail, last May. Franciose used the pictures as inspiration for the series of cut outs showing at Bagali’s.
“I like the small negative spaces between each bar and how it breaks up the sky,” Franciose said, gesturing towards a water tower cutout painting.Everyone has a different interpretation of the character-based illustrations, Franciose said. “You can tell a story with them and it’s different for everyone – everyone has a different interpretation.”The pieces have been up for about a month and both Franciose, who works as a server at the restaurant, and owner Stuart Bucy say they’ve had good feedback. “People love it,” Bucy said. “He’s really good – ultra creative. We had a grand opening for the art show with a DJ and we had a really good turnout.”
Nearly 30 prints have sold so far, and Franciose just “broke even” financially last week – a milestone considering the money he spent on the prints and framing (all of which he did himself).With reddish hair and a full, strawberry-blonde beard, Franciose is the quintessential starving artist, Bucy said. He works two jobs – at Bagali’s five nights a week and selling lift tickets at Vail Mountain three days a week. The little free time he has, Franciose dedicates to his art, he said. He recently finished nearly 1,000 illustrations for a first grade vocabulary book that will be published this spring. The money he made from the month-long project funded a recent trip to Europe. Maybe the starving, Bagali’s showing artist is just a few gigs away from making it big? “Hopefully,” he answered simply.For love or money?
When Franciose was struggling to choose between art and forestry for his college major, his dad, himself a jewelry maker, gave him an integral piece of advice.”He said ‘what would you do if you were never going to get paid for it?” Franciose said. “That’s when I decided to go with art.” Two years ago Franciose graduated with a bachelor of fine arts degree in illustration from Hartford Art School at the University of Connecticut. Franciose completed the set of watercolor and ink illustrations hanging at Bagali’s during his last year of college. The project focused on “children’s perception of reality,” Franciose said, “before they learn the real explanations for things.”In one illustration a bald man looks at the sky, hands clasped on his head in anguish. A plane is flying towards a cloud that resembles a giant white monster, ready to eat the plane. The title of the piece is “High Levels of Stress Can Cause Premature Baldness.”
Most of the time, Franciose has little or no idea about what he’s going to paint – he just starts sketching. “I don’t know what I’m going to do and then something will form, a face or their posture, and it builds on itself. That’s where some of my best stuff comes from.”Caramie Schnell can be reached at 748-2984 or firstname.lastname@example.org.