Brandon Sines is the brain behind the familiar face of Frank Ape. Working from his studio in Queens, Sines' space is chock-full of Frank - whether it be through paintings and dolls, or pins and stickers.
Sines was born in Los Angeles and grew up in Toronto. He moved to New York City and created Frank Ape around 2011. For Sines, art wasn't always the obvious answer, but he gravitated towards it as a child: "When I was a kid, I was really interested in drawing and that was kind of my favorite thing to do, more so than kids that were into sports... I was just into drawing, and I always liked art class. When I got older, maybe around fourteen, I stopped kind of paying attention to that so much and got into some trouble, did that whole teenage rebellion thing and forgot about art for a little while. I got back into it again when I was in my early twenties. Moving to New York was a big catalyst for sparking my creativity again and really having this passion and an audience to speak to."
Sines developed Frank as a character to use in a couple of paintings that he would write little messages on alongside the painting. "I wanted a character that was not really a person, but not really an animal, and maybe a wise soul who was not fully evolved, but felt things deeply. I felt like a Sasquatch was kind of a cool thing to play with, and so I first used him in a painting in 2011 and I just ended up using him again and putting him in different situations, and then I remember a friend of a friend asking what his name was and I said 'Frank' kind of without thinking about it. I think I was thinking I would come up with something better later, but it really just quickly turned into its own thing... people just knew Frank, so obviously I couldn't change it, and I thought it was actually kind of the perfect name."
From humble beginnings, Frank's character has been growing: "His voice has been developing over the years. I did a lot of pop culture references in the early days, and then I kind of decided I wanted him to have his own voice and have his own universe and feelings and kind of stand for something."
Sines' work gained popularity through Instagram - people connected with Frank as a character. "It was really exciting to see this character reach people. They were all different kinds of people of all ages and backgrounds."
For Sines, his favorite medium is watercolor and ink on paper - growing up looking at comic books, he is drawn towards an illustrative style. "I feel confident using those tools, but I've also been getting into a lot of other things, like spray painting and large-scale canvases with acrylic and I've been doing a lot of murals lately, which of course involves spray paint and stuff. I've been experimenting with a lot of new things, and getting my bearings with everything."
Sines was inspired in the early days by wanting to have his work seen and liked, but with Frank, he wants his art to make a positive impact. "I want Frank to be accessible for really young people. I'm thinking about doing a kid's book right now. I want it to be inspiring. I want Frank to be someone that makes you feel like you can follow your dreams and inspires you to be the best you can be, be nice to others, and be a loyal friend... all these things that I feel like I'm learning myself. It's kind of like an alter-ego for me. As I get older I realize what's really important in life and what values I think are important. I try to have Frank put those out there, and it's just really all about positivity."
His latest project of note includes a mural by One World Trade Center (his biggest mural to date at 150 feet wide). "I went down there the other day to check it out, and it was so cool seeing all these tourists taking pictures... it was really rad to see the connection the people were having with the piece. The message on that one is 'Everyone is different, and everyone is the same,' so I feel like people are responding because it's timely. It wasn't something I was really even thinking about - it was just something I felt Frank was all about."
"There are two sides of it - it's kind of a new thing for me to be having this career where I'm able to take care of my basic needs like my rent - I can take care of that stuff just from the stuff I'm doing with the art and not have a side gig. It's very exciting. I'm always doing new things, and I'm sometimes stressed taking on new projects, and I think it's important to take the time to reflect and be proud of the accomplishments I have so far... on the other side of it, what's fulfilling about being an artist is inspiring other people. Whenever I do a show and meet people that are into Frank or Frank's world and they say something about how it inspired them or how it made them feel connected, that's what really makes me super happy and inspired to keep going. I think if it wasn't for that, I might not be going with the same energy that I have."
You can visit Brandon Sines' website here.
You can visit the Frank Ape website here.
You can follow Frank Ape on Instagram here.