artist

Creatives of NY // Entry #009 // Brandon Sines // Visual Artist

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.

Brandon on 35mm

Brandon on 35mm

Brandon's assorted spray paints on 35mm

Brandon's assorted spray paints on 35mm

Frank Ape on 35mm

Frank Ape on 35mm

Brandon on 35mm

Brandon on 35mm

Frank Ape on Polaroid 600 film

Frank Ape on Polaroid 600 film

Brandon Sines on Polaroid 600 film

Brandon Sines on Polaroid 600 film

Creatives of NY // Entry #005 // Nicasia Solano-Reed // Painter, Multimedia Artist, and Designer

On June 12th, 2018, I met up with Nicasia in Alphabet City. A near and dear friend of mine, we had both loved Alphabet City during our first year at Joffrey, visiting the community gardens in summer 2013 to find an escape from the gray concrete of the city's sidewalks and to discover an oasis of greenery grown by residents of the neighborhood. As living legacies of the squatter movement in Lower East Side of the 1980's, these vibrant gardens set the stage perfectly for Nicasia's portrait session. 

Allison: Tell me a little bit about your background.

Nicasia: As an artist or as a person?

Allison: Both is fine... how you started out.

Nicasia: I was born in Detroit, and I grew up in a town called Ypsilanti, which is currently being called "the Brooklyn of Michigan". I grew up studying piano and opera and ballet, and I moved to New York when I was 16 to study ballet full-time. I did ballet here for a couple of years, and then I danced in Texas for a little bit, and then I moved back to NYC and I stopped dancing. Now I work at a yoga studio and I do graphic design and visual art. In my spare time I hang out with my cat that I rescued and I enjoy dog-watching. 

Allison: What is your preferred medium as an artist? 

Nicasia: That's a difficult question because I feel like I've dabbled in every single medium that a person could possibly just experiment in, so... I've been in bands. I've been a dancer. I've taken classes in painting, and I've done pottery, but what I really love is multimedia visual art, so I'll create something maybe on Illustrator or Photoshop or InDesign, and then I'll print it out and maybe I'll paint on it and re-scan it, or I'll create something that is maybe just with paint or just with pencil, and then I'll upload it and change the colors and change the contrast or layer it with something else that I've already done, so that is definitely my favorite medium. I'm really into digital stuff right now. 

Allison: What made you decide to pursue art?

Nicasia: I never thought there was another option for me. When I started dancing, I just knew that I was going to be a dancer, ever since I was five, and it just never occurred to me that there was something else that I could do with my life. My hero as a kid was Frida Kahlo, just because she was so strange and I was so strange, and I was just obsessed with the idea that a person could just paint and be themselves for a living. In high school, I started to do some graphic design classes and interior design classes, and I realized that I really really really loved visual art. I knew that if I was going to stop dancing, I was going to keep art incorporated in some way or another, because that's the only way I feel really fulfilled as a person. 

Allison: What fascinates and inspires you to create? 

Nicasia: I'm always pushed by wanting to do more, like I've always had this hunger to evolve my art and not be stagnant, so that kind of inspires me to create and see what else is out there and also see what else I can do and to see which mediums I can further my knowledge of and my skills within. I used to be really inspired by New York - it was like my baby. It was all my inspiration, but since I've lived here for six years I sometimes feel like it's inhibiting because it's so chaotic and it's so loud. It can just be a lot. I'm also really inspired by the people around me, so I've done a lot of art of my partner and his house; I draw inspiration from a lot of places - I'm trying to think of pieces I've done lately and what they look like. It really just depends - it's not anything in particular.

Allison: Who are your favorite artists and how have they impacted your work? 

Nicasia: So, Frida Kahlo, number one. Number two, Yoko Ono, just because the mediums she has spanned across are just unbelievable and she's just so weird and so herself and she's done so much politically, and she's just this fixture of art and of New York, and I think the world would be so empty without her. I'm also a huge fan of Matisse just because the way he uses colors is otherworldly and the way he puts together compositions is unbelievable. I'm also really into Laura Owens right now, and I saw her exhibition at the Whitney and was just so blown away by the magnitude of everything she was doing, and how colorful it was and how, I don't want to say "whimsical" because it makes it seem shallow, but it was just so beautiful and fun to look at. She also does a lot of multimedia stuff. 

Allison: What role do you think art should play in society? 

Nicasia: I feel like more than ever, art is not valued enough because it's being taken out of schools and it's not being funded by the government. There's just a lot of difficult things about it. Since we live in such a corporate society, it's difficult to find a place for art when it doesn't make any money. What I have been trying to do with graphic design recently is offer it as a volunteer basis thing just so you can raise awareness over issues through art. I guess in society it's such a therapeutic thing, and it should be accessible to all kids and adults; that's how I coped with being depressed and having a lot of mental health problems as a kid, through art, because it was such a solitary and cathartic thing that was just so personal. I was lucky I had the resources to do that. We live in such a frustrating climate - I think that it is a source of joy and of creation. I think it should be more accessible to everybody, especially outside of cities like New York and Chicago.

Allison: What is your relationship between ideas of self and your art?

Nicasia: I recently had to do a project for school that was kind of a Chuck Close interpretation of my face, and I generally don't like to include myself in my art at all, but it was this really wonderful experience to have to literally analyze every single corner of my face to go in this grid-like design - it was so cool to be able to break down myself into that many different increments and 137 different shades of skin. It made me view using myself in my art in a totally different way - it doesn't have to be narcissistic - it's just more about exploration. I've never been one to put too much of myself into my art, because I worry if my emotions don't come through properly, it just looks kind of sad and pathetic, so I'm more aesthetically-oriented than emotionally-oriented, and I think a lot of my stuff can be cold... maybe not necessarily cold, but it's not super personal. I kind of keep my shit on its own side."

Allison: What are your favorite and least favorite things about being an artist in New York City? 

Nicasia: I guess my favorite thing, especially as a student, is that I get into MoMA for free - I get into the Whitney for free. I live down the street from the Met and the Guggenheim, and if I have wanted to see something, I can just walk down the street and go see it, and just the amount of art that is so accessible is just crazy, and it doesn't exist anywhere else. A lot of the professors and the people I know are also artists, and because they live in New York they have gotten to do all this really amazing stuff and just sort of having those connections so easily accessible is really cool, and I know that I wouldn't be able to experience that if I was still living in Michigan (or in Austin even). All of my friends here are artists - some are dancers and musicians and comic book artists, and it's just so cool to be able to feed off of that energy in a community that fosters it so fully. I don't love New York right now. What I don't love about being an artist here is that it seems so unattainable a lot of times. I stopped dancing because I wasn't making any money, and the good news about visual art is that it's not as time-consuming as dance, and I don't have to focus on that for my source of income. It's good and it's bad; ideally it would be my source of income, but it's fine that it's not. Also the city's wearing on me because it's so chaotic that it can be hard to sit down and be quiet and focus on what you really wanna make because there's 8,000 other things that you should be doing or you have to do at any given moment, and I feel like that chaos kind of inhibits me from creating as much as I would like. Also I'm poor. 

Allison: What advice would you give for somebody hoping to move to New York City to pursue art?

Nicasia: I would advise that people come here with very very thick skin, and to just enjoy the honeymoon period of it, because that's so important - the first three years that I lived here I loved it, and it really helped me be the best person that I could be. Keep your head on straight about it, because it's not like some magical place where all your dreams are gonna come true, but it's a solid place to find yourself and find you footing. I guess just enjoy the time while you really really love it. That'll hold you over when you really don't love it. 

Allison: Is there anything else you would like readers to know?

Nicasia: Actually as an artist it's been interesting to transition from being a dancer into something that's a little bit more unknown. While it's been really scary to go back to school for something that I've not been really familiar with because I haven't been in school for a long time, being brave enough to take that leap into something else has been one of the most gratifying experiences in my life. Just being able to re-group and just take that risk to find a new identity as an artist has been the coolest thing. People shouldn't be afraid to do that, and if people want to recreate themselves they should absolutely do that: there's no sense in doing something just because that's what you know. 

You can visit Nicasia's website here.

Nicasia on 35mm film

Nicasia on 35mm film

Nicasia on Polaroid 600 film

Nicasia on Polaroid 600 film

Nicasia on 35mm film

Nicasia on 35mm film

Nicasia on FP-100C Silk

Nicasia on FP-100C Silk

Nicasia on FP-100C Silk

Nicasia on FP-100C Silk

Nicasia on 35mm film

Nicasia on 35mm film

Nicasia on 35mm film

Nicasia on 35mm film

Nicasia on 35mm film

Nicasia on 35mm film

Nicasia on 35mm film

Nicasia on 35mm film