In 2011, Brandon Sines created Frank Ape. Sines grew up in Toronto and moved to New York City in 2010. Now Frank Apes can be found painted, wheat pasted, worn and tattooed in NYC and everywhere street art is not torn or mutilated. Sines’ first solo presentation was in 2013 at the Living Gallery in New York. Frank Ape art has been purchased by collectors all over the world and in 2014, Frank appeared on Project Runway, where designer Amanda Valentine transformed an original canvas into a crop top on the runway and dubbed Frank the “Psychedelic Yeti.” I am smitten by the deadpan comic innocence Sines brings to his character, so I just had to ask him …
How’d you become Frank Ape’s creator? I created Frank in 2011 kind of accidentally while doing a painting at home. I began repeating this Big Foot character in other paintings until friends in Bushwick started asking what his name was. I said “Frank” immediately, thinking I’d probably change it later, but didn’t get the chance because people almost immediately started saying “Frank!” when they saw me on the street, or “you know what Frank should do …?” So Frank it was.
How long have you been doing street art?I guess I really started in 2011 around the time Frank came to life. I was doing some other “street art” before Frank but nothing that ever captured people’s hearts like he does. The stuff before felt more self-serving, and Frank is for the people.
The character has a mysterious charm. What does it represent?Frank is supposed to be a psychic friend giving you positive messages and keeping you company along your journey. He’s a lovable everyman in the way he relates to all people, and also a mystical being in his ability to transcend culture, age and language.
Where does your character reside? In digital, physical or ethereal space?Frank is in the heart … definitely ethereal space. But there is also a life-size costume, so in rare instances Frank does exist in the physical 3D world. Frank is an icon, so like icons you can see his 2D depiction in many physical spaces. But the real “Frank” is less tangible than peeling a sticker off a wall. The sticker represents a feeling. For some people that feeling is happiness, or positivity or just New York City. It’s a feeling deep inside. Frank is the best part of myself that I want to share with the world.
I am taken by the simple expressiveness of the drawings. Did you study?Thank you. I have not gone to art school. I took a few drawing lessons from this comic book artist with some other neighborhood kids when I was maybe 11, but didn’t really respond to the techniques he was teaching us. Sometimes I have a hard time with the fundamentals. I want to dunk before I can dribble.
Who or what in art most interests you?I’m interested in people who create their own universes and invite people inside to look around. It’s cool when artists become obsessed with their creations. Scary sometimes, too.
What are you doing now?Trying to build Frank into a full-on brand. I’d love to do more partnerships with fun companies that are a good fit for Frank’s vibe and what he represents.
And what’s next for Frank Ape?Cartoon Network doesn’t know it yet but there will be a Frank Ape TV show in a few years … after that … a float in the Macy’s Day Parade. Then maybe a sculpture in outer space.
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About Steven HellerSteven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of t
he Smithsonian National Design Award.View all posts by Steven Heller →