Art has been a part of Kelly Franké’s life for as long as she can remember.
Her father was an illustrator who worked from their Babylon home and Franké, now a Greenport resident, recalled building a makeshift fort under his desk where she would sketch while he worked.
It inspired her to pursue her own career in art.
“Moving out here is really what made a huge difference for me,” Franké said during an interview in her Main Street studio. She grew up on Long Island, but moved to Astoria after finishing graduate school, and maintained a home studio there for about three years until deciding to check out the North Fork.
Here she has more space to work, which she said gives her an overall better workflow. Franké specializes in linear landscapes and uses charcoal to draw on pieces of wood.
She is influenced by her surroundings, so having a studio at the corner of Front and Main streets means her drawings feature boat and harbor landscapes.
Some of her more recent pieces, including an image of the Island Boatyard on Shelter Island and another of the docks on Sterling Street in Greenport, will be displayed at the “Sea Something, Save Something” pop-up art exhibition at Castello di Borghese Vineyard in Cutchogue, which debuts Saturday, April 29.
Franké has also branched out in the art world by launching a separate business called Cleared Artists, which serves as an online portal for set designers to find background decor for their productions.
She never intended to start a business, as drawing is where her passion lies. But about a year ago, a film industry contact approached her about allowing her work to be used on the set of a television series.
She was happy to supply some prints to the set designer and, in return, received a modest check for permission to show her work on screen. (You can see her drawings on the Fox show “Scream Queens” and the Showtime series “The Affair.”)
After this experience, she realized that film and TV industry executives needed to be able to easily find “cleared” artists, meaning creatives who have signed off for their work to appear on screen.
She decided to take a leap of faith and fill this need.
Artists can sign up for free to be part of the Cleared Artists service. When they do, their artwork is added to an online portal that’s available for film industry designers to browse.
If an artist’s work is chosen, Cleared Artists sends a digital image of the piece to the production company, which can then print and use it. The users pay a fee, which Franké splits evenly with the artists.
She now represents 58 artists, some of whom have already had work chosen by clients like Paramount Pictures, in addition to Showtime and Fox.
She said she’s proud of where she is now, especially since this career path can be considered a bit of a gamble.
Franké graduated with a bachelor’s degree in drawing, painting and printmaking from upstate Alfred University and earned a master’s degree from Indiana University in 2013.
Upon graduation, she taught for three years as an adjunct professor at Caldwell University in New Jersey, but decided to leave academic life to pursue art full time. It was scary choice to make at the time, but she said she felt it was the right thing to do.
Her two current ventures allow her to strike a healthy work/life balance, she said.
“Between all of these things, I have this fluid lifestyle that makes me feel really free and it’s really nice,” she said. “It’s really rewarding.”
Today, Franké splits her time between Greenport and Astoria. She said being an artist on the North Fork is special because there’s a sense of community among other creators.
Her favorite part of creating art is the reaction on a person’s face when they purchase one of her pieces. Nothing is better than feeling the love when a person is enthusiastic about one of her pieces, she said.
“For me as an artist, I think it’s my responsibility to bring out the beauty in the North Fork,” she said. “If I can bring that into people’s homes, that makes it even that much better.”
For more information, visit Clearedartists.com.
This is the fourth installment in a northforker and Suffolk Times series about young North Fork artisans.