Beau Bernier Frank is a 22-year-old French-American surrealist painter currently working from his studio in the city of Pacific Grove, located on the California coast. Since graduating from high school in 2011, Beau has pursued a life of traveling and adventure, jumping back and forth between living in Italy, Spain, and the States.
Growing up in a multicultural family sparked Beau’s interest in learning about other cultures and languages. His time spent abroad not only inspired him to return to his artist roots but also allowed him to become fluent in French and Spanish. He began documenting his experiences in black moleskine notebooks. These notebooks were quickly filled with journal entries, sketches, collages, small souvenirs and some photography. His travels made it easy for Beau to develop an appreciation for street style and men’s wear, especially from his time spent in San Francisco, London, Paris, Barcelona, and Florence. This appreciation directly translated into both his paintings as well as his lifestyle. What is rather remarkable about Beau’s body of work is his humble beginning as a self-taught artist and his recent switch from illustrative works with pen on paper to oil on wood panels. Beau has worked in a variety of jobs, freelance graphic design and mural work but due to health issues Beau has been forced to take a break from his day job. It wasn’t until he developed an autoimmune disease that he had to put everything on pause and reevaluate his life.
Beau immersed himself in painting and made an overnight change to focus his attention on the creative arts as a means to cope with reality. Not being able to walk or work for several months gave Beau an opportunity to brainstorm and explore his artistic inclinations. He eventually developed a new innovative and unique style which collages landscapes with portraits. These paintings would mark the beginning of his new career as an emerging artist and the creation of his latest collection, “Off the Grid.”
//You were born in Laguna Beach right? Where did you go to High School?
I was born in Laguna Beach but was schooled in both France and the US. I graduated from Pacific Grove High School here on the Central Coast in 2011 and was planning on going to college afterwards. Since I didn’t have any sense of direction, I chose to use up all my savings to study abroad. During this time, I became comfortable with the Spanish language, travelled throughout Europe and enjoyed the beautiful beaches Spain had to offer.
//At 22 years old you seem to be an experienced traveler and artist. Have you been an artist your entire life? When did you know art was more than just a hobby and that you would be able to be an artist full time?
I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember. I’ve always been a very shy introvert so I’m used to spending long periods of time by myself. I guess it makes a lot more sense now as to why I picked up a pen and paper at a young age.
Art has been a way for me to disconnect from the world, but at the same time, reconnect with my creative side. I took a break from art for about five years when I struggled to find balance in my life and figure out what my purpose on this planet was. It wasn’t until I started traveling on my own that I began to trust the world again and be open to the unknown. I quickly embraced the “go with the flow” mentality. Learning to use the past as a reference point rather than a place of residence really allowed me to live in the moment and look forward to the future. It was only then that I began to draw again for the first time in 2013. Being on the road, constantly engaged in new adventures, sceneries and memorable conversations is where I find most of my inspiration. By incorporating my own experiences into my work, I find that it strengthens my creativity.
I started taking my art seriously last summer after I had lost my job and was dealing with chronic pain. Not being able to perform daily tasks and be an active participant in society left me doing absolutely nothing but feeling
sorry for myself for three months. Until one day I simply woke up and decided that I had had enough. I wanted something good to come out of this terrible situation so I created the “Off the Grid” collection. So far my last collection has been very well received and because of it, I’ve now been commissioned to create the installation pieces for a fine-dining restaurant that’s opening up next summer. I’m still trying to process the idea that I’m going to get paid to do what I love.
//Why did you move from illustrative works to your surreal painting?
To be honest, I had this idea stuck in my head that I’d create these sick designs and all of a sudden I’d be noticed by these cool brands and I’d see my art plastered across t-shirts and gear which would jump start my career. The illustrations were not a reflection of myself or my passion for art, they were simply created with everyone else in mind. Even though these illustrations were liked, they didn’t represent who I am and what I stand for.
I almost did a tattoo apprenticeship last year until I realized I didn’t want any tattoos and who wants a tattoo-less tattoo artist anyway? Before I started the “Off the Grid” collection, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do in terms of style or theme but I knew I wanted to create something of value–something that I would be proud to hang up on a wall in my place or have featured in a gallery. Something that was simple, meaningful, and honest. That is when I began down the surreal path.
//Your “Off the Grid” series is truly remarkable. What inspired you to create you this series? What gave you the idea to put landscapes into portraits?
Thanks a lot for saying that, it's really kind of you. Well the catalyst to the whole collection was the autoimmune disease that I developed called ankylosing spondylitis. It rendered me unable to walk for about 5 months but it didn’t stop me from completely living my life. It did slow me down enough to reflect on my past and reconsider my future. The first painting from the series was the painting “Riptide” which is still my favorite to this day. I didn’t really know what I was doing when I created the piece but when I painted it, it just felt right. When I stood back to see what had just happened, I realized that I was onto something good so I expanded from the idea of juxtaposing landscapes with portraits. Believe it or not, I used to hate painting landscapes in the past. Now it is almost like a treat to paint the landscapes for each portrait because I get to use color and add dimension and texture to the painting. Thinking back, it was a good metaphor for my life at the time. My life seemed to be so dull, gray and quite sad, so my only escape was to dream of all the places I’d like to visit and see for myself when I got better. In a way I was unintentionally combining my love of art with travel. The best way I can describe my inspiration is that it’s similar to looking at the leaves
scattered high up on a tree. It’s hard to believe that they all grew from a single seed and that the tree is held up by roots buried deep underground. The roots are my ideas, the leaves are the paintings and my experience is the trunk that supports it all. The ideas may appear to be hidden but if I dig deep enough, I'll find them.
//When we look at some of your work, we get lost and our imagination takes over. We look at your paintings of a boy and the beach and our minds transform it to seeing the boy on the beach. How do you want people to feel when they see your work?
I chose to paint portraits because it often stirs something within us and can convey this sense of energy. We are able to empathize with someone whom we know nothing of simply by interpreting their expression. For that I feel portraits can tell an interesting story.
By adding the element of a landscape to the face, it’s also like adding a thought bubble to the painting. It’s a window inside the person’s mind, which the viewer can see into and appreciate. I think it’s quite personal to be able to understand what someone is feeling but because it’s a well guarded secret, I think it should also be valued and respected. The landscapes I chose all have a personality, which I felt meshed well with the model and the destinations usually represent a place from my childhood, from one of my travels, a place I hope to one-day visit or even a feeling. For example the painting "Kid at a Crossroads" was painted shortly after I was finally diagnosed with autoimmune disease by my rheumatologist. I was feeling stuck and a bit lost since I didn’t know how to feel about the given situation. It's a lifelong condition that has to be properly managed with medication so it took time to accept.
To answer your question however, I don’t think I should outline the boundaries of what people should feel when they see my work because art is something that is relative to their own experience and something to be discovered for oneself.
//What is something that people would be surprised to learn about you?
Most people would be surprised to know that creating the “Off the Grid” collection was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. It may sound ridiculous but I was afraid to put my heart and soul into this collection. I had a million scenarios played out in my head for how terribly wrong it could have ended. A collection of ugly paintings, having my inspiration well dry up and having to walk a long hard walk of shame were among those scenarios. I had always drawn but painting with oils was like having to learn a new language. I think it’s always going to be a bit uncomfortable and awkward to do something for the first time. Nobody’s ever really ready but sometimes you just have to have faith that things will work themselves out. Last year was rough and by far the hardest year of my life, but I'm proud to tell you that I'm in a much better place now and I've officially started the next collection!
If you love Beau’s “Off the Grid” collection as much as we do be sure to check out his website to see all of his work and get your hands on his catalog showcasing all of his work from his “Off the Grid” collection.