Art major Deion Franklin draws inspiration from water

Nov 15, 2018

Deion Franklin with some of his works. (Panther photo by Olanma Hazel Mang)

When Deion Franklin enrolled at Claflin University, he was as a biology major. Growing up, he had a keen interest in water bodies and all the secrets they hold. He would often go down to Charleston, S.C., as a teenager, away from the landlocked city of Orangeburg where he lived.

“I’ve always loved water,” Franklin said in almost a whisper. He was cutting up matchsticks for his next project. “I think it amazes me to study what goes on in the underwater world.” So, he would often watch the National Geographic Channel or the Discovery Channel trying to learn more about the oceans.

Besides marine biology, Franklin was also interested in art. In high school, he drew a lot, mostly animals. “Because I loved water so much, I grew more towards fish, so I would draw that.” Over time, his talents would continue to improve, and his family thought he would study art in college. Needless to say, they were a bit confused when they found out he opted for biology.

But this budding artist wouldn’t stay with biology for too long. He eventually switched his major to studio arts. “I spoke to a lot of people about it,” he said, taking a break from the matchsticks. He smiled when he said, “It made me happier.”

As he studies art, he has grown to like the works of Jackson Pollock. He even incorporates random splashes of color as backgrounds for his paintings. “I water the paint down and use my fingers to drip and splash,” Franklin said. “But I think mine isn’t as chaotic as his,” he laughs.

It was one of his paint splash pieces that captured the attention of Mark Roberts, the associate executive director of the Center for Professional and Continuing Studies at Claflin University. As Franklin and I walk to the director’s office, the art major excitedly recounted how the two officially met.

“My friend and I were walking to go get something to eat and all of a sudden we smell popcorn,” he said. They followed the smell and it led them to the office of continuing studies. Franklin had asked where the aroma was coming from. He recognized the voice that told him all the popcorn was finished. So, he had asked, “Are you Jada Roberts’ father?”

Mark Roberts was indeed the father of Franklin’s fourth-grade classmate. Their ensuing conversation revealed even more information – Roberts and Franklin’s father were high school classmates as well!

Naturally, being that Franklin is an art major, the conversation had eventually veered into a discussion of some of his work. The director found both the student and his work intriguing. When we arrived at his office, he corroborated the story. “Who remembers someone’s voice from fourth grade?” Roberts exclaimed with laughter. He was holding an artwork he had purchased from Franklin. It was titled “A Good Heart,” a mixed media work of a cardboard cut-out heart painted red and laid over a background of splattered paint and metallic dust.

“It all started with popcorn!” Roberts exclaimed, laughing at the serendipitous nature of their meeting. “Now I’m an art buyer of an original piece.”

Franklin also sculpts. Back at the studio, he showed me a piece that he was working on. It was a sculpture of aliens on a linoleum tile. So, in addition to Pollock and marine animals, Franklin likes aliens. “I like alien movies like Avatar,” he said as he traced the alien carving on his unfinished work. He pulled out sketches he made for the sculpture, highlighting the detail in the drawings. “I like the way foreign animals look, so I try to incorporate that into my work.”

Marine biology has not been neglected. Outside of his course requirements, he still reads about marine science. “I just want to enough education to show it through my work.” Sometimes, Franklin uses his art to convey messages about environmental issues. In an art competition titled “No Earth Without Art” hosted by SI Group, he created a sculpture of the Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle, the smallest and the most endangered species of all sea turtles. “I did it for water pollution, which is a really big problem still.” He named sculpture “Sea Grave.” It was made from recycled wire, plastic bags and Styrofoam.

Franklin is now a junior in college. He sees his future art career as a reconciliation between his two passions: marine science and art. After winning the SI Group art contest, he said he would like to continue pursuing projects like that. However, he would also like to own a fashion clothing line that draws inspiration from several cultures around the world.


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