MUSEUM

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EST. 2018

In Conversation with Anna Frankl

"Monsters Under Your Bed" and “Overflow” by Anna Frankl.

Pen and copic markers.

Interior art for the Canvas Autumn 2019 issue.

Below is discussion between Canvas Editor-in-Chief Lindsay Herko and Autumn 2019 interior artist Anna Frankl.

OPENING REFLECTIONS

When I look at pieces like "Monsters Under Your Bed" or "Overflow" I am struck by the brilliance of the body-horror or “the body as monstrous." Your art in its color choices and equal balance of bulb-like roundness for certain figures and body parts, gives the viewer an experience of the horror while remaining playful enough to evaluate the experience of receiving the art.  We are able to look at the counterbalance of elongated expressions, limbs, reaches, and sudden bodily turns and feel both the unsettling nature of the work, and an awe for the agility of the beings that live within it.  I think that's a really hard balance to achieve.  Often something is so unsettling, we wander out of the space of admiration.  Here, our monstrous figures remain relatable as their postures are often things humans also feel good doing—a swing of leg over a window sill (in “Under Your Bed”) is not so far off from the pleasure one feels hanging a leg off their bed at night to get some cool air—and in that moment of doing so, the human or monster both feel happy to be alive in their bodies and to be so "athletic" at a primal task.  The open stretches of monster mouths emulate the pleasurable strain humans experience making crazy or horrific faces when playing.  In many ways, the eyes of the monsters in “Under your bed" take me back in nostalgia to what we would want to imagine in the daylight of childhood (and have as friends or pets) but be terrified of at night . . . and sometimes we would also want a perfect moon like yours in the piece, to amplify that terror. I also value how the monsters are seemingly rising out of a darkness that makes the bed its own island.  That darkness looks both like waves (which reminds me of the tidal relationship waves have with the moon) and like a transfiguration of a household mainstay—a carpet; it kind of looks like a dark rug grown in the imagination to be a hairy and feral sea of monster genesis.  

 

"Overflow" in contrast seems like a daylight immersion into the unsettling.  The line style drawing and limited color palette of red and black, remind me of a tradition in scary story art—works like Stephen Gammell’s illustrations for the "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark" book series— but here your line and hand seems vibrant in a youthful way, very distinct from that canon.  Your horror here unsettles but also creates a sense of intelligence and even humor. The lines on the lower body of the primary figure from which all is springing or carried, give a sense of youth in an unexpected season of horror—the ripeness of late spring or summer. The lines on the clothing give us a very visceral sensation of that physical body. In one way it seems like this individual may be carrying their own skull and if we peek within it, it is a chamber of how one gets trapped in their own mind—a perfect reason for wanting to eliminate possibility, but opening up that “cage," we may see what else was compressed within, and it seems like all other mental strife, horrors, and demons are towering upward and out, while also clinging on for their life.  The red flowers in the illustration are particularly alarming; they seem to show blooming in the space of decay.  Which is a reality of rotting, that we often forget.  I am really curious about why the figure at the top of this amalgamated body is holding an umbrella.  Is this to be a substitute for the missing cap of a closed skull? Enforcing that kind of reading— everything is just popping out of the larger body unprotected.  Or is this figure almost one of humor—anticipating harsh conditions in this exposed world?  Much like someone carrying a parasol to be protected from the sun is?  I love that there are so many unknowns to consider. 

 

 

LINDSAY​

 

What did you want your audience to take away from "Monsters Under Your Bed?"

 

ANNA​

 

Everyone has fantastical childhood horrors they can still remember; monsters under the bed or inside the closet is a mutual fear shared by many children, and I wanted viewers to be reminded of the kinds of demons their imagination could weave out of nothingness as children.

 

LINDSAY​

 

Same curiosity, now applied to your other piece—"Overflow?"

 

 

ANNA​

 

“Overflow,” as the title suggests, represents the overflowing of the contents of our minds. If a viewer were to study the piece carefully, I would want them to recognize the number of things stashed within our heads, both ugly and beautiful, on the verge of bursting out.

 

 

LINDSAY​

 

What would you say the creation story of each piece was? 

 

ANNA​

“Monsters Under Your Bed” was something I had made a prompt for: “the world viewed through the eyes of children.” It was easy to follow that prompt and create something that allowed me to bring to life the more haunting aspects of the world of children. As for “Overflow,” the task was to create an expressive self-portrait; I constantly feel as if my mind is on the verge of bursting with all kinds of thoughts, with my drifting off into my own head if I’m left alone for even just a bit. So I decided to create something that could properly portray such a condition.

 

 

LINDSAY​

 

Did the concept come first or the image?  What is your generative process like when it comes to creating things?  

 

ANNA​

 

Normally, the image comes first for me when I work on pieces like these. In those cases, I try to bend and twist what already has a form in my mind, and change it into something that wouldn’t be possible in real life. However, these two works were unique cases in which I had the prompt prior to the work itself.

 

LINDSAY​

Do you find yourself dominantly working in the realm of the strange or unsettling?  What would you name this genre these works fall into?

ANNA​

 

I work with these kinds of atmospheres extremely often. I am not sure what name to give this genre, because while it would be easy to slap the title of horror onto it, it simply isn’t as straightforward as that. If I’m being entirely honest. I’ve never quite given it a specific name in my head.

LINDSAY​

 

If you are doing other aesthetics artistically—what attracts you to those? Do you have any examples of that work we could see in contrast?

 

ANNA​

Some of the other works I create tend to fall to the more whimsical side, dealing with dream-like and psychedelic atmospheres in favor of darker approaches to bending reality.

 

LINDSAY​

 

Are there things about these beings you know as their creator, that the audience would not?  Do you find yourself ever coming up with backstories behind the figures in your art?

ANNA​

 

This does not apply to every single piece I make, but sometimes I do tend to make up short stories in my head that go along with the characters that appear in my drawings.

 

 

LINDSAY​

 

Do you feel you have a favorite scary story or monster?

 

ANNA​

I don’t have a particular favorite scary story or monster, but I’ve always liked creatures that mimic the human form and twist it into something grotesque.

LINDSAY​

 

What were the challenges of creating these works?  Did you have any illuminations about your process or your trajectory as an artist while you were working on either piece?

 

ANNA​

 

There weren’t many challenges when it came to the idea aspect, but in terms of technical skill it certainly tested my patience in fine hatching.

 

LINDSAY​

Can you tell us about your history becoming an artist? Ideally, where would you like to go with your work? Are there any projects you are looking forward to?

 

ANNA​

 

A project I plan to undertake has to do with a webcomic I recently began. I have not had time to work on it recently, but I have the storyline planned, and am very much looking forward to seeing it progress. In the future, I want to take that experience with creating stories and become a cartoon director for an original show that follows my ideas.

 

LINDSAY​

 

Do you have any artistic rituals to get into the space of creating art? Are there any artists or humans who you feel you have an artistic kinship with, or who you look to for inspiration or reassurance that you are on the path you wish to be on?

 

 

ANNA​

 

Creating art usually happens on a whim for me, so I don’t exactly have specific artistic rituals. As for inspiration, I definitely look up to cartoon creators such as Alan Ituriel; he is the one who inspired me to create and direct a cartoon of my own.

LINDSAY​

 

Does "Monsters Under Your Bed" have any peers in other art forms—songs, films, literature, games—that echo the feelings you are trying to express?

ANNA​

 

I actually don’t have anything that links to this specific piece; it was based on a childhood fear from start to finish, and I did not exactly discover anything that shared its atmosphere.

 

LINDSAY​

 

How about "Overflow"?

 

ANNA​

“Flip,” by Glass Animals, is a song I think suits the piece rather well.

 


LINDSAY​

 

How does living in Seoul inform your artistic practice? As for the uncanny and scary elements of these works do you have any affinity with Korea's conceptions of horror or scare culture?

 

 

ANNA​

Funnily enough, I actually avoided anything of the horror genre like the plague until I was an eighth grader, thus limiting my exposure to this particular genre, which is quite popular in Korea. I actually preferred to draw uniform things that looked strictly “cute” and “pretty.” What actually made me approach the more unsettling genres were horror games. They made horror genres much more approachable, and with a new willingness to immerse myself in such works, I began to see the charm in things that were conventionally considered ugly and grotesque.

 

LINDSAY​

 

Is there an ideal place you would like your audience to receive your works?

 

ANNA​

 

There is no one ideal place; as long as it is somewhere they can observe and analyze my pieces carefully without being disturbed, that is good enough for me.

LINDSAY​

 

Do you have any advice to other teens who are looking to express themselves as artists?

 

ANNA​

 

I would say that exposure is the most important thing. You don’t know what will captivate you until you have faced it yourself: so face many things. If something makes you uncomfortable, watch it. If something terrifies you, do it (with appropriate regards to safety of course). It is easy to miss the charm in things that most would label ugly. And once you find the thing that appeals to you but not many others, then that can be your unique color.

 

LINDSAY​

 

What would you like your peers to ask you?  What would you like an older generation to ask you?

 

ANNA​

 

I would like to be asked what exactly I find attractive about these “unsightly” creatures, these works that delve into the category of body horror.

 

LINDSAY​

 

Where could we use more scares, monsters, scary stories, or Halloween in our world?

 

 

ANNA​

 

 

Oh, we could use some scariness everywhere. Things tend to be so banal, and I think injecting an element of horror into mundane areas, where you might least expect to find it, will most certainly spice things up.

You don’t know what will captivate you until you have faced it yourself: so face many things. If something makes you uncomfortable, watch it. If something terrifies you, do it (with appropriate regards to safety of course). It is easy to miss the charm in things that most would label ugly. And once you find the thing that appeals to you but not many others, then that can be your unique color.

Anna Frankl is a seventeen-year-old high school student living in Seoul, South Korea. She has won an honorable mention for the Scholastic art and writing awards. She has been drawing since the age of three, and has ever since remained adamant in her wish of becoming a professional artist.

Artist tumblr:

dr-chalk.tumblr.com