About two dozen people – enough for a classroom – were seated at four tables, fully engaged in creative activity at the Laguna Art Museum, guided in their artful pursuit by Paul Frank, the local cartoonist who became known for his whimsical characters, notably Julius the Monkey.
As an industry veteran, Frank has occasionally taught classes including Orange Coast College and the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. However, the opportunity wasn’t always there, so Frank took to leading workshops. The September 17 event in Laguna Beach saw its attendees craft clocks using the likenesses of some of its characters.
“Because I’ve had 25 or more years of work experience, I don’t need to have a teacher’s degree to teach design classes,” Frank said. “What I like to do is give a class at Orange Coast or Art Center, where I teach people my methods.
“I kind of taught myself how to build handbags, and I taught myself how to make patterns for handbags, and that’s not a course you can take . I think it’s fun to share my expertise in this way, and there’s that “aha” moment when students start to understand. There’s something really cool about it that makes me feel really good, like I’m able to convey something positive.
Frank, 55, grew up in Huntington Beach, where he said he and his friends were in no rush to grow up. On a nice Southern California day, the kids could focus on being in a group or surfing or skateboarding after school, rather than worrying about shoveling snow.
“I think we had an extended adolescence,” Frank said.
The Ocean View High graduate had a penchant for being different.
“I always wanted to paint my bikes,” Frank recalls. “The color he came in was never good enough for a very long time. You had to customize things.
Frank said he got used to DIY projects, often creating rather than buying what he wanted. In his mid-twenties, he asked his mother for a sewing machine.
“I wanted to be able to modify the clothes and maybe even design my own clothes,” Frank said. “Back then everyone wanted to wear, at least in my circle of friends, we all wanted to buy the cool thing at the thrift store.
“We were like, ‘You found this sweater,’ he replays in a disappointed tone. “‘I missed that.’ … At that time, people were using saddlebags, and I’m like, ‘Well, I don’t want to be the 20th guy to carry the same saddlebag.’ »
Julius the Monkey, a character created in 1995, was sort of a spin-off about a sock monkey his grandmother made, Frank said. There are now between 60 and 70 characters that Frank and his design team have created, many of which have come to life during humorous moments.
“One of my new characters, his name is Heavy Eyeliner Cat,” Frank said of the character, which hasn’t been released yet. “It was just an accident because I was redrawing it. I draw them roughly first, then I clean them up, but I happened to do the eye shapes, I overdid it with a pencil. C was just cool, like he was wearing eyeliner.
Those who attended the Laguna Art Museum workshop had the chance to create clocks featuring a handful of Frank characters: Clancy the giraffe, Aku the alligator, Mika the cat and, of course, Julius.
One of the attendees showed off her fandom by wearing a Julius sweater, but the workshop featured budding new artists across three generations, including grandparents working alongside their grandchildren.
“A lot of times our workshops tend to have an older or much younger clientele, so it was special because it was a mix,” said Daniel Stachowski, the museum’s public programs coordinator. “I think it really shows how universal Paul Frank’s brand can be.
“When I was growing up in the 90s and early 2000s it was very popular, and it’s nice to see it reborn with some of the younger guys, and I think that’s why the class was mixed. As we get older, we share our favorite things from the past with our new generation, so it’s nice to have grandparents, parents, kids all working on the same project. By the end, you could really see everyone’s personality shine through with their clock.
Stachowski added that Frank will be hosting workshops at the museum in October and December, with those projects themed around Halloween and Christmas, respectively.
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