I’ve known the creative mind that commandeers Viva La Franz for quite some time now (damn son, now that I think about it, it’s been almost 10 years since we’ve met) - his name is Franz Casimir, and yes, that is his REAL name. I had the audacity to ask him that very question and his response was, “How long you been knowin’ me? You never seen me write my name on my homework?!” Lol. Apparently not.
Franz and I were both starving artists/students in a work-study program at FIDM, and I remember being so entertained just talking to this dude. His east coast slang and accent always had me laughing and ‘til this day, he still cracks me up.
Although, we live on opposite sides of the continent, we’ve managed to maintain a good friendship. Recently, he was kind enough to “simpsonize” me and featured the simpsonized image on his Instagram, prompting instagrammers to view my work.
I am now returning the favor by featuring him on this blog with my very first Q&A:
LANILETTER: Viva La Franz, is there any profound meaning behind that name?
VIVA LA FRANZ: Ha, I wouldn't necessarily say "profound." It's a play on the term "Viva La France" which in itself means "long live France." I just personally thought it was a cool play on words that could be incorporated subliminally for myself (ie. something like long live Franz's art).
LL: Clever. I like that. I also admire your love for cartoons. You’ve given ME a hard time about not watching enough Saturday cartoons when I was little – what cartoons were you most into as a child?
VLF: Wow, I'd have to say this is such a loaded question. I could go on and on about the cartoons that have helped shape and mold me. I would say that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was (and still is) one of my favorite series I watched as a child. Then would come the Simpsons followed by almost anything Disney related. I was definitely more into more comedic style shows such as Tiny toons, Animaniacs, Rugrats, etc. as opposed to others like action, but when I found one that worked I was hooked. Ghostbusters, Batman (TAS), and X-men among the others that actually got it right.
LL: Would you say that your work is influenced by those cartoons?
VLF: Oh, yes. Without. A. Doubt. To this day, I'm in awe of the illustration styles used by cartoons from the 80s to 00s. While the animation frame rate may not have been up to par as say, their intros, when you look at the style and beauty that went into a show like Ghostbusters or Thundercats and compare it to animation nowadays like Adventure time or Gravity falls? The shows today can't compete in the level of detail. I'm trying to collect cell animations from those classic shows.
LL: Whoa. It's obvious that your love for cartoons runs deep. But you don’t necessarily fit the profile of the average cartoon/comic book loving nerd, do you pride yourself on being, err, “cooler than the average”?
VLF: Haha. Thanks so much, you have my brown skin turning red from blushing. As vain as it is, I honestly do take pride in my style. Not to disassociate myself from the "traditional" look of what a cartoon/comic book loving nerd would resemble, but I do get a kick out of people appreciating my style. As a kid I used to get clowned a little bit for not having brand name clothes, so for people to grasp on to me now is flattering and funny.
LL: Well, with your recent photoshoot for your website launch, your style definitely shines. And speaking of style, you’ve also been doing a lot of “Simpsons” style illustrations lately, would you say that this is one of your signature styles?
VLF: No, as you know that's Matt Groening's style; the creator of The Simpsons. I'd be the biggest jerk to claim that as my own. I honestly do that for celebrities and notables that I respect (ahem you were included in that). It's an ode to his signature style that the world has come to know and love.
LL: Salute to Matt Groening. And thank you for my simpsonized image - I love it! I also love how you integrate a lot of musical artists into your illustrations. What music are you listening to lately?
VLF: Had this been about 3 years ago and you asked, I would have had such an assortment of new musicians I admired and was discovering. Lately though, I've been a bit out of touch to whats going on musically. There are a few that make it through the cracks and I still get to enjoy. Kanye is always number one in my book. The new songs he's been putting out have been amazing sonically. I've been blasting his song "All Day" literally all day haha. Drake, FKA Twigs and Action Bronson have been enjoyable as well. I loved Sam smith's and D'angelo's latest projects also. When in doubt though, I will turn to some Sade, Daft Punk, or Tribe called quest.
LL: Outside of music, what other artists are currently interesting to you?
VLF: Way too many to count. I admire and respect so many artists it's crazy. I admire fine artists, and animators, to graffiti and graphic artists. Some that I respect are Leon Wilkie, Jor One, Takashi Murakmi, Hayao Miyazaki, Jab Comix, Jim Lee, Bengus, Loish, Kaws, Josh Thorson of Teens On Acid, Charles Schultz, Neckface, Claw Money, Johnathon Cho, Sophia Chang. And of course... The ever talented and beautiful hand letterer Lanie of Laniletter.
LL: *Blushing* ... ahem ... moving right along ... so I know that you have more than a handful of things brewing for Viva La Franz, care to share any of them?
VLF: Of course, you know I have to give the people something to look forward to. Aside from our collaboration coming soon, I have another poster design coming up with one of the artists I referenced in the last question. I will also be releasing some cool pins as a collaboration with the super dope folks at Pintrill. But one of the projects I'm really excited to share about is my first upcoming solo show at The Reed Space in NY. It is slated for May 7th. As time gets closer we'll share more details via social media platforms.
LL: So exciting - can't wait! Lastly, it’s no secret that I’m a fan of quotes and lyrics, do you have a favorite one that you live by?
VLF: Yes, I certainly do. As mentioned before I'm a huge Kanye West fan. The man is a walking breathing t-shirt quote. The man can say or do anything and it will become popularized. I'd have to say that my favorite album from his was Graduation, and as a result one of my favorite lyrics come from one of the songs off of the album. On the track "Good Life" on his last verse he raps "I always had a passion for flashin' befo' I had it, I closed my eyes and imagined the good life." Not to get all deep and personal on Laniletter.com, but growing up, my family were very meger in our lifestyles. We rarely had any of the newest or freshest materialistic things. So when I hear that verse it reminds me of my childhood, how I used to wish we could be a little better off, and when we get to that space - all of the things I imaginged we'll be able get. I use that as a motivation, not necessarily from the standpoint of material things. Just simply as the idea of the "Good Life" for my family. Imagining how things could be before you actually get them. That's why I try to work so hard, so that I can make what I see when I close my eyes an actual reality. The good life.