Scott Franson teaches at Brigham Young University-Idaho and has a compelling project Doodle-a-Day. He received a BFA from Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, California and an MFA in Graphic Design from Utah State University. His resume includes references to work as “a Chewbacca costumed character, a doughnut shop attendant, and a pineapple picker.” Franson lives with his family in Idaho.
Tell us about your evolution as an artist. Making has always been a part of my life. In kindergarten I can remember how difficult it was to learn but there was never any problem when it came to art projects. There is a part of my spirit that must create. At times in my life when I have found myself in depression or frustration I always assess what I am doing creatively. Quite often it is the missing piece. I think in ideas, not images. I discovered this after a hospital stay with a bad medication reaction. I hallucinated for nearly a week. The first three days I was completely crazy, but the rest of the week I knew I was hallucinating but consciously in control. I could see anything I wanted vividly and in perfect focus. That is what I now consider visual thinking. I watched television programs that have never been made and sculpted in the air above my bed. After this experience I discovered that I need to physically see what I am creating in order to know what the next step is. I think in a mixture of process and visual assessment. I make something and then respond. It makes the actual process more significant and enjoyably. It gives me permission to just explore.
You are currently a professor at BYUI. Tell us about your experiences working in that environment. Teaching at BYUI is my dream job. There is a satisfaction and energy that comes from observing students as they make progress towards their goal of being an artist. In order to be the best teacher I can be I try to remain in a state of learning. Because of the responsibilities and limited time available for me to create I engage in small projects that can be completed within a short period of time. The challenges and failures remind me what it is like to be a student. Each student in my class has the ability to become better over the course of a semester. It doesn’t take a lot of digging to discover their hopes, dreams and concerns about the future. They are each children of God and their dreams are as important to them as mine are to me. Helping each of them become just a little bit better is my goal. Each small improvement adds up. Polishing students is not my goal. My goal is to help them help them get a good push start into their life as an artist and person.
Talk about your Doodle-a-Day project. Spending 10 to 30 minutes a day creating a small sketch isn’t significant on its own but over time the sketches add up. I find the process more entertaining for myself when I don’t plan too much. I hardly ever have any idea what the image will be when I begin sketching. I make a few lines, sit back, and look at what it resembles. It is kind of like looking for images in the clouds. There is however an underlying goal for the sketches. I am looking for my next picture book. My first book, Un-Brella, came out many years ago and I still find it to be one of the most satisfying projects I have worked on. After all these years it is still in libraries all over the world. The one rule that I have for the doodles is that the drawing needs to be a character. I am looking for the character for another book. I call them doodles because the come out naturally without stress. They are a meditation. Each is satisfying and non threatening because they only take 15 minutes. If a drawing is a dud no one takes it too seriously and just maybe it will act as contrast and make another drawing look better.
What do you think of Mormon art these days? The point of view that is most satisfying to me is art made by people who happen to be members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or Mormon. I have never personally had a yearning to make art that was overtly religious in content. The idea of depicting Jesus Christ is an overwhelming concept. There have been a few of the doodles that have crossed the line into religious imagery. Walking on Water is my favorite (top). Looking through this broader lens there are many LDS creators making music, literature, images, sculpture, music, and film, to name a few. Just over a year ago I went to an invitational conference for LDS artists. It was two inspiring days discussing the state of our craft and sharing with each other. On the first night we spent several hours sharing some of the current projects we were working on. The artists amazed me and I was honored to be among them. There are artists in all areas of creative disciplines that just happen to be LDS.
What’s next for you? I am in the preliminary steps of a project to collaborate with a small group of BYU-Idaho students. We will be exploring the creation processes based on modular systems. This fall we will be meeting each week to document and share our creations and disasters. The goal is to discover and teach each other from our experiences. The paper folding and repeating patterns are some of the preliminary work on my part. The topic is open-ended and can be interpreted in the broadest way. Who knows how it will turn out? Not knowing is the best part.