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Artist And Libertarian Frances Byrd

How long have you been making your art? How did you get into it?

Frances Byrd: have been working on portraits for about five years now. Before that, my focus was on birds. For many years, I created purely political work before transitioning into Liberty and Americana themed paintings. Regardless of the subject matter, there is typically an underlying concept of freedom or individuality in my work.

I have always been interested in art for as long as I can remember. I have a degree in Illustration which I feel has led me to be a visual storyteller regardless of media, theme, or subject. I came upon the concept of painting narrative portraits of empowered women several years ago when I was actively working to overcome the remnants of childhood trauma. At the time I was also very active at an MMA gym and training with some pretty strong women. Many of them have been muses for my portrait concepts, posing for reference photos and offering feedback or telling their personal stories for use in future paintings.


What are your influences? Who or what inspires you?

Frances: I’m particularly fond of the Northern Renaissance masters, though I don’t work in a classical style. Illustrators such as Alfonse Mucha, graphic novels with gritty illustrations, and all kinds of symbolism influence my work.

I’m inspired by just about everything. I keep pretty extensive journals of ideas for future concept development ranging from small pocket notebooks to larger sketchbooks and composition books by theme with lengthy descriptions of narratives, symbolism, or song lyrics and poetry. I’m extremely inspired by nature and have some series taking shape around trees and birds specifically, but also illustrating the seasonal evolution of my bird and pollinator garden; all combined with a central female figure who will personify each concept.

I am most inspired by authentic women who are self-confident in their natural bodies. They are women who don’t feel compelled to conform to trends or beauty standards. I think that is the main reason I feel drawn to also include elements from nature in most of my portraits.

Do you create art with a specific message, or do you prefer art for arts sake?

Frances: This is something I have always struggled with. I think the art is not as strong when I try to force a message into it. This is the main reason I am transitioning into more ornamental and illustrative work. Ultimately, I think messages will work themselves into the narrative, but I am attempting to let them develop more organically in the future.


What is your creative process like? What tools and methods do you use to make your art?

Frances: My first set of portraits was created almost exclusively in oils, but I felt burned out at the end of a year producing work non-stop for a show. I spent most of last year working on public art projects, which were a complete deviation in materials and concept.

Right now I am working on smaller mixed media portraits with various drawing materials and I really like the way they are turning out. I moved into my first studio outside of my home in January and I have been working on the new space most of that time. It has given me a lot of opportunity to let my mind wander about what direction I want to take with my art moving forward. I’m looking forward to getting started on some large experimental paintings soon.

I also have a small printmaking studio in my home where I design and print something new each month.

Regardless of the media, my work typically starts with a concept that I develop in a sketchbook. Sometimes I draw the image by hand, but I often collage images together at this stage to save time. If my concept is going to be made into a block print, I will simplify the design to a more graphic image that is transferred to a wood block, sheet of linoleum, or rubber thick sheet.This material is carved, inked, and run through a press with paper to create a print of the design. It can be produced indefinitely, but variations in the paper, pressure of the press, and application of the ink to the block make each print unique in some way.

If I am translating a concept to a painting I start by creating a line drawing to project onto a canvas. After tracing the image from the projection, I go back in and tweak the design with a pencil or China marker, adding details, changing parts of the composition that aren’t working, and adding definition and weight to areas I want to be more prominent. A painting can take all kinds of directions from here. Sometimes I start with a traditional underpainting to establish values and other times I work with more textural and ornamental layers. Which direction I take is determined by my idea for the final aesthetic of the portrait.

If I am wanting to create a more emotional and illustrative portrait, I start with very textural layers or splattered and dripped media, building many thin layers on top that interact with one another in subtle ways.

If the painting is meant to have a more traditionally rendered figure, I will fine tune details, particularly in the face and surroundings that add to the narrative of the portrait.

My mixed media pieces generally start with a line drawing that I ink by hand. I fill in large areas with alcohol markers to establish the general aesthetic of the piece. I typically finish these off with a combination of colored pencils, gel pens, paint pens, and a final coat of gel medium to seal the mediums.

How long have you considered yourself a libertarian?

Frances: I have been a libertarian since learning about the movement in college.


What do you think the role of art should be in the libertarian movement?

Frances: I think that should be up to the individual artists. I have been active politically in the past, but it has been my experience that most work that is created solely for political purposes tends to become dogmatic and lack the same aesthetic appeal as work developing from a place of creative process.There are exceptions of course, but by and large, I think forcing an idea into the art robs it of its spontaneity.


What upcoming events or projects are you working on?

Frances: My overall goal for this year is to build my portfolio. Now that I have a dedicated studio space, I want to focus entirely on creating a body of work. I’m excited for the opportunity to experiment and see how the work develops organically.

My next event is in Brevard, NC to benefit SAFE Transylvania, an organization that provides resources to victims of domestic abuse. I will be donating 10% of my sales to them. We will be at Oskar Blues Brewery on March 18 from 4-8pm.

I’m participating in the annual Birds, Butterflies, and Blooms show at the Transylvania Community Arts Council on that Friday, March 22 from 5-7 in Brevard, NC.

After that, I will be in my studio until the Lyndon House Arts Center Makers’ Market on May 11 in Athens, GA.

Where can people go to view and purchase your art?

Frances: I have live purchase links via Square on my Artwork Archive profile: Art by Frances Byrd | Artwork Archive

I will be adding these links to my website soon when I make updates

I recommend following my IG for studio updates, show info, local (to me) events, and portrait development:Frances Byrd Art (@frances_byrd_art) • Instagram photos and videos



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