Roy Gene Franks, prominent artist known professionally as Gene Franks, 93, of Springdale, Arkansas passed into the Presence of his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, after a lengthy bedridden illness, on Thursday, January 28, 2021, at home with his beloved wife who was his fulltime caregiver.
Gene was born on May 6, 1927 in Charleston, Arkansas to Artie Franks and Edna (Bradley) Franks. Gene married Jane Foye, his “one true love, Janie”, as he referred to her, on May 31, 1980 in Redlands, California.
Gene was a member of Lake Gregory Community Church in Crestline, California from 1980 – 1991, where he served as a deacon, taught art in the Narnia club for children, and was a Greeter. Later, he was a member of First Baptist Fort Smith when he and Jane moved to Charleston from California in 1991. In 2000, Gene and Jane moved to NW Arkansas and became members of St. Catherine’s Chapel at Bell Gable in Fayetteville. Arkansas.
Gene attended the Charleston Schools. He left Arkansas in 1944 and headed west to California where he joined the Merchant Marines for 2 years beginning in 1945, and in 1947 he joined the Air Force where he achieved rank of Technical Sergeant, serving for 2 stints, 3 years of which were in England.
Between stints in the Air Force, he fulfilled his dream for heading to California, and with the GI bill he received a classical art education at Jefferson Mackhammer School of Art in Santa Monica from 1949 to 1951. Charles Schultz of Peanuts fame was one of his classmates at this school! From art school Gene went on to have a varied and successful art career, engaging in various jobs to provide income along the way.
In the 1960’s he barbered for several years, then worked in the drafting department of TRW Systems in San Bernardino, California. But first and foremost he was always an artist, having realized at the age of 10 that he had been given a gift and was determined to do something with it. He practiced drawing his beloved dog, as a child.
In 1976 Gene earned his teaching credential to teach art in the Adult Education Department of the San Bernardino School System, and for the next decade became renowned throughout the Inland Empire of Southern California for his outstanding classes in all mediums – pencil, oil, watercolor and gouache. At the same time, he continued producing easel paintings of California and Southwest subjects, selling his work in galleries in Carmel and Laguna Beach, California; Phoenix, Arizona; and Houston, Texas.
In the 1980’s, in collaboration with his wife, Jane, his editor and promoter, he added publishing to his resume, producing nine art instructional books on pencil and watercolor published by Walter Foster Publishing ,Inc., a division of Quarto Publishing Group in Orange County, California.
Upon completion of the books in 1991, Gene felt led to return to his Arkansas roots to document his fading heritage and to have that experience influence his art. Gene was raised by his grandparents at a time when rural farming using horses and wagons was a way of life. He strongly felt that needed to be captured for future generations. For the next 25 years, Gene completed over 200 paintings more than half of which were exhibited and sold in shows throughout Arkansas and in his home studio.
Some highlights from that period include the production of 19 limited editions of his work, produced by Hunter Editions, Kennebunk, Maine; a major painting selected by U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln and shown in her Washington, D.C. office in 2003; the purchase of seven of Gene’s original paintings and an exclusive corporate edition commissioned by Tyson Foods in 2010.
Gene became a Christian in 1979 and his art took a decided turn when along with Jane he dedicated his talent and abilities to bring Truth, Goodness and Beauty to the world thought the arts. Francis Schaeffer and R. C. Sproul, Christian theologians and philosophers of the 20th and 21st centuries, helped to formulate his thoughts through the Scriptures, and people noticed the introduction of light and color to his work. From there on Gene declared that his gift was God given and his intensity only increased as now he painted for the glory of God as well as to reflect a period of time and place.
In 2017, Gene at age 89 felt he had completed his Arkansas work. He had begun collaborating with Jane on a series combining art and story; Gene illustrating, Jane writing the stories. This project remains uncompleted when Gene suffered 2 injuries that terminated his professional career. However he was still drawing with determination and remained optimistic when God called him home on January 28th.
Among survivors are two sons, Tory Franks and Terry Franks of Riverside, California; a daughter, Catherine DeCourcey of Bend, Oregon; and his beloved wife, Jane Franks, of Springdale, Arkansas.
Gene’s memorial service/ funeral will be held at The Heritage Funeral Home Chapel in Springdale, Arkansas, at 11:00 a.m. on Friday, February 12th. Visitation will take place at 10:00 a.m. prior to the service. Interment will follow with full military honors at Fayetteville National Cemetery at 12:30 p.m.
Preferred memorials: Ligonier Ministries, Sanford, Florida. www.ligonier.org