Creating art is the one thing that keeps Zac Franzoni sane.

If he didn’t paint he would explode. This frenetic energy is the defining characteristic of Zac’s style. The communion of chaos and order – of Apollo and Dionysus – is a theme that runs throughout all of his work.

He doesn’t so much paint a picture as let the mind of the Universe erupt onto the canvas.

Years ago, Zac put down the paint brush and tucked away the easel. Now, he paints with abandon. His canvas is placed in the center of the floor as he runs around his studio in a shamanic trance, pouring and splattering different mediums of paint.

This experimental approach has taken years to develop, but he can now control the chaos – and the results are stunning.

Zac’s most recent work, The Satellite Series, looks like images from outer space, nebulas and star clusters along with topographical imagery of Earth. And yet, there is a primal quality that permeates each piece, once again exemplifying the paradox of Apollo and Dionysius with the cerebral and cosmic blending with the visceral. 

Zac Franzoni

“At The Top of The Ladder” (Zac Franzoni photo)

Clearly, Zac is connected to the source of raw creative energy, the source of genius. But that’s not how he sees it. He is just fulfilling a need.

He creates because he must and hopes that people enjoy the result. The modesty is admirable, but Zac’s track record proves that his work speaks to people.

To date, he has sold approximately 1,500 paintings.

Five years ago, Zac quit his job as an assistant manager at Walgreen’s to pursue his dream of being a full-time artist. He moved out of his apartment and into a collective art space, dedicating every waking moment to his craft. He knew that if he was going to be successful he would have to go “all in.”

And Zac’s commitment to perfecting his art has not been in vain. He has thrived as a freelance artist, making the majority of his income from art. As any artist of the 21st century will tell you, that’s no easy feat.

But Zac is pulling it off. He makes enough cash to pay the bills and supplements his earnings with the homesteading skills of a backwoodsman. He grows his own vegetables, cans his own goods, is a knowledgeable cook and he even builds furniture.

Zac’s independent nature could be a symptom of his creative mind. Maybe, as an artist, he sees certain things differently. Specifically, Zac sees that relying on money to buy the necessities isn’t the best way to live. Instead, he takes responsibility for his own well-being, acquiring the skills needed to self-provide.

Plausibly, that is the secret of success for the modern artist: Self-reliance. If so, then Zac is going to be very successful. Impressively well prepared, he has a 90-day supply of nonperishable food, gas masks, and various other supplies for numerous apocalypse scenarios – something he calls his zombie apocalypse kit.

Disaster preparedness and tumultuous art aside, Zac is a pretty laid-back guy. His polite, quiet demeanor clashes perfectly with his tattooed arms and pierced lip. He has a dark humor, but everyone that comes into contact with him senses the goodness of his heart. In fact, Zac’s generosity and empathy are a key component to his business. He treats everyone that is interested in his work like a friend, often making price deals based on what the person can afford.

And ‘the guy I want to have a beer with’ persona works pretty damn well at the street festivals of Chicago – where, for the past five years, Zac has spent most of his summer weekends in a pop-up tent, selling his art. But Zac recently moved to Maine, taking the leap from Chicago-based artist to internet-based artist.

He has a website that he sells from and works with websites like Indie Walls to bid on commission projects nationwide. His personality can’t help nearly as much with internet endeavors as they did with face-to-face interactions in Chicago, but his work speaks well enough for itself. Right now, he is a finalist for an 85 thousand dollar bid.

Money like that can change the game for an artist. 

Zac Franzoni

“The Recipe” (Zac Franzoni photo)

But if he doesn’t get the commission, Zac will just keep busting his ass. And maybe that’s the real secret of success for a modern artist: Hard work and perseverance.

A successful independent artist puts his heart and soul into creating art as well as promoting, networking, and managing. It’s a full-time job with mandatory overtime and no benefits. Art, as a profession, takes determination and resilience — and when an artist has these qualities other artists take notice.

Zac Franzoni is the kind of artist that other artists respect. He has earned a reputation as an industrious, reliable artist that produces quality every time. But beyond that, he is a friend to anyone and everyone, a consummate good guy in a competitive industry that can be unforgiving.

Obviously, the relative success that has come Zac’s way is entirely warranted. Who wouldn’t want to buy art from a talented, hardworking, self-reliant nice guy?

And that’s especially true when you consider the rising price of his art. The days of buying a Franzoni for a few hundred bucks are gone. Now, as he starts to work with interior designers and network into the corporate art world, his art is selling for thousands.

With his stock on an upward trend, it will be exciting to see what’s next for Zac. Will his efforts to expand beyond Chicago and become non-location specific culminate in celebration or regret?

So far, his risks have resulted in reward but now the playing field is larger and the rules less defined. However, Zac has built a foundation from which he can grow, so even if he falls he won’t fall far.

Fate rewards the daring, but not as much as the well prepared.

(Feature image courtesy of Phillip Solomonson)

Zac Franzoni is our first feature in a series of artists that Phillip Solomonson has documented and works with. You can find all of Phil’s work on his website.