Franky Castle was successful enough. He spent most of his adult life owning beeper shops and Boost mobile stores. But two years ago, the 41-year-old Anaheim resident decided to sell his businesses and start anew as an artist.
“I did a self-audit, ‘What am I good at and what am I not good at?'” Castle says, “I came to the realization that I’m not a good business owner…the next question was, ‘What am I good at?’ And everything just led to art.”
Castle was born in Guadalajara but has lived in Anaheim since he was three. His real name is Francisco Castillo but has gone by Franky since childhood. Castle is an English translation of his last name which he chose as his art name simply because it “has a ring to it.”
You’ve likely seen Castle’s vibrantly colorful Mexican-influenced paintings throughout SanTana’s art walk, Noche De Altares, Anaheim’s art walk, OC Weekly‘s 2016 Artopia, live painting sessions at El Mercado Modern in Santa Ana and at Anaheim GardenWalk.
While Castle continues to establish himself across Orange County, his roots began in the streets of Anaheim’s roughest hoods. “There was a neighborhood called Anaheim Jungle City back in the ’80s and it was very rough,” Castle says. “I think one of the roughest that Anaheim has had and I was smack in the middle.” While his mother commuted to work at a factory in Placentia, his father (originally from Cihuatlán, Jalisco) was either in and out of prison, drunk, high on heroin or forcing a young Castle to box other children in neighborhood bars. He recalls witnessing overdoses, gang
As a way to escape his dark surroundings, Castle played basketball at Anaheim High School, joined a punk band called
Castle’s work is refined, cultural and street, all at the same time, with vibrantly colorful Chicano, Mexican,
Although his art has Chicano art tendencies, Castle says he doesn’t identify as a Chicano artist, “I’m not even Chicano, I’m Mexican.” he says, “I’m a paisa artist” he says with a laugh. “And I’m a very proud paisa.”
He’s also a very giving person, especially to Orange County’s most disenfranchised communities. In the past, he’s collaborated with Santa Ana Unidos (a non-profit boxing club) and given free basketball clinics and free haircuts (Castle is also a talented barber thanks to his father) to youth in low-income neighborhoods across Orange County. He hopes to host an art workshop for local children in the near future too. And like a good
As Castle reflects on his new found art career he points to one of his first paintings. It shows a burning ship that he says depicts Hernán Cortés destroying his fleet after discovering his soldiers wanted to abandon their mission of conquering the Americas, “I didn’t burn my ship until I sold my business [last] April,” Castle says, “Either we conquer or we perish. That’s what I’ve really done here, sometimes you have to risk everything for a dream no one can see but you.”