Something About Your Light

Beloved Memphis artist Frankd Robison posts pictures of himself on social media as well as his friends and his healing process as he works to deal with serious health problems.  It’s lucky for me because I can practice sketching various facial expressions from his pictures.  He posts his paintings and his philosophy of hope, and the belief that love never fails, without ignoring the sorrow and brutality of the world.

Earlier this year he posted this photograph:

Photo by Frankd Robinson

I look at it frequently — something about the light and his expression and his clothes strike me as sacred.  The sacred struggle of life as we try to survive diseases in addition to all the chaos and pain life throws our way.   There is pain, but there is light, there is grace.

I didn’t know if I had the skill to paint this light, but it kept nagging at me.  I wanted to commune with the image in a way that I can only do with paint.  So I plunged forward and painted it the best I could.

Something About Your Light, by Joy Murray, Acrylic on stretched canvas, 9×12

My goal wasn’t to exactly reproduce the photograph, but to do an homage, like I did with my last painting of Frankd.

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How Does Your Garden Grow? 

And here are a few of Frankd Robinson’s remarkable works:


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An Homage to Frankd Robinson

I’ve loved Frankd Robinson’s art for probably 2 decades now.  He is a Memphis artist who uses paint, collage, found objects and his own unique style to create vibrant art.  His work honors the reality of urban life, the struggles of Black people and Black women in particular.   He has a way of taking mundane items and the things we discard and turning them into works of art.

I remember when I first saw his work thinking it’s like he’s taken all the trash I see at the bus stop and turned into something dynamic and glorious.  His work made me see how you can create with whatever is at hand, how to integrate words into vivid color.

Here’s a video of him from about 9 years ago, talking about his art:


Lately, Robinson has had to deal with diabetes and difficult health transitions.  Although I don’t know him that well, I follow him on Facebook and Instagram.  He posts pictures of his everyday life, of his dialysis, of his physical therapy after amputations, of his friends and family, his barber, his fraternity brothers.   Still telling a story, still knowing his life has value.

He’s made these cool, dramatic necklaces/amulets:



When I saw this photo:


I was so taken by the tree tattoo, that I decided I had to do a sort of portrait based on him.

I looked at a lot of pictures of him, a lot of his art.  I read his encouragements to everyone, the way he posts positive things about life, while remaining very real about our struggles.

I worked on it for a over a month, and finished a few days ago.  I call it “How Does Your Garden Grow?”

How Does Your Garden Grow? for Frankd Robinson by Joy Murray


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Despair accompanies illness and disability, but so does learning and resilience.  And love.  You learn to love yourself enough to survive.  You learn who really loves you, who helps you when you are thrown a curve and your whole life changes; who loves you when they know you’ll never be the same physically.  You learn your limits, but also your strengths.

When I am low, I remember it’s my job to love my damned self.  And when I do that, all these other bits of beauty bloom in my life.

I’m so fortunate to have art in my life, and to have found the art of Frankd Robinson.


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