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Visionary art and Creative Spirit: Daniel Frank and his Mandala

posted Aug 21, 2010, 5:02 AM by Annalisa Ippolito   [ updated Aug 21, 2010, 8:07 AM ]
Daniel Frank is one of two artists of Cosmocto team.
The other artist of this special team is his twin David. They create special art and really gorgeous Mandala inspired by Buddhism, street and sacred art and Amazonian shamanism, ancient sacred teaching. All these spiritual arts are supported by creative processes that include experience with entheogenic plant medicine. 

I made him some questions about his work and here follow is our conversation.

Annalisa: Daniel, how did you start to study art?  And how did you start the experience of create mandala?

Daniel: I never formally studied art. I have been drawing for as long as I can remember.  I have always loved the way colors interacted and I still do.  Much of the joy I get from making art is in exploring the play of colors.   When I was in my teens I was inspired by Skate board graphics and Punk Rock culture.  The imagery of album covers etc. My Oldest brother was in a band and my Twin brother David and I used to design their album covers, posters and stickers. 
 My mother was wise enough to realize that if she gave us a lot of freedom at home we would be less likely to get into trouble on the streets.   David and I painted every inch of our room in murals. That is when I first started painting.  
Making Mandalas came much later. 

Mandala by Cosmocto

Through my interest in  Eastern Philosophy and Yoga I was exposed to and captivated by Buddhist Mandalas and The Sacred Geometric representations of the Chakra Systems.  I took  Sacred Geometry Classes at the Open Center in New York City where I learned how to draw the basic geometric shapes and work with a Compass and a straight edge.  Fro there it was as if the flood gates were opened.  I was dreaming about drawing Phi Triangles  and Seven Pointed stars... I was seeing the Geometry that is in everything and it was like a song to my heart. I was taken by the simple elegance of it all.  
That same year I took a trip to Peru where I was working with Ayahuasca under the guidance of a Shaman named Don Rober de Lamas and it was made clear to me that making Mandalas would be a part of my life and my creative path.  I have been making Mandalas ever since.  

A: Could you tell me about the origin of the name of your team?

D: The name COSMOCTO evolved out of a quick sketch of a "Cosmic Octopus"  that I made while visiting with my brother David.  I have always enjoyed mashing unlikely words together to create new ones, and there was something about the sketch and the word  "cosmocto" that resonated with me so I  kept it alive. I started writing it on the street and eventually started signing it to my paintings.   I like to think of COSMOCTO as the  creative energy that flows into  and through all things.  When I sign a painting COSMOCTO my intention is to credit the creative force that brought the work into being.  This keeps me out of my own way and lets the work stand on its own.   When David and I work together our ideas mix up and meld together in such a way that it is not possible to give either of us individual credit for final outcomes,  so it seems logical that the label we put on it should be COSMOCTO... a result of creative energy flowing through but not coming from us. 

What means for you to share your passion with your twin?  It seems so unusual! 

D: There are few things I enjoy more than painting with my brother.
 David and I spent the first 23 years of our lives together (we are 37 now).  We were individuals but we shared a lot of the same identity and experiences.  For each of us, making art is an opportunity to express our individual identities on a deeper level and it is a way for us both to share the wordless truth that we've carried in our soul since our single egg split into two bodies.  We inspire each other and  challenge each other and push each other in new directions constantly.  I feel very lucky for the relationship that we have.

Where do you find the inspiration for your creations? Who or what is or has been an inspiration for you?

D: Often a work will begin with the need to flow with paint or a line and I will have no idea what I am making until it reveals itself.  I want to be drawing or painting or working with my hands all the time so I find that there is no shortage of inspiration to draw from.  The Patterns of birds in flight , dreams, music, textures of rotting wood, an algae bloom. I would say that the recurrent thing that inspires much of my work thematically  is the Mysterium Tremendum, the fearful and the fascinating mystery of being.  

A: What is your favourite technique to make Mandala?

D: I like to work into the mystery of a Mandala.  I will start with a strong central form and than build up on it with line and color. I like to work with an open mind and little idea of where the mandala is going.   I look to create vibrational resonance with color As it begins to "Pop" and grow depth and dimension I will make decisions about parts to keep and parts to cover up.  It is a very organic way of working.  There is  no way of knowing what the finished painting will look like until it arrives there. This can be a lengthy process but I enjoy dancing with the mystery and sometimes wrestling with color and form.  And when I come to find the finished work  It is very satisfying and often I recognize that I didn't paint it so much as I cleared the way for it to come through. 

A: Could you share some word about the role of enthoegenic plant medicine in your creative process?

D: I Paint about my experiences with entheogenic plant medicines (specifically Ayahuasca) because I find that there are realms, where the common rules of verbal communication don't apply... words begin to loose their stickiness to things.  There are realms where Magic abounds and where Love is all and where the Mystery of being winks and smiles  and were the physical human called Daniel Frank dissolves into the infinite infinite... and for me there is a life time of paintings to be made with only the hope of shining a flicker of light on  to that. 

A: What is the most common misunderstanding about your approach to use entheogenic plant medicines in the creative process?

D: I can't say that I have paid much attention to the misunderstandings of others when it comes to this subject.  My work with sacred plant medicines informs my creative work, but the motivations behind why I work with them lies somewhere much deeper.  

A: Could you give some words about the shamanic process and the exploring of dreams in your work?

D: I'm inclined for now to say that rather than  painting from dreams, my interest is in painting dreams into being - Motivated my spirit. 

A: Would you share with us your plans for the future?

D: The future...   
I find myself caught in the present!   
My plans are to harvest my Tomatoes, Play with my Daughter and make some new paintings.  No shows lined up until December 2012.  I am developing a Mandala making workshop that I hope to have ready by November. Lots of painting to be done.  More Play, More Travel, More Teaching, More Community.  Contemplating  moving into a new studio and looking forward to brainstorming with David on some new ideas when he returns from his travels...  

Every moment between here and there Filled with Goodness I hope.

These are my plans yet,  we both know God Laughs... and so do I.

A:  Thank you so much Daniel to share all this with me and all readers.

To read more about the work of Daniel Frank and COSMOCTO visit his website