Frank Dorrey’s freaky artworks are made using a surprising tool

Are they paintings? Collage? Airbrush? Unexpectedly, these works are made using iPhone 8s and an app called PicsArt.

12 February 2021
Reading Time
4 minute read

Frank Dorrey’s portfolio is a whirlpool of weirdness and colour. Within, you’re instantly hit by a series of overly contrasted and saturated imagery, each decorated with a signature splash of hot yellows, royal blues and texture. It’s a bizarre but inimitable curation of artworks and, with each and every picture, you start to question how the pieces are made: is it airbrush? Acrylics? Collage? Well, we can put the inquisition at rest. Frank’s pictures are created on an iPhone 8s, using the app called PicsArt.

Surprised? We are a little. This level of skill and detail is unusual for an iPhone screen, where the average finger engages with the configuration in a less than accurate manner. You know the feeling; like when you’re trying to fill in an area and then the pen marker tool takes it off in some random direction. Or you accidentally delete a whole bunch of work and can’t get it back. It’s hard to use this medium well, let alone to a level that’s similar to Frank’s.

Perhaps Frank’s abilities are an offshoot of a life spent being creative: “I’ve been making things for as long as I can remember,” the artist tells It’s Nice That. “I would draw on anything I could find lying around the house. My mother was my main guardian and she definitely did encourage my creative spirit, but only second to my education.” In this sense, Frank is able to spot the little things in life and turn them into a piece of work. “I mostly find my inspiration from living,” he says. “We all hear this a lot but I really do feel there is no greater teacher than life.”

In turn Frank’s creative eye can be activated while doing anything. Inspiration can strike when he’s out with friends, if he’s seen something interesting, or even heard something that reminds him of something else, “that I thought about the other day”. When this happens, he’ll go straight into the making process and dive right into it that same night. “I’ll want to make a piece that is the very embodiment of what that moment was for me.” Otherwise, the more concrete references include artists such as Toadman, Spacebrat, Dilemmah, Cruzin, Mike, Dean Blunt, Klein, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Daniel Jhonston, Kerry James Marshall, Mowa, Idris and Asa Brewster. Some of which are friends of his, but all have inspired him in some form or another.


Frank Dorrey: Pookie Bear (Copyright © Frank Dorrey, 2020)

While making his pieces, more often than not Frank will be cosied up in his bed, wrapped in the covers, watching Youtube videos and building something on his phone simultaneously. That’s when he’ll open up Pics Art, an app that’s not too dissimilar to Photoshop but more streamlined, in his words. “I got an iPhone 8s and I use my fingers to do a mix of digital collage and illustration,” he says, noting how he’ll sample photographs found on the internet. “I only work when I get an urge to; I tend to work whenever I’m feeling emotional and want to vent.” It’s this restricted attitude that wholeheartedly allows his work to flourish, as he’ll never commence working on something unless he really feels passionate about it.

This becomes evident in his recent piece entitled Grossly Invested. It’s one that he thinks about a lot and depicts in a zoomed in, heavily exposed face that’s been lavished with tones of pinks and reds. “I stayed up until the morning making that one,” says Frank. “It was a photo I found of my friend from a year or two ago. It was nothing like the image you see now – his face was all bunched up with a pout expression.” He found this photo particularly endearing, yet couldn’t help but see something a little off. It inspired him to go deeper into the image, coveting his desire to manipulate what he saw in front of him. “I think what I was feeling was a projection of this situation I was going through with some people reaching out to me for work. Long story short, I felt a lot of these people at this time were depending on me to deliver a dream and that pressure kind of grossed me out. In this piece, I see someone very desperate for an opportunity to pounce.”

Frank’s main goal is that he wants to speak the truth, and his work is a mechanism that allows him to do so with creative finesse. This is done through symbolism, the colours and the imagery itself – however he processes it, rest assured that it’s done with great intention. “Nothing that I do is perfect but it's enough and I try to embody that in all of my work,” he says on a lasting note about his creations. “I also don’t like to anticipate how people will react to my work, but I do find myself wondering, I’m not going to lie. If I can manage, I try to stay with my little world so I can keep my perception of things in tact. When I keep thinking about what they might think (good or bad), I lose a grip of reality and that can be a waste of energy.”


Frank Dorrey: And Then She Says She Wants To Do The Photo Over Because Her Eyes Were Closed (Copyright © Frank Dorrey, 2020)


Frank Dorrey: Babe (Copyright © Frank Dorrey, 2020)


Frank Dorrey: Full (Copyright © Frank Dorrey, 2020)


Frank Dorrey: Good Brother (Copyright © Frank Dorrey, 2020)


Frank Dorrey: Grossly Invested (Copyright © Frank Dorrey, 2021)


Frank Dorrey: I Can't Pass On Those Eyes (Copyright © Frank Dorrey, 2021)


Frank Dorrey: Libra Sun (Copyright © Frank Dorrey, 2020)


Frank Dorrey: Mollywood (Copyright © Frank Dorrey, 2020)


Frank Dorrey: Mollywood (Copyright © Frank Dorrey, 2020)


Frank Dorrey: My Jesus (Copyright © Frank Dorrey, 2020)


Frank Dorrey: Talulu (Copyright © Frank Dorrey, 2020)

Become an Extra Nice Supporter

Unlock an inspiring new way to explore It’s Nice That, get your hands on exclusive perks, and help bring meaningful creative projects to life.

Sign up!

Hero Header

Frank Dorrey: I Feel For You Boy (Copyright © Frank Dorrey, 2020)

Share Article

About the Author

Ayla Angelos

Ayla was an editorial assistant back in June 2017 and has continued to work with us on a freelance basis. She has spent the last seven years as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.

It's Nice That Newsletters

Fancy a bit of It's Nice That in your inbox? Sign up to our newsletters and we'll keep you in the loop with everything good going on in the creative world.