Apr 19 2019

Festin' With Frenchy: The King of Oak Street is New Orleans's Favorite Live Painter

By: Emilia DiFabrizio

New Orleans artist Randy Leo “Frenchy” Frechette, the artist behind the 2015 Jazz Fest poster, has made a name for himself in the art world. An illustrator and painter, Frenchy does live paintings at music performances, festivals, cultural celebrations, fundraisers, and sports games, in addition to private and corporate events.

His paintings are vibrant and candid, utilizing acrylics, oils, and watercolors to create unique works done in real time. The movement throughout his pieces, inspired by rhythms and melodies, is energetic and daring, bringing events to life with his spirited landscapes, portraits, and abstract paintings.

Affectionately called the “King of Oak Street,” as art-lovers can see his works at the gallery he runs Uptown, Frenchy pairs a childlike innocence and imagination with skill and precision. He paints with quick, assured movements and mixes vibrant colors with fluidity. Frenchy says he began drawing and making art “as soon as [he] could hold a pencil.” 

Festin' With Frenchy: The King of Oak Street is New Orleans's Favorite Live Painter

“[I] came across a Herman Leonard book and saw the same look in the eyes of jazz musicians as I did in the boxers I grew up with,” says Frenchy. He started painting portraits from the book, was invited to paint live by the Heavy Metal Horns around 1995, and fell in love with live painting at first stroke. “The rest is history,” he says

“Live, I let go of everything I know. Trust the process. And in my world, my soul is sent coursing through the universe,” he adds. In the studio, things are different, he explains, depending on the subject matter: “[It] can catapult you through the universe or have you on your hands and knees crying.”

Concerning his techniques, he is always experimenting, but has several styles that have organically developed over the past 30 years. 

Having made New Orleans his home and muse since 1997, Frenchy now thrives in the local scene among other boundary-pushing creatives. His work began with painting in the streets, bars, music halls, and theaters, before graduating to the city’s top events, like Jazz Fest. 

Festin' With Frenchy: The King of Oak Street is New Orleans's Favorite Live Painter

The former official team artist for the Saints, Frenchy painted games weekly during football season and also does work for the Pelicans and NCAA championships. He has live-painted Mardi Gras and international events and is featured in the Jazz Fest Museum exhibit. 

His work does not stop there, however. Frenchy created the 2018 French Quarter Fest poster and was the 2017 grand marshall for the Krewe of Tucks, live-painting on top of one of the parade’s leading floats. He has toured the country with sporting events and music festivals and has also painted commissioned and studio pieces.

Frenchy was picked to paint the poster for Jazz Fest 2015, for which he created a portrait of legendary New Orleans musician Big Chief Bo Dollis. The artist said that the painting meant more than words can say, stating that, “Every time I was blessed to paint the Wild Magnolias was a life-changing experience.”

“Life is art,” Frenchy says of his artistic voice. “Love inspires me.” 

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