For Joleen Franklin, “Hill Country Strong” is more than just a slogan – it’s a way of life.
A local artist recently commissioned to paint two murals at River Hills Mall – one sporting the phrase “Hill Country Strong” and the other “Kerrville Kindness” – Franklin has faith in the Kerrville community during these tumultuous times.
Her own history is diverse: She grew up in Kerrville and spent many years traveling and living abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina and São Paulo, Brazil, where she honed her craft as an artist, learning to paint murals from some of the best. She returned to Kerrville eight years ago to raise her daughter, Trinidad Laurenzi, now 16.
“I’ve always been a full-time artist and it’s been a struggle,” Franklin said. “But it seems like the more freelance I do, the more opportunities I have – I’m always working.”
And Franklin’s skills run the gamut – today, she owns her own company, Aurora Joleen Designs, and her offerings range from painting to woodwork to stonework to metal art to jewelry-making.
When representatives of River Hills Mall first approached Franklin about creating two murals at the mall, she was thrilled, submitting several drawings and designs for approval.
“While murals have been around for a long time, the mural has really taken off here in Kerrville – people wanting to do them, people love them,” Franklin said.
She added that locals are beginning to understand the difference between street art and graffiti and murals, and appreciate the artistry of the latter.
“(Mural painting) is definitely something you’ve got to practice at, because it’s a certain kind of skill and aesthetic – a painter who does paintings for galleries is not the same as a painter doing murals,” she said.
The larger the piece of art is, the more the artist needs to understand about perspective, she added.
“I like painting big,” Franklin said. “I like the challenge – you have to map it out, you have to plan it out, and you create something that’s huge and no one can miss it. I find the whole process very fulfilling and challenging.”
One of Franklin’s two murals will be located at the main entrance by Bealls, and the other between the Bealls entrance and the JCPenney entrance.
“The ‘Hill Country Strong’ mural gives a name to where we’re at right now as a society, and it will be up there forever,” Franklin said. “And the ‘Kerrville Kindness’ mural, I think it’s a bright message to put out to everybody right now, a message of hope to the community … it’s wonderful, it’s helpful.”
Franklin’s other work can be seen all over Kerrville. She’s done several murals in Peterson Plaza and a 2019 piece for the Chalk Festival that can still be seen locally.
“It’s been a blessing through COVID to be able to get out there and make some artwork,” Franklin said.
She’s also enjoyed working alongside her teenage daughter, Trinidad, who often helps paint her murals.
“She’s into it, and she works on them all the time with me, and it’s just a good connection between us,” Franklin said.
Trinidad attends the Hill Country Micro-School in Kerrville, where Franklin teaches art.
Ultimately, Franklin is thrilled at the opportunity to create more art locally.
“It’s an honor to be able to come back home and put work up on walls and places that I’ve been around all my life and grown up around, and share that with my child,” Franklin said.
Her advice for aspiring artists is to travel and learn new things, to hone their craft and gain new experiences.
“Experience everything. I think that’s how I got to where I am now, being able to experience other cultures and different ways of life,” Franklin said.
But to succeed as an artist, perseverance is key, she said.
“Just stay with it, stay with it, stay with it,” Franklin said. “There’s so much to learn in life and in art. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it, that art isn’t worth it – because it pays off in the end.”
To learn more about Franklin’s murals and other artwork, e-mail her at @aurora_joleenf@hotmail. com.