Changing Gears to Pursue A Creative Passion

As a first-generation American, Eustace Francis’ (BFA '20) experiences have largely been through the lens of his parents as they learn to navigate the United States.

His artwork is shaped in part by his parent’s immigrant experience and black identity in America.

“I feel like we’ve been misrepresented in a lot of ways and there’s a lack of people of color in fine art,” he said. “Go to a museum, the only few black faces you see are kind of in negative derogatory depictions.”

He applauds PAFA for striving to collect more work from African-American artists but is also hoping his own artwork will help diversify the art world. He has temporarily put aside a career in graphic design to study Illustration at PAFA.

Francis spent three years working as a creative director and designer for a Philadelphia non-profit that focuses on HIV awareness and prevention but eventually wanted to get back to the fine art world.

“I realized needed to come back to school and get a degree,” he said. “I realized I kind of had learned everything I wanted to learn as a graphic designer and I wanted to kind of expand into my passion as a fine artist.”


  • Eustace Francis in the studio.
    Eustace Francis in the studio.
  • A selection of work by Eustace Francis.
    A selection of work by Eustace Francis.

He ended up choosing PAFA after seeing the Academy featured on PBS NewsHour. He visited the museum and said the rest is history.

Now a third-year student at PAFA, Francis is studying across all disciplines. He credits a drawing class with professor Scott Noel with helping him better understand the human form and push his art practice.

“It’s amazing how in that class we were only working with pastels and charcoal but everything learned in that class applied to my painting and illustration, even my photography,” Francis said. “Looking back, it really affected me as an artist in a lot of ways and I appreciate it a lot.”

His artwork is a blend of abstract and realism, with the background of many of his paintings filled with abstraction and the foreground is very detailed.

“I’m trying to figure out a balance between the two right now and kind of create my own style.”

Even though he works in multiple mediums, Francis is an illustration major with an eye towards his future.

“I chose illustration because I kind of felt like it was going to be the most transferable degree after I graduate,” he said. “This adds to my portfolio in a lot of ways. I’m a graphic designer but my degree is illustration so I can show someone my design work so they understand that I’ve married the two in a lot of ways.”

He plans to continue painting and hopes to put his stamp on the commercial creative space.

“I’d like to try to find a position that not only allows me to manage the vision for a company but also apply some of my fine arts skills as an illustrator to my graphic design work so it’s really unique and also identifiable as mine.”