Artist Spotlight: Sailor Danny

Injected with colour and dripping with home-grown inspiration, Sailor Danny has become one of the go-to names on the island for unique and eye-popping art


Many of us go through life realizing we have a particular set of skills that can lead us to career successes and personal fulfillment. Musicians have their keen ear and expert timing, chefs have their pallet, Liam Neeson has his terrifying voice and bad ass moves that make him impervious to aging. 

From a young age, Daniel Frampton was aware he had a gift for the arts. Don’t believe us? Frampton’s submission to The Newfoundland Herald on April 2, 1994, a lovely rendition of Petter Cottontail, was a welcome sign of things to come.  Frampton was six years old at the time, long before his name (although hidden under a now notable label), would fly off the tongue of many-an-arts enthusiasts in Newfoundland and Labrador.

If you love art, love Newfoundlaida, and are tired of drib and drab monotone expressionist pieces, odds are you’ve heard the name Sailor Danny. 

Long-Line of Seafarers

Part homage to a long-line of seafarers in the family, part infectious moniker that rings true to who we are as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, Frampton and the Sailor Danny brand have become one of the most in-demand on the island.

Sitting in The Herald’s offices, Frampton shares that he’s had the artistic bug since he was old enough to grip a pencil.

“I don’t stop,” he says with a laugh.  “Since I could hold a pencil I’ve been drawing. I’ve been drawing my whole life and things really progressed.”

You’d perhaps be shocked to discover that Frampton has no official experience in the arts, no formal training, university degree or college certificate. He opted to follow in the family footsteps of becoming a seaman, but art always came calling in some form or fashion.

“For a lot of people there’s no future in the arts, or it’s not a living by any means,” he candidly admits. “You can’t afford to keep the lights on. I didn’t go to arts school. I’m all self-taught. I went to sea instead. I come from a family of seafarers. It was a way to work, have time off and then in the time off work on the art.”

Frampton’s schedule, which sees him away for a month at sea and home for a month with his wife and two children, allows for a certain amount of freedom and maneuverability as it comes to his passion. Though make no mistake, it is a labour of love, and one that requires considerable commitment. 

“When you get off your shift and go to your cabin, a lot of guys would just watch TV. I’d rather listen to music and draw. That’s where you’ll see a lot of my drawings come to life. It’s easy to bring a sketch book, a couple of markers and Bob’s your uncle.”

Back in Newfoundland, his schedule requires a little more tinkering, and we’d imagine a great deal of caffeine. 

“My hours of painting are probably from 8:30-9:00 to 2:00 in the morning,” he says. “I’m up again at 7:30 with the kids. You wouldn’t do it if you didn’t love it.”

Frampton became known for his colourful and eye-popping celebrity works – Keith Richards and Gord Downie to Marilyn Monroe, all the way to Joey Smallwood. He’s since branched into celebrating all things Newfoundland, with gorgeous renditions of row housing, notable buildings and monuments, to local wildlife like moose, puffins and  vivid tributes to the sea earning considerable praise. 

“My thing is to be different,” Frampton says. “There’s so much art and talent in the province and I want to be able to make a difference and stick out. I love painting icons, love doing portrait work.”

‘Lights & Darks’

Frampton’s mastery of colour is something to behold. It can be argued that no other artist this side of nation is attempting, and pulling off what Sailor Danny has managed when it comes to blending imaginative and mesmerizing pallets of colour. 

“All of my stuff, the colours are wild and all over the place. It makes sense from a colour theory perspective. If you took that picture and made it in black and white it would still work as a picture. It’s all about lights and darks, it’s not about the colours.

“I like to bring in two sides of the spectrum, so there’s contrast,” he adds. “It might go from yellow to blue, but you have to merge them at some point, and it has to work. That’s a challenge. You can see it in some pieces where it is very ridged, but then there are others that flow fluidly. It’s a learning process, and it’s fun. Multi-coloured portraits are my favourite.”

And while the Sailor Danny brand is taking off at a rapid clip, with interest trending far beyond the island, Frampton is encouraged by how many born and bred Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have taken to his work.

“The amount of interest those pieces pick up are incredible. It’s not just tourism that’s buying Newfoundland art, it’s Newfoundlanders.”

For inquiries and a selection of works visit Sailor Danny’s Art on his official Facebook page.

Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *