Francisco Corbett: The Artist to Watch

Corbett talks painting as performance art with The Journal

Francisco Corbett’s painting style is an act of performance art.
William Carroll

Over the past eight months, Francisco Corbett has dedicated himself to being a full-time artist and, as a result, Kingston isn’t boring anymore.

With his distinctly bold and bright graffiti-style masterpieces marking territory inside Princess Street shopfronts, upscale cafés, downtown billboards, art centres, Instagram feeds, and alleyways, it seems Corbett’s daily routine involves making waves across the Limestone City. 

While Corbett dabbles in other forms of performance art—including music production and designing runway fashion shows—his current commitment to painting is shaking up Kinston’s sometimes predictable art scene.

“Francisco Corbett stands for doing art and being free […] I think it’s important to realize that creativity—in any sense of the word—could be an avenue to freedom,” Corbett said in an interview with The Journal.

Corbett’s self-declared title of performance-artist is undeniable to anyone who witnesses his painting process, which is a work of art all on its own. It’s clear Corbett doesn’t apply paint to canvas solely for the end result. 

“I’m a performance artist, definitely. That’s my medium. My paintings are a performance. When I do shows, that’s a medium, that’s a performance.”

With a paintbrush in one hand and an iPhone music playlist in the other, Corbett’s metronome-like brushwork is shaped by the beat of each song. His painting studio’s extensive playlist blasts a variety of tracks ranging from underground heavy metal hits to Danny Brown’s ‘Die Like A Rockstar’ and Olivia Rodrigo’s ‘Drivers License.’

“I like doing paintings because it’s fast. It’s fast, you can use spray paint, it goes on quick, and I like that.” 

While in the zone, Corbett’s whole body follows his sweeping spray paint lines across the large canvas. He subconsciously pauses while bracing for his playlist’s choruses and only switches colours and application techniques when he switches songs. 

“I’m very hyper. I love that about me. I think my favorite part about me right now is that I have a lot of energy.”

Originally from Guatemala, Corbett was adopted at five months old and has lived in Kingston ever since.

“Now that I’m 23, looking back on it, it’s crazy to see where I might have come from and how that impacts my art. I think as I get older, I’ll realize more and more how it really impacts me.”

But the 23-year-old artist has not always viewed his hometown as his canvas. Corbett said forging an exciting life in Kingston is a conscious decision he makes every day, something he encourages others to do as well.

“My life was boring in Kingston until I started taking more action and doing things. I hope that more people, more artists, more creatives in Kingston […] can see this and see that if you can just push f—cking hard enough, then this thing can change and we can change—not necessarily Kingston—but the way we view our life. We can have fun; life can be exciting.” 

Corbett remembers the pivotal moment in his life when he was introduced to his most influential artistic inspiration. In 2015, his father showed him a Jean Michel Basquiat feature in the newspaper and encouraged him to go and see the Toronto art show.

“I was just dropping out of high school, I was just coming out of addiction, I just had my kid; all of these massive things were happening and changing in my life. I saw that show and it changed everything.”

In that moment, Corbett made the decision to commit himself to art. While being
introduced to the work of Jean Michel Basquiat was paradigm-shifting, Corbett said he couldn’t declare himself an artist at that moment.

“It wasn’t about the image of it all. It wasn’t about how it appeared to people. It was about how I wanted to do it.”

While Corbett’s visual branding is impressive and his clothing is slathered in paint, he doesn’t call himself an artist simply because he looks like one. He strongly believes it’s a title that must be earned. “I earn that every day when I come into this studio. I earn that when I push myself and am a hard-working person and when I put my mind to something and complete it.”

“It’s a serious thing as well as it is a really beautiful thing.”

Corbett defines the success of each of his projects by their proximity to risk and challenge. “That’s what I’m searching for, that’s success to me. Looking for a challenge and beating that challenge. […] Success is staying healthy and excited about everything.” 

With each piece, Corbett’s ultimate goal is to communicate his infectious excitement for life, love of people, personal evolution, and big ideas.

“Wake up. Be excited. Don’t be bored. There’s literally nothing ever to be bored about. There’s traumatic things happening all the time, there’s good things happening all the time. There’s literally no reason to be bored. Don’t be bored.”

Because he loves making connections, Corbett said his work is inspired by conversations he has with people he meets.

“It makes me happy, and it makes other people happy. [I want to make art that] provides challenge, risk, excitement and outlet.”

Corbett said he’s motivated to succeed as an entrepreneur by his main sources of happiness and excitement: his son, his friends, and himself.

“I want to keep creating and continue being a good father,” he said. “I want to be a great artist, and I think I’m on my way to doing that.”

Corbett’s short-term and long-term goals involve encouraging others to be better and be creative.

“The ultimate goal would be that I could see a kid—in Queen’s or on the streets or wherever I meet them—and if they just need a little push, I could give it to them because I would have the resources to help them, financially and just space wise.”

While Corbett is not a Queen’s student, his magnetism can’t help but draw the community’s attention. So far this year, he’s performed at the Isabel’s ‘Electric Circuits Series,’ hosted a class at The Agnes, and grown a bit of a cult following on Instagram.

“An opportunity to me looks like a chance to do something new. Right now, I’m using social media as a very powerful tool. It’s an extension of me.”

Corbett’s message to his neighbours in the University District is one of encouragement to trust their big ideas. “Just know that there are people like me in Kingston and in the world who want to support you and will believe in you.”

What’s next for the evolving artist?

“I don’t know, and that’s the fun part. I just want to continue making stuff forever. Everything you could possibly imagine I want to put out there. I want to continue growing up.”


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