Jim Franklin was born in Galveston, Texas in 1943. He studied at the San Francisco Art Institute, which he left early to move to New York. Eventually he returned to Texas, where he met a group of musicians and artists who opened the Vulcan Gas Company, a psychedelic music hall in Austin, and were associated with the band Mother Earth, for which Gilbert Shelton drew posters, a task he later gave to Jim Franklin. In 1968, Jim drew his first armadillo, and it soon became not only his trademark but also the symbol of Texas Hipsters.
Franklin continues to paint and draw and do other art projects, like building curved and domed buildings and some performance art, in which he performs songs and paints on stage.