Born in San Mateo, California. Francis entered the University of California Berkeley in 1941 where he first majored in Botany, turning later to Psychology and Pharmacology. During World War II he entered the Air Force and was wounded, and he began to paint as he convalesced from his wounds. He re-entered college after the war and studied both art history and art techniques, and he was heavily influenced by Abstract Expressionism during this period. In 1950 he traveled to Paris and there became closely connected to the lnformel painters. In 1956 he created a triptych mural panels for the Kunsthalle Basel. The following year he set out on an around the world journey, creating a mural at the Sogetsu Kaikan in Tokyo during these travels. He then visited Japan frequently after that initial visit, and as seen in his works, Francis took in many artistic inspirations from traditional Japanese art, such as the use of “tarashikomi” ink puddling and the use of negative space in paintings. Francis created a large number of lithographs after the 1960s.