Fashion illustrations have a certain romance about them, whether it’s in those exaggerated, elongated limbs or the fabric that drapes and flows better than it ever would in reality. It’s an art form in itself, and Melbourne illustrator Mads Francis has mastered it so well she’s making a living out of it. Ever since bloggers and mega-celebrities (and we’re talking mega) started reposting her portraits of them on Instagram, Mads’ artworks have been in such hot demand she’s now illustrating full-time. Here we chat with the talented 22-year-old about what it takes to turn a beloved hobby into a career.
You illustrated our very own editor-in-chief, Lisa Messenger, at VAMFF – what was your involvement there?
I attended various events at VAMFF with Pressed Juices as their official blogger, and illustrated my favourite moments out of it. I found Lisa’s talk really inspiring.
When did your illustrations start to attract attention?
As soon as I started illustrating, well-known bloggers and celebs reposted them, opening me up to such a wide audience. And then Rihanna and Tyra [Banks] came across my work, which certainly helped!
Was there a tipping point when you realised you could make illustration your career?
When Gary Pepper Girl [Nicole Warne] reposted my illustration, that was the real tipping point for me. I was inundated with emails requesting work and I realised that this is actually what I could be doing full time.
And how did you get on the Kardashians’ radar?
It was totally unexpected. I illustrated Kim a few times and then all of sudden she had written blog posts about me!
What’s your creative workspace like? What can you see/hear/smell?
It’s pretty industrial; lots of natural light, white walls, interesting lamps and a big chalkboard wall for ideas. I work alongside some great photographers – Oli Sansom, John Deer and Lilli Waters. So there is a great set up for photo shoots.
What’s something people might not know about your industry?
It can be easy to think talent comes naturally. Behind the scenes, I have been drawing every single day for the past few years to develop my skill. I like the quote, “You can be talented, but if you are not skilled, your talent will fail you”.
Take us through the Mads Francis creative process – do you have a favourite/least favourite part?
For my own personal work, I see something and am immediately inspired to create. If I’m looking to start something from scratch, I spend time gathering inspiration from books, Tumblr, or Instagram. It sounds weird but I watch a lot of motivational videos and listen to speeches from well-known entrepreneurs while I’m illustrating! For clients, I create a mood board, or create a range of sketches for them to choose [from]. My least favourite part of the process would have to be making changes to a finished image.
We noticed you used eyeliner in one of your recent illustrations! Do you use any other unusual tools?
I use whatever I think will create some sort of extra dimension – be it make-up, ink, or charcoal. My illustrations actually wear full faces of real make-up most of the time!
If you weren’t doing fashion illustration, what would you be doing?
I was studying fashion design when my career started to explode, so I would probably be sewing clothes!
What’s your advice for other up-and-coming art-repreneurs?
My dad taught me to always be ready for opportunity. It’s really important to practise every day, upload to social media regularly and be ready when opportunity knocks on your door.
Where will we find you next?
I am going to be at The Wild Collective in August, where I will be illustrating as well as selling my prints! I can’t wait. Until then, I’ll be keeping at it.
Mads Francis is an ambassador for The Wild Collective, August 15 & 16, Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne.