With over 70 thousand Instagram followers and growing daily, Melbourne illustrator Mads Francis speaks to UCIA about how her love for fashion illustration turned into a career and full time work.
Mads Francis 22, sits down and speaks to UCIA about her success through Fashion illustrating on Instagram and how she built a business around it. Mads who has been drawing, “since I was really little, I did not watch much TV, so I would pretty much just draw.” During high school, Mads studied three folio art subjects that allowed her to combine her love for fashion and illustration. She then went on to do further study of Styling and Fashion Design. It was during her time studying that her illustrations began to be noticed. “I started uploading my illustrations on Instagram and all of a sudden pop star Rihanna started following me and then it took off.” At first when all these famous people started to follow her on Instagram, she said, “I would fall off my bed. When someone famous reblogs my work I can get five thousand followers in that day. It is pretty crazy. It is how it all started and how I built a following.”
Mads not only illustrates but through her growing success has built a business around her work. She gained such a following that she would be flooded with emails and it, “turned into full time work and I guess I built a business. I do it all myself; I designed my own website and have become all these different job titles.” It sounds like a lot of work but Mads said she, “made myself learn to do it. I am up to silly hours doing it but do not even realise, because it is what I love to do.”
Mads has had a lot of popularity and success from her work including celebrities reposting and following her Instagram account. Her illustrations of Kim Kardashian have appeared in Life & Style Magazine and E news. Mads favourite people to draw are the Kardashians, but mostly Khloe Kardashian and Kendall Jenner. “Khloe Kardashian has reposted my stuff four times.”
The most memorable responses she has had from her work included Khloe’s hairstylist, Jen Adkin contacting her, “to do a drawing for Khloe for a present.” Mads has had a lot of success with the ability to travel overseas and work for a list of clients over there as well as do work for the Melbourne Housewives.
When asked about what work she enjoyed doing most, Mads simply replied with, “my own stuff, because you are not defined by a brief as there is a lot more freedom and flexibility. My website allows you to purchase my art work and I get a lot of custom work these days which allows a lot of contact between me and the clients. Ideally, down the track I would love to make my own prints and sell them.”
Social Media is how it all started for Mads with her Instagram and Twitter fan base growing daily. “I get most of my work from social media with Instagram and Twitter being the main platforms. Sometimes it is by word of mouth and networking in Melbourne.” When asked about the positive and negative impact of social media, Mads said, “I think it is definitely really positive but there is also the negative that comes with it. I had another illustrator block me, I am not sure why but I guess they must have thought I was copying them or something. People are really quite competitive. I did not think people would write mean comments, but they do. Most of it is positive and people do have nice things to say about my work.”
Mads has a studio in Richmond where she goes four days a week to draw. “I have a home office too, but was going crazy working from home.” Her studio consists of, “my drawing board and a bazillion Copic Markers. I have an inspiration board, where I update and keep fresh with what is inspiring me at the moment. I like to photocopy books and have magazine subscriptions to Vogue, RUSSH, Frankie and Porter Magazine.” Mads favourite and most inspirational place in the world is, “Berlin! I would probably want to live there. The street art and everything is amazing and so inspiring.” Travel and Tumblr also help keep Mads inspired and says she finds inspiration by, “going back through my travel photos of Europe and the US. I find inspiration from photos of ceilings and other random, weird stuff.” Mads finds it easy to stay motivated and said, “It is like an obsession to me, I thought I would have got tired of it by now but it is all I think about.”
Mads loves both fashion and drawing, so it comes to no surprise that Brisbane born, fashion illustrator, Megan Hess is an inspiration for her work. Hess is known for her fashion illustrations and her drawings for Sex and the City by Candace Bushnell and other popular brands. “Megan Hess she has been doing it for 20 years and to have such a sustainable career for 20 years is so admirable. She is pretty much my only inspiration.” Entrepreneurs and Lisa Messenger also inspire Mads to keep doing what she is doing.
In the future, Mads said she sees herself, “Overseas, living in the States or Europe, I am not sure which one. Somewhere more central as I feel we are so isolated over here. I would like to be working full time illustrating for big clients or going to all the fashion weeks and live illustrating.” Mads overall dream project would be, “to work for Chanel, Tiffany & Co or Bergdorfs. I would love to do a big billboard.” Mads favourite event to draw is the Met Gala and said, “The Met Gala is like Christmas to me. It is overwhelming because I want to draw everything!” Mads said this is definitely not what she thought she would be doing back in high school. “I had no idea what I was going to do. I wanted to work in fashion. People would ask me in high school and I thought if I could make a full time living as an artist that is what I would do any day of the week. I never thought you could actually make a living as an artist. I guess illustration is coming back in fashion.”
Mads Francis is constantly uploading new illustrations so to find out more, check out :