Questioning Creatives


This article was written on 27 Feb 2013, and is filled under illustrators.

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Francesca Harris

Hello I’m Francesca; I work under the name Francesca Illustrates. I’m 24 and I live and work in the south of England. I’ve been working as a marketing designer since graduating almost two years ago, and freelancing in illustration in my spare time. I draw feminine creatures with ethereal features and papercut detailing. I then like to take these alien girls out of the page and into reality with models, beautiful locations and papercut costumery.


When did you decide you wanted to be illustrator?
I’ve always wanted to work in a creative field and as long as I’m designing, making, taking photographs; I’m content. I only really decided on Illustration during my Foundation course, it felt like getting back to basics, with a lot of scope for experimentation.

Would you recommend studying at art school?
Yes absolutely. I loved being surrounded by like-minded people, in all forms of design, who will push you and your practice so much further than you could on your own. I went to the Arts University Bournemouth, which is such a fun and inspiring place to be, and studying BA Hons Illustration helped me recognise what it was I wanted to focus on and where my strengths were. Saying that, I think it’s important to realize that you are in charge of what you want to do and the type of illustrator you want to be, and being committed and proactive is so important for making the most of art school – and good practice for the real world.


How long was it before illustration became your primary form of income?
Illustration is definitely not my primary source of income! I still feel like I’m figuring out my style and testing the water in terms of selling my work commercially. I do think that illustration informs everything I do in my job though. I do not have graphic design training but offer perhaps a more unique, illustrative insight into what the client may want or need. It seems to be serving me well!

Could you describe your typical day?
My job is a typical 9-5 Monday to Friday deal – there is a huge amount of variety within that though! I could be organising and running photo shoots of new products, to designing the brochures and catalogues in which to put the photos. I work on the websites, creating coding and designing from scratch. I also design the packaging for the products. It is all brilliant experience for learning the commercial side of design. When I’ve finished work, I will come home and work on my illustration commissions. I generally only accept work that I have been approached for, rather than answering call outs or entering competitions, as I’ve begun to realize the end doesn’t always justify the means. When I have some time between work and commissions, I work on new designs!

What do you wish you’d known when you first started out?
I think I was always aware how difficult the industry was, and art school does form a protective bubble around you, so leaving that is very hard. I think being able to be commercial is incredibly important, and something that is not always stressed enough at art school. My advice would be to use art school to be as creative as you can, to push boundaries and make mistakes – it’s the only time that you can get away with it. So, learning all the software, and honing your craft is incredibly important.


What’s the best thing about being an illustrator?
I love being able to be creative, and experimental with my work. I also like seeing people’s reactions, though that can also be terrifying. I also love the fact I could happily sit and wile away the hours sketching and planning and not even notice. There is no clock watching or boredom, I just love what I do!

What’s the worst thing about being an illustrator?
I would love more time to draw what is floating around in my head, or to take what I have drawn and recreate it in a photograph. Real life (and the weather) can get in the way though!

If you weren’t an illustrator, what would you be?
I’d still have to be designing and making, I would love to learn how to make clothes and jewellery so I think I would go down that route.

Any other tips you could share?
Well this is a bit obvious, but Twitter and Tumblr are my go-to for up-to-date illustrative news, and they both are a great way of getting feedback and building up a community. Everyone should be on them!



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