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Meet the DIY illustrator who uses YouTube to get real.
Illustrator Fran Meneses’s life motto is “Kuyashii”—a Japanese word used when one builds strength from proving others wrong. As a freelancer, Meneses was told early on that pursuing such a competitive field, in a competitive city like London, would be near to impossible. And yet, through her blossoming career and innovative collision of YouTube and art, she’s doing just that.
Chilean-born, U.K.-based, Meneses taught herself to illustrate while pursuing a degree in graphic design at Diego Portales University. From there, she moved to Berlin with her boyfriend-turned-husband, and opened a YouTube channel to document her life as a full-time freelancer. Her channel quickly gained a loyal following of both art enthusiasts—I could listen to her review pens for 30 minutes—and people looking for guidance and advice on the ever-complicated world of freelance.
Her warm personality, humor, and visible passion for her career has made her channel feel like a chat with a friend that ranges in topics from motivation to copycats, art supply reviews, and meetings with her cats, Hamberguesa and Cereal. In between writing her new book, to be published by Penguin Random House, and reviewing graphic novels with BooksandQuills, Meneses emailed with the Daily Dot about the power of YouTube, being true to your passion, and her big plans for 2017.
Animation is one of my favorite communities on YouTube, but it takes such work to make art online. How has using YouTube benefited your work as an illustrator?
I started YouTube because I noticed no one was talking about pens, pencils, markers, and illustration; or which sketchbook was better; or tips on how to be freelance. In the beginning, I saw YouTube as a more didactic way of explaining things (instead of writing a huge blog post, I could film a nice friendly video), show process or techniques (how I use watercolours, paper reviews, museum visits), and share a behind the scenes of my projects.
YouTube helps you connect with people more easily. You can see them, see where they work, listen to their voice, share with them. It happens to me with my favourite YouTubers, I feel connected with them, like we’re friends or we’re sharing a cup of coffee while I watch their videos.
Sometimes I receive comments saying, “You made me start drawing again,” or “I stopped drawing years ago because I was scared or too busy and now I’m painting again.” I feel so emotional every time.
Between the friendship book and the new products I’m going to launch soon on my Etsy shop, I’ve been working non stop lately, even weekends! But tomorrow OHHH NO, I’m going to enter couch potato mode and watch Gilmore Girls with Hamburguesa and Cereal (my cats) and draw and drink coffee ?? I miss you guys, I can’t wait to go back and post here and on youtube more often ?? are you watching @gilmoregirls this weekend? Any plans for tomorrow? 🙃 🐈
A photo posted by Fran Meneses (@frannerd) on
In what ways is pursuing illustrating more difficult than other genres on YouTube? And what’s your advice for young artists?
If there’s a “pro” on this matter, it is that there are less people talking about illustration, art, and animation than how-to videos, comedy, gaming or makeup/fashion videos. If I can be super honest, I don’t know if this is a good thing or not, because less people making videos about illustration means less viewers and a smaller community.
If your goal is to run a super successful channel, with millions of views, I don’t think the answer is behind an art-related channel. But my super honest advice to young artists: Do what you love and be as honest and true as you can. If you like bread (like we all do) and you want to dedicate your channel to bread, DO IT. There will be always a community and people passionate about all genres. YOU WILL FIND YOUR TRIBE, no matter what subject you’re interested in.
You don’t find real and true honesty on the internet every day, so when people find it, it’s like running into a unicorn.
What originally interested you in art?
I’ve always had a huge fascination with drawing and art in general. I think it was because I grew up among artists. My dad paints a lot and I’ve always loved the drawings my mom does when she talks on the phone. All my childhood heroines were fictional cartoon characters. We could only watch TV for one hour a day, so drawing was like extending the experience of my favourite female character. I could make them live longer in my imagination. I always wanted to create new worlds, characters, and stories, and drawing was something that felt natural.
What projects do you have going, both on YouTube and off, for next year?
I just released a new set of products for my online shop, and I’m also working on a new graphic novel/documentary about “adult friendship.” I realized there are not many books talking about friendship for adults, so I jumped into this adventure with my husband. He’s writing and I’m illustrating. It is going to be published in Spanish, so we hope we can publish it in English soon. Plus, next year, we want to publish Erinyes, a dystopian sci-fi graphic novel. I’d also love to go to Japan and draw another travel journal.
On YouTube, I’d love to keep doing “Let’s Draw Outside” challenges where I visit museums, parks, botanical gardens, cafes, or galleries and draw/sketch all day. Also, I’d love to try new art supplies and film a video on how to survive your tax return as a freelancer.
What do you love most about making videos?
I love sharing small and mundane moments of my daily life—like my favourite coffee shops, my office, or me taking the train when I go to London.
I love sharing all I know about illustration with my viewers. This is mainly because I know how expensive it can be going to university and then paying for workshops. I didn’t have the money to study illustration. People do wonderful things for me: They purchase my stuff on my online shop, they support my work on Patreon, and they write wonderful comments everywhere. So this is my way of giving something back.
Carly Lanning is a journalist who covers social media. Her work has been published by Psychology Today, NBC, Thrillist, and Ms. Magazine.