Interview by Madeleine Dore
Photography by Shannyn Higgins
Frances Cannon is a Melbourne artist exploring the mental and physical experience of being a woman in the 21st century. Unabashed to share the introspective, imperfect moments of everyday life, she champions a 'Self Love Club' and celebrates women's bodies – sweat, hair, dimples, and all.
Her refreshing work has grown a strong community of followers on Instagram and beyond.
'I want to be two artists at the same time. I want to be able to make work that is accessible, that anyone can see on Instagram, but I also want to create work for a gallery space. They should be able to intersect, and I think the art world is starting to recognise Instagram artists or illustrators as artists, too.'
Currently completing her Honours degree, Frances takes us into her studio and shares with us a typical day, what community means to her, as well as the ups and downs of being an artist.
I live with my boyfriend so when his alarm goes off I’ll usually get up because once I'm awake I can't go back to sleep. I will have a shower because I'm really groggy and sore in the morning, so I'll freshen up and have breakfast with my boy.
Breakfast is probably my favourite meal of the day. I will usually have one piece of toast with Vegemite and one with peanut butter and jam. I like coffee but not for breakfast, so I'll have a big pot of tea. We usually watch an episode of a sitcom and we work really hard to fit that in – if we are running late we panic about not having time for the TV show! We do binge on weekend mornings, but one episode on a weekday is a relaxing way to start the day and it’s uplifting and funny.
I don’t have class every day, but I take the train around 10.00am into the studio most days. I used to draw during the commute, but now I just listen to music and scroll through Instagram because I'll be drawing all day.
Once I get to the studio I do some painting or answer emails if I have my laptop. I don't plan much at all, I usually just start on whatever projects I'm working on at the time.
A lot of what I work on in the studio is a bit deeper than the body-positive work I put on Instagram, but it's all interrelated. I'm having to do a lot of reading for my thesis, so I might research other artists who have explored similar topics in their work such as Louise Bourgeois, Marlene Dumas, and Nancy Spero. That side of my practice is not my favourite, I prefer the actual making and the physical side of it, but they are both needed.
Food is very important, so I break for lunch around 12.30 or 1.00pm. Most of the time I bring my own lunch or I will grab something close-by. If it is a nice day, the studio will have lunch together on the grass, but if not we will just chill together. The community aspect of the studio is really important – I wouldn’t do well being all by myself and not seeing anyone, not talking to anyone. I'd be a very sad Francess.
Spending time with people, being honest with people and being honest through my artwork or just through a conversation really makes the days better.
Having such a large following on Instagram, I get requests to draw certain body shapes, but I found the best thing to do is what feels natural to me as an artist. A lot of the time that will relate to a lot of women, anyway.
If I am having a really shitty day and need to be doing more introspective drawings, when I put them out there, other women will say they are having one of those days, too. That seems to work better as opposed to me putting on a front and trying to draw what I think people want me to draw, which will end up not being authentic, anyway.
If I’m having a day where I’m feeling stuck, getting outside really helps because I might have been inside all day either procrastinating or working. Sometimes I can't even bring myself to sketch on those days though – it’s like a nothing day.
I'm getting better at not feeling too bad about nothing days because everybody has them and they are an important part of the creative process. Sometimes you have to let yourself have a day off.
I usually work in the studio until 4.30pm, or sometimes until six or seven, but I try and avoid the rush-hour train.
On a typical day I'll go home and relax for a little bit, watch a TV show and then I usually make dinner. I don't like falling into the woman-makes-the-food-role, but I do actually quite enjoy making dinner and it’s a fun part of the day. If I don't feel like it, I'll get takeaway.
I don't do as much in the evenings – I watch a lot of TV, or catch up on emailing if there is something I haven't done.
I want to be a bit more adventurous in what I do of an evening, so I’m trying to not go home as early. I've had the same routine for a long time and I’m getting a bit tired of it. It is quite stable though, and I can be emotionally unstable, so it's good to have a calming routine.
On a good day I usually go to bed at 10.30, but it's usually 11.30. I really like sleeping, I get so worn out.