Despite it’s annoyances, Instagram is most rewarding when you discover something (or someone) that both inspires and delights you. It is where I discovered the work of illustrator Frida Wannerberger. I have a hard time describing her work–it has a naive, imperfect elegance about it that makes me smile. And it is completely unlike any other fashion illustration work I’ve seen (most takes itself too seriously and misses the whimsy of it all). I feel like Frida is close to her tipping point and her work is going to become a lot more familiar to a much larger audience. Of course, this London-based artist couldn’t be more lovely. Here she shares how she started her career–very early by drawing on her walls, what inspires her and the importance lipstick can play in being creative.
How would you describe what you do? I do illustration and the subject I do tend to do is clothes, costume, or fashion. I never really planned to be a fashion illustrator. I’m interested to see what I’m going to do in the future.
How did you get into illustration? I have always, always, always been drawing. My mom is really creative, she encouraged me and my brother to be creative as well…we used to draw on the walls…. After I graduated high school I wanted to do fashion and I knew Saint Martin’s [in London] was the best school. I did my foundation degree there and after that I tried to get into study women’s wear. You know when you have an idea of what you want to do, but it doesn’t feel great? I missed the deadline for applying for women’s fashion, and I was having dinner with a friend and she was like ‘Why don’t you apply to graphics?’ I was like ‘Graphic design? Ew.’ But I just did it and got a call from the course leader the day after who said I was on the waiting list. Then I got a place. I really enjoyed it. It was a really good way to get into illustration but also get layout, a sense for story telling and text, a bit of animation.
I was still hanging out with my friends from the fashion foundation. I did a lot of my projects around their collections. I found I could still keep the interest that I had in fashion and do my own illustration projects. That’s how it happened.
After I graduated I sent some drawings to the Somerset House in London which is a gallery that does a lot of fashion exhibitions. They had one about Isabella Blow and I had done drawings of her. They bought the drawings and used them for the merchandise for the exhibition. That gave me a lot of confidence. I thought ‘Hey, I can do this. This is cool.’
What do you love about doing illustration? I can look at things that inspire me or that I click with and create work around that. It gives you a lot of freedom.
What inspires you? In general it’s everyday life–when you talk to your friends, go out in London, go looking at shops. And just being free and not having to commit to anything really; when you feel like you have a free state of mind on a really deep level, I suppose.
I also take a lot of inspiration from Switzerland and Sweden where I grew up. My mom loves collecting furniture and we have a lot of old furniture from the family going back generations, so I’ve always been surrounded by a lot of old things, craft things. Definitely craft and detail and colors come into my work. I lived in Switzerland before I moved to London cause my mom moved there for work. All the buildings are really light and cream colored, pink. That filtered into what I associate with home.
How do you describe the women that you draw? Some of them are a bit dreamy, I suppose. But I really want for some of them to have a bit more of an edge. The way I see it is there’s a story around them that you don’t necessarily see. They’re taken out of context so it’s up to the viewer to make up this story around them. It’s like old Victorian portraits that had fake backgrounds. Except mine don’t have backgrounds so you can sort of imagine it yourself.
What came easiest for you when you started your illustration career? I’ve never really struggled with finding what to do next. Speaking to some of my friends, they struggle with what direction to go. That’s never been a problem for me.
Why do you think that? I’m quite an introverted person. To an extent I just do my thing and never really open up to listen to doing things other ways. It’s not always a good thing, but in that way it feels like I have my direction.
What was the hardest thing about starting out? The whole way of just surviving and to knowing how to be freelance, an artist, and maybe the balance between being an artist and doing commercial work. How to position yourself in the industry. After you graduate you have to just figure it out yourself and that is not easy. Even if you think it’s going be tough, you have no idea how hard it is.
Attribute that helps you succeed: I think I’m quite good at understanding what people need, in a way that I think I can adapt my way of communicating to people. I hardly ever get annoyed with clients or people. I feel like there has to be a way of communicating. You have to find the right wavelength. I think I can do that quite easily without feeling that I am stepping away from my own personality or stepping away from my own goals. I just see it as a way of getting to the point quicker.
What motivates you? That’s a hard one. It varies from day to day. Sometimes it’s just staying alive. Then other days … London is a great city and you go out, you see so many wonderful things and you feel fired up and you’re like ‘Yeah, this makes sense.’ Then everything’s sort of like ‘Oh, this is why I’m doing this.’
Role model: My mom. She’s very creative and determined. She’s always very kind and understanding. She’s never someone who would judge anyone. She sees the best in everything, constantly, and I just admire that so much.
Best career advice you received or that you would share with others: Actually, the best advice that I got is a really silly one but for me now it makes sense, which is wear something you love. I was talking to someone about going for an interview and they said ‘just wear something that you feel really, really good in and just feel very confident’. And I think that’s true all the time. Even if you work at home and if you’re struggling, just taking a step back and maybe put on lipstick or do something that makes you [feel good]. Then you realize ‘This is my aim’. Sometimes you just take too many steps in the wrong direction because you’re losing sight of what you’re actually trying to achieve. So becoming that person that you want to be, that confident person. If you can find a shortcut to becoming that person, that will also guide you when you’re working.
Has social media effected on your work? 100% yes. In many ways. First of all, I think that more people have seen the work, which led to me start selling work, which changed the way I had to work completely. I used to do a lot of collaging and digital work, sort of piecing stuff together, especially with line drawings and stuff. Then people got very confused when I said that I didn’t have the original [to sell]. I was feeling super, super stressed about how to categorize my own work. I had to produce original pieces.
The other thing is that when you post things that you like a lot yourself but it doesn’t get as many likes, it’s really hard to get over.
Three words that describe you: Analytical, methodical, determined.
Three words that describe your work: Delicate and detailed but I’m not sure about the third one. Maybe dreamy but it’s a half-way-there word.
Life goals: To be healthy and kind.
Daily goals: To try to stay focused and get things done so you have time to do other things as well. That’s important.
Daily rituals: I love yogurt with peanut butter in it. I have it for breakfast.
Favorite books/motivational reads: I’m just reading now The Empress of Fashion about Diana Vreeland. It’s very inspiring.
Do do you unplug? Having sparkling wine with my illustrator girlfriends is the best thing, which we’re doing tomorrow. I’m so excited.
Hidden talents/hobbies: I am really, really trying to see if I can discover some! I’m trying to get better at baking. Since this summer, I’ve been making bread, bread buns and things.
Do you collect anything? I would collect coats if I had more space to keep them. It is the one thing I buy and sometimes return just to be sure that I’m not missing an opportunity. If I’m not sure about a coat I buy it and wear it at home for a week and then decide. They are so important! Especially in London you pretty much live in them. They have to be like winter dresses.
Album currently on repeat: I get so frustrated with the interface of Spotify that I can’t use it without becoming super stressed.. If I listen to music it’s either the Swiss Classical Music radio or the French radio station FIP.
When I draw I usually listen to lectures or debates. Right now I am going through all the London School of Economic’s public lectures on YouTube.
Scent that brings back memories: Freshly baked saffron buns! They remind me of Sweden and family.
Lucky charm: I have an orange enamel Hermès bracelet I got for my 18th birthday that I wear almost every day. It goes with everything and adds a little color. It has the horse and carriage symbol on it, and it almost looks a bit (fake) Egyptian which I like.
Favorite hour of the day: Totally 7:30 am. It’s the most serene hour, where you have the whole day ahead of you.
Follow Frida: Instagram.