Fran Caballero is a Glasgow-based illustrator whose playful drawings have pleased us for some time. This year alone, Fran has been featured in the latest Ladybeard issue, Popeye magazine and has created his first piece of homeware, the February Throw. It’s safe to say that Fran is, as he puts it, “living that not-awful-at-all freelance/bartender lifestyle”. That Fran followed a creative pathway comes as no surprise when the illustrator thinks back to his childhood. “I pretty much drew all the time as a kid but grew more interested and aware of illustration around secondary school, through Ed Banger Records LPs with artwork by So-Me. I bought my first graphics tablet around then,” the artist tells It’s Nice That.
Fran’s figurative body of work is an explosion of colour. His illustrations often focus on smaller details that have been taken from a larger picture — a hand holding a flower-filled hotdog or an EU umbrella shielding against stormy weather. “A lot of the time I’m driven by wanting to draw something particular, a craving for one individual aspect of the overall drawing. Then I decide how I can justify it or make it tolerable for other people to look at. The design process tends to be pretty lo-fi because the majority of it involves me sat behind my laptop. I try to make the initial stages as straightforward as possible,” he explains. Fran’s observational eye and knack for distinct quirks can often make his work feel like character studies, allowing the viewer a glimpse into the lives of the people in his drawings.
“I like the idea of my work being pretty blunt and unapologetic – like a terrible, macabre kind of physical comedy. I feel like a lot of my personal work begins with refining or focusing on something a bit naff, and letting everyone else take it in with me, a bit like sharing polished turds,” the illustrator says. Inclusivity is at the heart of Fran’s work. His instantly relatable illustrations often draw on life’s bleaker moments that have been experienced by the majority of us; a personal highlight is a somber-looking woman sitting at breakfast with a cigarette in one hand and a bent spoon of falling cereal in the other.
Despite the striking, bold colours of his illustrations, Fran doesn’t have a particular reference pool of colours and rather just alternates between them. “I don’t get too obsessive with particular palettes, sometimes I decide I haven’t made something yellow enough or everything has been too red, and then I work against or towards this in my next piece,” he says. By following his intuition, Fran ensures that he visually captures certain moods and atmospheres through hues as well as subject matters.
“I feel there is a pretty constant change in the way I finish or share work. I’m able to be more decisive when it comes to making those end-design decisions and take a lot more care in how I present the outcome to everyone. I do maintain that the most efficient way of making is often the best, and I’m closer to that than I have been before, so that’s a start.”