Meet Frances Cannon, an illustrator leading a body positive revolution

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This winter, during a really terrible mental phase of my life, I started ruthlessly hating my body again, the way I had in early high school. Then a good friend of mine showed me Frances Cannon's Instagram.


There in a string of images were small line drawings of nude women doing things. There they were reading. There they were dripping blood out of their vaginas. There they were dancing in a circle like magical faeries. Her drawings are simple and clean and in their simplicity they gain power. The power of loving yourself for who you are and can be.


In France's drawings I saw women dancing and hunching and celebrating themselves. In their sometimes obvious display of bodily function, her drawings reminded me that my body is something to be proud of, even when it's icky. I'm not the only one. More than 50,000 people follow Frances Cannon, an Australian art student, and her drawings on Instagram.

Frances was born in Australia, and lived the majority of her life in Thailand, but when she talks about her work, she doesn't talk about spaces—she talks about feelings. In her drawings you see women jubilant, women sad, women consumed by their own body. It's emotional, engaging work, even though it's simple.

I interviewed Frances about her powerful drawings, who inspires her, and how she's rediscovered Shania Twain.

When did you start making art?

I've been drawing ever since I remember! I always loved art as a kid and have always wanted to pursue it. I started studying art at a university level three and a half years ago.


What artists inspire you both professionally and personally?

The artists I look up to at the moment are Louise Bourgeois, Marlene Dumas, Ana Mendieta and Nancy Spero. Some fellow Instagram artists that I love and look up to are Gemma Flack, Tuesday Bassen, Phoebe Wahl, and Lizzi Morris.


You have a very distinct style—especially in the way you draw women and their bodies. How did it evolve?

It evolved very naturally, from years of drawing and practicing and working hard. I have many influences that have fed into my practice but I have worked hard to be original and make unique work.


Can you tell me how the Self Love Club got started?

I got it as a personal tattoo a while back and decided to share it and invite people to join the "Club." Its been amazing how popular its gotten.


What does your artistic process look like?

I draw a lot. I'm always working in my sketchbook or taking photos. I tend not to think too much when I'm creating something—I just let it flow out instinctively and see what happens! I find this way of working very exciting and authentic.


What culture are you consuming right now that inspires you?

I have been watching Orange Is the New Black, and find it quite powerful. I also enjoy Game of Thrones. TV shows that feature powerful women as main characters (instead of the romantic interest) are important to me. Beyoncé is my most favorite person, and I adore her new album. Especially the track "Sorry" as it is just so unapologetic (pun intended) and powerful.


I've also recently rediscovered Shania Twain (haha), no but for real, some of her songs are so GIRL POWER especially the songs "Man, I Feel Like a Woman" and "She's Not Just a Pretty Face."

You're in university right now, right?

I'm studying Fine Art and am currently doing my Honours year (fourth year of study). I'm using university to broaden my artistic practice before I try and make it on my own as an exhibiting and practicing artist.


People get your art tattooed on their bodies. When was the first time this happened and what does it mean to you?


My best friend Lizzi was the first person other than me to get my work tattooed on her body (I also have a piece of her work tattooed on me)! When I started gaining more followers, people started being interested in getting my work tattooed. A lot of people ask me to design custom work for them, which is really fun as these tattoos are usually very personal and special. I love doing that (although it can be a lot of work!)

What does body positivity mean to you? Have you always been body positive?

I haven't always been body positive, but once I discovered the movement (on social media and through people I knew) I couldn't deny it's power! Loving yourself unapologetically is SO POWERFUL!


Why did you decide to draw women's bodily fluids? Why do you think that's important?


My work is so often based on personal experiences and common experiences of many other people. I think it's very important to challenge the stigma surrounding periods, and other bodily functions that women and humans go through. The fear and policing of bodies (particularly bodies of women and non-binary people) is dangerous and outdated. It needs to be challenged and talked about in order to provoke change.

Do you get criticism or hate for the work that you do?

I get criticism especially if I draw something that is socially considered gross or unappealing (like body hair or period blood). I usually ignore or block trolls, I haven't got time for that kind of negativity in my life, and I'm not going to let some random person on the internet influence my artwork and what I love doing.


For more of Frances Cannon's work, follow her on Instagram.

Kelsey McKinney is a culture staff writer for Fusion.

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