Made with Envato: Creating Digital Art with Frankie Lee Mwah

Looking for Instagram inspiration? Learn how digital artist Frankie Lee Mwah uses Envato Elements to make her Insta feed sparkle.

Made With Envato: Creating Digital Art with Frankie Lee Mwah
Portrait for Kelsie RimmerBy Kelsie Rimmer  |  Updated March 24, 2021

If you’ve not heard of Frankie Lee Mwah, allow us to introduce one of the most vibrant Instagram creatives we’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. A talented digital artist with some serious social media skills, Frankie’s unique and quirky work sparkles in a sea of online content. And as many of her creative projects are #MadeWithEnvato, an unlimited subscription to Envato Elements is one of the most important parts of her design toolkit.

Start creating today with Envato Elements #madewithEnvato

Starting out her career working as a part-time photographer in between corporate jobs, Frankie’s flare for creativity really blossomed when she began dabbling in digital art. Now, the devout Photoshop lover’s imagination know no bounds, spilling out into every aspect of her life, from her eccentric artwork to her ability to curate the perfect Instagram feed.

Known for her colorful collages, fashion mashups and fun, vibrant personality, Frankie’s work is all about saying NO to the status quo, and creating distinctive, uplifting art that stops thumbs, catches eyes and puts a smile on her followers’ faces.  

We sat down with the gal behind the grid to get the inside scoop on how she uses Envato Elements to create her amazing work, as well as her top tips and tricks for making your Instagram content sparkle

Your work is so unique! What’s your artistic background and how did you get into digital art?

I didn’t start out in an artistic space – in fact, I still work a corporate job. However, in the last 10 years, I’ve found time in the evenings and weekends to side hustle as a photographer and I absolutely love it!

Digital art delivers so much more than a simple photo ever could. Combining my love of both photography and digital art just made sense. 

Frankie Lee Mwah

Having said that, my entry into the digital art world was long overdue. I really should have made the switch years ago. I love photography; I will take my camera with me to the grave. But with photography, you do end up just taking the same photo over and over again. Digital art delivers so much more than a simple photo ever could. Combining my love of both photography and digital art just made sense. 

What’s the meaning or mission of your work?

I wish I could tell you my work has some beautiful articulate political meaning, but it doesn’t. I’m a joker. Making people smile is my ultimate end goal. You don’t even have to like it, but if you laugh – I’m happy.

My art is very tongue in cheek. It’s sometimes weird, but it provides a fun look at the world. I’m particularly fond of taking professional fashion photography and turning it into something a little lighter than intended. My recent favorite was editing a photo of fashion model Birgit Kos to have her carry a giant fish across a beach. Makes zero sense, but it made you look and smile!

Your work features so many colours, textures and layers. How do you achieve your signature collage style?

Photoshop. Photoshop. Photoshop! It is fundamentally the greatest program ever created, and without it I would be very bored and talentless.  

The thing that predominantly features in my work is a combination of photography and vectors. In theory, the two should never work together, but I love the collage effect they create. After all, rules were meant to be broken!

I spend a lot of time with each element within Photoshop, and the beauty of the program is that I can essentially customize anything I want. Once everything is cut and sliced to perfection, I just piece it together like a jigsaw.  

Some projects have upwards of 150 layers in Photoshop to achieve the final result, which makes for some lengthy save times and supremely large files. God bless external hard drives!

How do you get your ideas from your imagination to Instagram?

That’s a good question. I sometimes wake up from a design fest to find work has just manifested itself like a scene from Memento. To begin, I have a stack of ideas that I write down and review periodically. I have some cracking ones that I just haven’t had the patience to attempt lately, but will work on those soon. 

When I have time to create, I will go through the list and something will usually jump out at me.  Then I just follow those same instincts during creation. Generally if you are feeling good about the start of a piece, it comes together quite quickly, so it helps to have that initial passion for it.

I get a lot of inspiration and support from the network of artists online. Witnessing their successes helps keep me motivated and inspired. Creation breeds creation.

Frankie Lee Mwah

As artists we are so lucky to have apps like Pinterest and Instagram to fuel our inspiration. I get a lot of inspiration and support from the network of artists online. Witnessing their successes helps keep me motivated and inspired. Creation breeds creation.

How does Envato Elements help you create your work? What’s the best thing about Envato Elements for creatives?

Whatever I need, Envato Elements has it. Correction… With the exception of images of Rosie Huntington-Whiteley in a bikini, Envato Elements has pretty much everything I need for my art.

Let me explain. If I dream up an art piece that has a model wearing an octopus as a hat, I can be pretty sure I can get all the pieces I need to bring it to life via Envato Elements.

Whatever I need, Envato Elements has it.

Frankie Lee Mwah

The best thing about Envato Elements is that I know I’m not hurting another artist or stealing their work to create my own. I can legally obtain everything and can keep track of all my licenses. No one gets hurt, and that makes good wholesome art!

What items do you use the most? How do you bring them to life?

I am a vector fiend. Sometimes I’ll create something just because I loved a vector on Envato. I even have a collection on my account called ‘LOVE’, full of vectors I want to use in the future. I create my own vectors sometimes, but I get most of my vectors from other artists on Envato. Saves me time and the artist gets paid.

I also use stock photography, fonts and music. There are approximately 50 million images to choose from, upwards of 10,000 fonts and something like 50,000 audio tracks, so there is a good chance I can find what I need.  

How does Elements fit into your creative toolkit? What other programs, tools or techniques do you use to create your work?

Usually Envato Elements comes into the art creation process after I have an idea. I immediately go and hunt for items that fit my vision. But sometimes visiting Envato Elements is the start of the creation process. This is when I find something within the extensive archives of Envato Elements, that stirs up my creative juices.  

Ice Cream Love” is a good example of that approach. I found an image of an ice cream within the vaults of the Envato Elements Stock Photography library and I just knew what I was going to do with it. Within the hour I had the piece together and a complementary IGTV video to boot.

I use a few other royalty free image sites as a resource for images including Unsplash and Pexels. They are a little bit like Flea Markets because you have to rummage around to find the good stuff, but there are diamonds amongst the daisies in some cases.

As for programs, my one true love is Photoshop. I have already touched on using Photoshop, but it bears repeating. There really is nothing that it cannot do and every day I learn something new that helps me create.  

Would you recommend other artists to use Envato Elements?

I would 100% recommend other artists use Envato Elements simply because the range of assets available is incredibly diverse. As a designer and artist, I can go from creating clinical business designs for clients, to creating flat out helter skelter collage art using the one platform (and subscription) to get all my assets. It saves everyone a ton of time and money.

I would 100% recommend other artists use Envato Elements… It saves everyone a ton of time and money.

Frankie Lee Mwah

I also love using Envato Elements for the peace of mind that I am being a law-abiding citizen. You may laugh, but it terrifies me that I might unwittingly create a legal scandal because of an asset I used in one of my artworks. It would unsettle me if my work upset or hurt another artist. That is not why we create. We are a community so we have to take care of each other.  

If I download from Envato Elements, I am reassured that I can freely use any asset that I need to within the boundaries of the license.  

Where do you sell or promote your work?

I actually don’t sell the work that I promote on my Instagram, which sounds irresponsible as an artist. I probably should.  

You can sometimes lose focus on why you do things when you attach a dollar figure to the final creation. In the past I have stopped loving the craft when a price tag was attached.  

Instead, I actually design Instagram feeds for other people. Purely because I love the jigsaw and the finished look of a well maintained Instagram Feed, and someone needs to keep Instagram beautiful! I’m just doing my bit for the world.

I have been featured in exactly ZERO campaigns so far, but I just know that Disney will call any day now and offer me an opportunity of a lifetime. Or not… either way, I’ll be over here doing what I love.

Do you have any exciting creative projects on the go at the moment?

I always have so many projects on the go. But the thing that I so desperately want to do is teach. So I have been working on a super fun, easy breezy, Photoshop Book for Photographers.

I obviously love Photoshop, but I feel like a lot of other photographers and artists shy away from using the program because it seems terrifying.

I think the reason why Photoshop is considered to be difficult to learn is because it can do so much. Therefore the gap between what the user knows and what is still left to learn is quite large. This can create a great deal of overwhelm, which is why a lot of photographers and artists prefer programs like Lightroom and Procreate. They essentially do a lot less, but can be mastered a lot more easily.

My first Photoshop book will be aimed at Photographers who want to learn Photoshop. My goal is to remove the overwhelm by breaking down the functions that Photographers will actually use and removing all the ‘tech speak’ – no one likes ‘tech speak’.

And of course it will all be delivered in my quirky ‘Frankie Style’ to make the learning process engaging and fun.

What’s the biggest learning you’ve had from becoming a digital artist?

My biggest learning from becoming a digital artist is to not take yourself too seriously. It is just art.

When you take your work too seriously you get hell bent on finding perfection. Which, SPOILER ALERT, doesn’t exist. And looking for perfection makes you afraid to make mistakes.

Mistakes are like GOLD. If you’re not making them, you’re not improving. And that’s just going to make your work plateau.

In the past, as a photographer, I spent more time polishing my work and never posting it for the world to see. I had this belief that if it wasn’t perfect that people wouldn’t accept me or my art. I never got better, because I never attempted anything that I didn’t think I could do successfully. 

When I embraced digital art, I found the freedom to make mistakes. Knowing that the mistake would actually be the thing that helped me grow, learn, and be better.

So my advice to anyone starting out is to make a ton of mistakes. Own them. You’ll soon realise that it is not the judgement of others you fear, but the judgement of yourself. 

When I embraced digital art, I found the freedom to make mistakes. Knowing that the mistake would actually be the thing that helped me grow, learn, and be better.

Frankie Lee Mwah

Feeling inspired? There’s more where that came from! Check out our Made with Envato interview with Pop Artist Peppy Colours or step Inside 3D Illustration with Amrit Pal on the Elements Blog.

Or head over to Envato Elements to start creating today!

Frankie is an Envato partner. All opinions provided within this interview are their own.

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