Q&A with an artist: Cristin April Frey (Cristin AF)

 

If there’s anything in life that I love more than coffee, it’s a strong dose of sarcasm and sass…and guess who has that in abundance? Cristin April Frey!

Cristin is known for her sweary colouring pages, and for her sassy lettering quotes. Read on to discover how this self-taught artist doodles colouring pages to empower and lift people’s spirits with cheeky (but totally relatable) quotes.

PS. She’s also generously gifted you 20% off everything in her Etsy store (link at the bottom of the post) and has given Creative Happy Life Club members a mega bundle of pages to enjoy.

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Q1. Who are you, and what do you do?

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I’m Cristin April Frey, aka Cristin AF.  In addition to being my initials, the AF also stands for what you think it means.

My motto in life is don’t just be you, be you AF. Whoever you are, love that and own it.  Put your whole heart into everything you are and be that passionately AF, and you AF.

I reflect that motto in my creations which are mainly textual based. I’m a typophile so words are my jam.  I love drawing and lettering sayings with sarcasm and sass, even if it’s offensive to others. I swear a lot since it’s frowned upon in daily life and I don’t swear during my day job, a lot of it comes through in my art.

I’m also a wife, step-mom, dog lover, an introvert teetering on the edge of being a hermit, horror movie lover, coffee addict, and a boxed wine connoisseur.


Q2. How did you start making art? Did you ever study a creative discipline(s) or are you self-taught?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve doodled and lettered. From decorating book covers in high school to taking notes in staff meetings at work, my notebooks were always full of drawings and designs. I remember being a little girl and wanting to ask my Mom a question while she was chatting on the phone. As I waited patiently for the call to end, I would sit next to her and watch her chat while doodling on the back of envelopes from a pile of mail and bills. I would be mesmerized with watching her and would forget what my question was by the time she got off the phone.

With the exception of high school art classes, I’ve never had any formal classes. 

I’m self-taught through lots of practice and I learn new techniques from YouTube tutorials and Skillshare videos. 

Q3. What does it mean to you to be an artist?

A blank page can be the scariest yet most exciting thing there is.

Someone who can create something from nothing is an artist. A blank page can be the scariest yet most exciting thing there is.

To be able to conquer that fear and channel that passion into something that visually speaks to others and raises emotions is a way to connect with people and show your strengths and vulnerabilities.


Q4. How long did it take for you to develop your signature style as an artist?

I don’t think I have a signature style yet. I’m always experimenting, learning, and improving. I gravitate towards monoline doodles and my niche is lettering and textual messages, but as far as style goes, it varies so much with what my mood is and how playful or serious I want the message to be.

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Q5. Can you tell us about your journey to becoming a published artist? Have you ever done any other jobs before becoming an artist?

I doodle as a way to relax. Several years ago, I posted some of my work to social media.  I had some encouraging comments and suggestions for me to open an Etsy shop and start selling my designs. After some thought and a lot of research, I made the leap to Etsy.

I was so embarrassed by my first coloring book that I went back and revised the entire thing and republished it.

Since all of my drawings were the black and white doodles, someone suggested I make them into coloring pages. That’s how my coloring books got started, and I self-published a handful to Amazon.

After that, I was so embarrassed by my first coloring book that I went back and revised the entire thing and republished it. It was super amateur and the drawings were awful but I’m glad I did it because I learned so much from the experience.

I haven’t published any more since then. Art and lettering is my side hustle so I have limited time. I still make coloring pages and bundles for digital download and I give out freebies in my newsletters. I may still make another book or two in the future after the kiddos I watch go off to school.

I currently work full-time as a nanny to my nephew and I also care for a toddler. My Bachelor degree is in Early Childhood Education, as well as 20+ years of my work experience. I also worked in retail and waitressing while I was going to school for my degree.

Plus, to make some extra income, I do virtual assistant work for another artist. I make that a priority so it takes a good chunk out of any free time I may get for my own art.


Q6. What inspired your business name?

Laziness. I chose my own name as my business name because then I wouldn’t have to register it and do all the research to see if there were other businesses out there that would sue me if I used the same name as them. But also because AF (my initials is part of my branding). So, Cristin AF Designs was created!


Q7What does your creative process look like? Where do you draw your inspiration from and what excites you most about the creative process?

My creative process is so wonky. I usually get an idea for a product and scribble it down in a list of a million other ideas. Then I research the hecking heck out of it. I spend all my time and excitement planning how I’m going to create the product and market it.

Then, when it’s time to start creating it, I’ve either lost steam or, more frequently than not, someone else had the same idea and got their product out before me. That’s when I usually give up so I don’t look like I’m copying them.

I’ve had so many projects wither and die in the boneyard of ideas.

Some days, it’s really deflating to my creative mind and other days, I just dust myself off and keep trucking. 

My inspiration for lettering comes from having bad days. When I need some cheering up, I like to go to Pinterest and find funny quotes that make me laugh. I have a board where I pin all my favorites and can reference later for inspiration.

Regular inspirational quotes like ‘outdream yourself’, ‘hustle hard’, or ‘be scared and do it anyway’ do nothing for me. They don’t make me feel better or want to improve myself. They’re so basic, overly used, and unoriginal. I like the quotes I can relate to and go, ‘Yep, that’s me. That’s what I’m feeling right now and it’s funny because it’s true.’ 

What excites me the most is when I letter those quotes, and someone shares them. That’s how I know there are others out there, like me, who have a twisted sense of humor or are having a bad day and needed cheering up.
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Q8. Have you every suffered from creative block or burnout?

Facebook and Instagram tend to make me feel inadequate and I start to develop imposter syndrome.

Yessss, like all the time. There are so many days where I need to be working and creating new things but what’s in my head isn’t transferring into what I expect it to look like.

Also, so many days where I WANT to create something but just don’t have the gumption. After long days of working, kids, chores, and personal life, I sit on the couch and just doodle.

I don’t have to think about what I’m making or if it looks right because it’s just doodling. You can usually tell how stressed I was when drawing the doodles by how intricate they are. 

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Then there are the days (and sometimes several weeks) where I’m just in a funk and don’t want to even think about making anything at all. That’s when I know I need a break from social media.

Facebook and Instagram tend to make me feel inadequate and I start to develop imposter syndrome. To get out of that slump, I like to take a break from social media and creating and go be creative in other ways, such as doing crafts with the kids.


Q9. What does your work space look like?

I do most of my work in the evenings after I’ve had a full day of work. I’m usually on the couch with my iPad with my husband next to me and we’re binging our favorite shows. 

I do have a desk which I don’t use much in case I need to do work from the computer.


Q10. Have you ever suffered with any struggles as an artist?

I struggle with socializing and being an introvert. Because of that, I never do craft shows or anything where I have to engage with strangers. I haven’t overcome it. Instead, I work around it.

I make all of my products digital or things that I can sell online. Being an introvert, I’m terrible at approaching people so I’m not very ‘salesy’ and awful at pitching my products.


Q11. Are there any any tools you simply can’t live without?

I don’t have a studio! My iPad and Apple Pencil are all I use and they can go with me wherever I am (which usually isn’t much further than the couch!).

Oh, and I also couldn’t live without my team of furry assistants (currently, two elderly rescue dogs) who are always snuggled up close by or at my feet.  You can often hear them snoring in my video tutorials.

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Q12. What things do you do in your day-to-day life to encourage personal growth as either an artist or an individual?

I literally can’t get enough of learning and some days I will get so lost in it.

I’m forever trying to improve myself as an artist/creator and as a small business. I literally can’t get enough of learning and some days I will get so lost in it.

I listen to podcasts about marketing, I subscribe to email newsletters to keep updated, I joined Skillshare to learn art skills, I watch YouTube tutorials, I sign up for any and all social media experts, and more. 

I’ve recently “learned” that I’m probably using all of this time learning and researching as an avoidance technique to get out of what actually needs to be done. Deep, right?


Q13. Are there any themes you try to capture in your art?

My themes for drawing are anything with repeating patterns such as mandalas because they’re the most relaxing to draw.

My theme for lettering is sarcasm. I also like to put parts of myself in my work so there are themes related to being an introvert, dealing with kids, being a woman, being plus-sized/body positivity, and generally just being yourself and not caring how others are going to judge you.

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Q14. What is your dream project? Have you got anything exciting in the pipeline you can tell us about?

I got an idea for a project about 2 years ago but until a few months ago, didn’t make the time for it. I’ve been working hard on it for several months and have been keeping quiet about it.

I’m currently working on this plus another project that I’m hoping to release along with it. I can’t say what they are but they’re both for learning how to do handlettering.


Q15. What do you love / you dislike most about your job?

  • LOVE: That I’m the boss and in charge of everything.

  • DISLIKE: That I’m the boss and in charge of everything. LOL!


Q16. What tips would you give to other artists that are looking to start making an income from their passion?

Just start. It will never be perfect. Put it out there and learn from any mistakes you make along the way. You can always go back and make improvements later but you will learn a lot from the process along the way.


 

Quick fire round 🔥

  • My most embarrassing EVER moment is...
    I’m super clumsy and fall a lot. But the most embarrassing one was when I was at a club in Italy. I was looking all cute and sassy in my dress and heels, drink in one hand, walking down a huge flight of stairs that were lit up like Saturday Night Fever. My ankle decided my confidence needed to be taken down a notch so it twisted and I tumbled down with my feet and dress going up in the air. The bartender felt so bad for me, he replaced my drink for me.

  • One thing that scares me is...
    My husband. Literally. He’s always hiding on me and jumping out at random times and scares me. It’s a silly game but I love it. I get him back a lot but not as good as he gets me.

  • If I could eat one meal for the rest of my life it would be...
    Bulgogi and Kimchi (Korean dish)

  • The artist that most inspires me is...
    I can’t pick just one! I’m inspired by black and white artists such as Mauro Martins, Ben Kwok, and Pavneet Sembhi. I’ve always been drawn to black and white design which is how I got started making coloring pages.

  • If I had to describe myself in 3 words, I would say I am... 
    Indecisive.

  • If I could travel to anywhere in the world it would be... 
    I’ve traveled quite a bit in my life because my Dad was in the Army and so was my ex-husband. I’ve also driven cross country twice. But one place I haven’t been and always wanted to visit is Greece.

  • My favorite book is...
    Back when I used to have time to read, I loved Chuck Palahniuk. My faves were Invisible Monsters, Rant, and Haunted.

  • My favorite band / solo artist / music genre is... 
    I love 90’s hip hop but anything I can shake my booty to is fun.

  • One thing people assume about me is…
    That I’m outgoing. I’m really not. I’m super shy and awkward when it comes to socializing.

  • My guilty pleasure in life is…
    Listening to true crime podcasts. I know, it’s dark and dreary but I’m addicted to anything scary.


 

Discover more of Cristin’s art 🎨

There are many ways to support Cristin as an artist if you enjoy her illustration or handlettering goodness, and don’t forget that she’s also generously gifted you 20% off in her Etsy store too!


 

Learn the art of lettering with Cristin

Has seeing Cristin’s beautiful lettering made you wish you could letter like her? Well, guess what….YOU CAN! As a little incentive to get your creative juices flowing, she’s given you 10% off anything in her shop* if you use the promo code kimAF. Here’s a taster of what you can learn:

Use promo code kimAF for 10% off anything in Cristin’s shop*

* Disclosure: Please note that this is an affiliate link, therefore if you use the promo code to make a purchase, I will earn a small commission – this does not affect how much you pay. Also, I will only ever use affiliate links for products I truly believe in :)


Cristin’s gift to Creative Happy Life Club members


Cristin has generously gifted members of the Creative Happy Life Club some of her super sassy and sarcastic doodles.

If you’d like to know more about how you can get brand new colouring and planner pages each month from myself, plus bonus goodies like these from Cristin, head here: Find out more about the Creative Happy Life Club membership.

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