Meet the 2023 Mentees: Francesca Gresch

23 January 2024

Francesca Gresch is an illustrator and picture book maker, who tells whimsical stories that touch on themes of mental health, wellbeing and inclusivity.

She often combines her  illustrative work with material such as textiles, book art and paper cutting as an additional, immersive layer for storytelling. But with creative freelancing often being quite a lonely venture, Fran decided to apply for Creative Edinburgh Mentoring to help her career even further.

What were your initial expectations/plans for your creative practice when joining the programme?

On starting the mentorship, I would say I had rather scattered plans and ideas on how to grow my business, and one of the challenges I kept facing was how to put these into practice in a realistic and productive way. I therefore, applied mainly with the intention of understanding and developing a healthier and more solid foundation to keep growing my business upon. My mentor has helped me understand ways of focusing on the aspects that are important to me as a creative, and implementing these as part of my artistic practice.

Share a standout moment or experience from the programme.

During the start of the programme, I was going through a rather tough time dealing with burn-out and doubting my creative capabilities. As much as I wanted to speak to my mentor about ways I could grow a ‘healthy’, profitable business, my mentor understood that I had to firstly prioritise my mental wellbeing and interests. She helped me reignite a spark with my work that I hadn’t felt in so long. After I had mentioned that I enjoyed going for walks in nature to wind down, she suggested I try out an exercise in which I would dedicate 30 minutes a week or every couple of days to draw trees. This was a low-pressure exercise, so I drew when I felt like and kept these drawings mostly to myself, eliminating the pressures of social media and expectations. This allowed me to draw freely, without worrying about the final outcome or how the artwork could be monetised for my business and to simply enjoy the process of creating again.

Describe your relationship with your mentor. What did you find most valuable about working with them?

I think what I’ve valued the most is the chats and conversations we’ve had about shifting my mindset and priorities from utilising my illustration simply ‘to make money’ to a more well-rounded and fruitful career, maintaining the passion for the work, having realistic expectations, time management and above all being kinder with myself and what tasks I set for myself.

Why do you think mentoring and programmes like this are important for early career/emerging creatives? What makes this programme unique?

These programmes definitely help alleviate a lot of the pressure we put on ourselves as creators. From my experience, they’ve helped me set realistic goals and understand better where to focus my time and energy. It’s been a reflective time, where I’ve started to discover aspects of myself and my creativity.

This mentoring experience has been educational, and eye-opening. I think that each step and day of being on this creative journey is to be appreciated, even the slower days that feel less productive, are necessary and more beneficial than they seem. Julie has shared so much practical and creative knowledge with me, for which I am so thankful! Probably the key takeaways would be to 1. remind myself that as long as what I am doing feels right and contributes to my business’s end goals, it should be embraced.  2. Do something you want to do (not what you ‘should be’ doing) 3. All in all, be more more understanding of myself.

How do you believe the experiences gained from this mentorship programme will influence your career and creative trajectory moving forward?

I definitely feel that my Mentor has provided ways for me to take a step back when things start to become overwhelming (which happens very often) and remind myself that the chaos is something I am devising in my mind. There has been a lot of focus on understanding what values are important to me as a creative and what of these I should be aiming to achieve within my business goals. Overall I think it’s provided me with a very healthy outlook on what ‘success’ could mean, in order to maintain a healthy balance for my creativity and business to work hand-in-hand and keep growing.

Have you got any exciting projects/news that you would like to share with the community?

I have been working on two new children’s books with Merlin Publishers in Malta over these last few months, which I am very excited to share with everyone! I’ve also recently worked with the lovely team over at A Play, A Pie and A Pint, in creating their Autumn Season artwork, which I am so grateful for! Apart from this, I’ve been busy working on some new products for my online store launch - this has taken longer than anticipated but in the spirit of being kinder to myself, if it needs more time so be it! 


The Creative Edinburgh Mentoring Programme is open for applications until January 30 2024. Apply here.