Frankie_Cadillac has loved illustration since childhood, when he first began experimenting with his style by drawing the cartoon characters on his favorite television shows. These days, he works from home as a fulltime freelancer on 99designs and loves the flexibility that comes with setting his own hours and choosing the projects he wants to work on.

We chatted with Frankie about his advice for aspiring illustrators, his creative process and the artists who inspire him.

Name: Frankie Pantoja
99designs handle: Frankie_Cadillac
Location: Mexico
Specialty: Mascots, characters & illustration

frankie cadillac
Children’s sticker
Tell us a little about yourself.

Hello awesome 99designs community! I’m Frankie from Yucatán—that´s in Mexico. I have a career in graphic design, but I majored in illustration.

I think I first fell in love with design when I was a little boy watching cartoon shows like Dragon Quest and Dragon Ball. I noticed that both of them were made by the same guy, Akira Toriyama.

He had a unique and beautiful art style that you can recognize at first glance. That made me say, “I wanna be like him when I grow up. I wanna design characters that when people look at them they say, ‘Oh, this one was definitely made by Frankie.'”

I´m not at that point yet [laughs], but I practice 24/7 to improve my work.

How did you develop your style? Were there other artists who inspired you?

I like to think that my “style” is sort of chamaleonic and can adapt to any project—from cartoonish to a more realistic styles to John Kricfalusi, Genndy Tartakovsky, Tesuya Nomura or Akihiko Yoshida…

I´d like to think that I can copy any style and develop a design of my own. That came from when I was a little boy drawing “Goku” or “Ren & Stimpy” while watching their cartoon shows. It’s helped to experiment with all these art styles that I happened to like or find interesting.

I don’t consider myself to have a unique style… it´s more like a mixture of all these great artists’ styles that have influenced me throughout my life. But I keep on looking for it!

You often show your initial sketches when submitting to contests. Can you talk a little about your creative process?

Well, first I do a deep study of the client´s brief. Since English is my second language, I often have to look up the meaning of some words to understand it better.

Once I fully understand the client brief, I make at least ten different sketches using different solutions, until I find one that I´m happy with. Or in some cases, I make more than one that could work. I polish those and submit them to the client.

If we have time, I usually make semifinal versions with colors. If the deadline is over, I just submit the pencil art to see if we’re on the right track. Depending on what the client says about my entry, I’ll make the final version (or versions if I submitted more than one).

frankie cadillac
Zombies process
What’s the one design tool you can’t live without?

Something to draw on. It doesn’t matter if it’s a piece of paper or a napkin! I love to draw all the time and I do it on anything I can. As long as I at least have a pencil, I’m happy. [laughs]

How did you discover 99designs?

Years ago I saw an advertisement about 99designs on another website. I clicked on it, read about how it works and I told to myself, “I should try this. This looks awesome.” And from that point everything changed. I became a freelancer.

I didn’t have to go to an office or have a horrible boss. I could choose my own working hours, pick the projects I liked and (most importantly) my designs are seen all over the globe thanks to the opportunities I’ve gotten from 99designs.

Today I work from home on my own schedule, with amazing clients doing what I love most: illustration and design.

Process sketches for Cow, Pig and Chicken in a Bar
frankie_cadillac designer
 You choose very diverse projects to work on. What usually attracts you to a design project?

Anything that involves illustration or character design—that´s what I love and what I like to do. And thanks to 99designs, I can work on those projects.

What advice would you give to aspiring illustrators?

“The circumstances of one’s birth are irrelevant; it is what you do with the gift of life that determines who you are.”

That quote is from freakin’ Mewtwo from Pokémon, and I say that to myself everyday. So illustrators, use those words and follow your dreams. Never let anyone—including yourself—say that you’re not good enough, because someday you’re gonna change the world. So keep on working and dreaming.

frankie cadillac
Karate-inspired coloring book illustration for kids
What’s one thing you wish more design clients knew?

That good designs require time. Impossible deadlines make impossible design quality. [laughs]

Do you have any exciting projects in the works right now?

Every project is an exciting project, because I´m doing what I love. Right now we’re making stuff for video games, apps and toys and it’s a really amazing experience.

frankie cadillac
Strongman character
And just for fun…
  • What’s your favorite food? Pizza is love, Pizza is life
  • What music album do you listen to on repeat? All Frank Sinatra’s albums
  • What are your hobbies (other than design)? I collect comics, mangas and retro videogames
Want to work with Frankie_Cadillac?
Check out his profile for more awesome mascot and character designs