Several years ago, before 10s of 1000s of people shared her design work, when “FEWOCiOUS” was just a tough-love chat room nickname lobbed around by older gamers, Victoria didn’t exactly have a clear-cut path to internet fandom.
An abusive household led to court dates and custody battles. Eventually, the Las Vegas native moved in with her grandparents, sidestepping danger only to collide with different obstacles — new school blues and strict anti-internet guardians chief among them. Lonely cafeteria meals and screenless weekends left few options for distraction. So, like countless generations of pre-2000s kids, she doodled the old-fashioned way.
“It was just me in my room with paper to draw on,” she told us.
What happened from there can only be described as a looooong climb. Messing around with colors evolved into daily practice. A dollar and a dream yielded innocent schemes to amass more. (In 5th grade, before her relocation, she sold Silly Bandz to classmates and made $10 a day. That energy hasn’t wavered since.) Once she saved enough to spend, and once she learned enough to publish, everything else accelerated. In a nutshell, Victoria hustled her ass off.
Now, after remixing notable cover art — Kid Cudi and Kanye West’s Kids See Ghosts, Mac Miller’s FACES (RIP), Tyler, the Creator’s IGOR, Rico Nasty’s Nasty — in her own inventive style, the 16-year-old high school junior has picked up serious steam on Twitter and started her own business. Her journey is only just beginning, but there’s already so much to unpack and learn from. Read on for insights and highlights from our conversation with FEWOCiOUS. Follow her / reach out with project inquiries on Twitter.
Ego removes opportunities. When the goal is to grow, an in is an in.
“Before I left home, I’d game a lot, and there’d be these Minecraft YouTubers and stuff. I first attempted to have a successful Minecraft channel. That did not work out. But I ended up teaching myself how to use Photoshop so I could make the thumbnail images for other people. Random people on the internet would pay me $2 to make these avatars and banners. I was like 10 or 12. Around that time I saw this video where a person was drawing but it was on this graphic tablet, so I saved to get this really cheap off-brand one, but I never used it.”
“Around that time I made a Twitter account and I saw people tweeting about [Kanye West’s album] College Dropout and how it changed their life. I thought people were bluffing, but I listened to it and it had this ‘I do it all on my own’ energy, which inspired me a lot. I used to just steal time in my web design class to look up sticker manufacturers and pencil prices, though that class did teach me what I needed to know to make my own web store. I just always did what I had to.”
Some mistakes don’t need fixing. People won’t catch everything.
“There are usually some bits in different things I’m making that I mess up or forget about. In the FACES illustration, I didn’t color in some parts in the bottom right, where it’s yellow, where the teeth are, and I didn’t realize until about a week later, after I had gotten all of the prints made and invested money in doing that. That’s tough for me too because FACES is such a beloved tape. It helped so many people through hard times. For me to do my own and be like, ‘Hey I made this,’ I have to do it right. But there’s a freedom to design right now, people like Kodone setting examples, where it’s like, I meant well and tried my best and that’s okay. Nobody has said anything to me about that missing color.”
Give your audience a seat at the table (and shoot your shot.)
“It took me a long time to get comfortable with the idea of selling my art. When I was back online, I’d post things I’d drawn and I’d get DMs saying people would buy prints if I made them. But it’s all so precious to me. I was afraid to put a number on it — would it be too cheap? Or too expensive and some people wouldn’t be able to afford it? Then the other side of it was, to be honest, how do I mail things? Where do I get supplied? I wasn’t going to even try until I left my grandparent’s house, they’re not the most supportive of my art, but then one day I got this really long beautiful note from this girl who convinced me to try. So I tried.”
Fans (and artists) look to artists for guidance. Why not guide them?
“I was listening to this Shia LaBeouf interview the other day. I didn’t know anything about him, and I learned he had a theater company that helped teach kids without much privilege in California. The interviewer was like, ‘Why do you do this? You could be making a big movie.’ And he was like, ‘I just love sharing what I do with people who wouldn’t normally be in this environment, to help them find an outlet in it.’ I used to want to be this mysterious artist, because they’re cool, and everyone says they’re cool, but I just can’t do it. I talk too much [Laughs]. And I had no idea how to do any of this before. No mentors. I had to Google how to make what I make and how to sell it, and nobody gave good advice. I want to try and do that, whenever I learn something new. I want to make a gallery in Las Vegas and showcase unseen or undervalued artists from random places. My family’s from El Salvador, I want to honor that too.”
Early constraints can fuel self-reliance that pays dividends for years.
“When I started to take this stuff seriously, I asked my grandparents for a new graphics tablet as a birthday present, because the first one I got years ago was gone and I’d have to spend 100s of dollars on paint to get all of the colors I like to use. This was before the iPads with the pencils. He told me no, but he also told me that when he was little, and wanted to buy his first motorcycle, he asked his dad to buy it for him and he said no, and it made him mad but he eventually learned to do it himself. I’m really happy he did that now. It forced me to get commissions from different artists, enough to buy a tablet, to buy a camera, to buy shirts to print on. All through the internet. One time this boy in my class paid me $20 to draw him a little crab. There was this one band I met and they hired me to do all of their cover art, all of their fliers. I taught myself how to make an animated music video. That helped me pay for everything I’m doing now.”
Don’t let internet standards deter you from making daily progress.
“I feel like on the internet, it seems like everyone’s great, but for my generation in particular, being in high school right now, it’s another level. I see all these young kids doing cool stuff and I’m like, ‘Oh my god! My people are thriving!’ But at school? I mean especially in Las Vegas, in my school system — I think CCSD is the lowest in the States, and the highest in STD rates. I don’t know how kids at school fond my Twitter, but they did, so they see me shipping prints and see I’m trying to do something. But for the most part it’s just people on their phones watching other people instead of doing what they really want. I’m like, ‘Dude, you can do that!’ And they’re like, ‘No I can’t,’ and it breaks my heart. It sucks when teachers are telling everyone they have to go to college and if that’s not your thing then you’re forgotten. If you want to do something crazy with makeup, or be a writer, do it without expecting anyone to care at the beginning, and if you keep at it there’s a good chance people will start.”
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