I've just made a pink french and my nail art.. Not so bad!!!
I paint them with acrylic paint first. I've heard and read a lot of "tips" about french... using a liner, a filbert, a straight one... Everybody seems to have a different way to do it.
In Buenos Aires, gel is very popular! I don't know the rate, but I'm always looking at other people's nails, and I always find a lot of gel. Nail art is not so used, but... everybody looks and asks me for it!