Illustrator / Designer / Arts Facilitator
Welcome to the first issue of 'LT Voices', a new series of interviews conducted by Joint Artistic Director Kelly Eva-May, with creatives we have crossed paths with on our theatrical journeys. We wanted to create an opportunity to connect (or re-connect) with some of these wonderful individuals, to find out more about what they're up to, and to give them a platform to share their stories with you.
It's very easy to look at a finished piece of artwork and be in awe of the artistic skill involved in the creation. However, we are often oblivious of the struggles and hardships that exist behind that piece of art. This begs the question - is the artists job to endure this hardship for the viewers pleasure? Or, as an audience, does it heighten our appreciation of the work if we know the story behind it?
I was really keen to meet with Rachael, as her work is beautifully unique and I wanted to ask her about her journey and her inspirations.
Rachael is an illustrator and designer who draws from nature to create ornate, pattern filled designs. Combining vibrant colour with detailed line work and texture, she strives to create engaging images for a variety of contexts.
"Straight after graduating I moved to London and couldn’t be fussy about the work I took, it wasn’t quite the creative career I had imagined."
Since graduating from the Arts University Bournemouth BA Illustration course Rachael has worked on a variety of projects including editorial illustration, packaging and logo design, mural artwork and stationery design.
A selection of her clients include DoCrafts Creativity Magazine / South London and Maudsley NHS Trust / On the Corner Records and Creative Nature Superfoods (through design agency, The Creative Team).
Rachael also works as an arts facilitator and has run creative workshops for charities, hospitals and galleries in the UK and abroad.
Kelly: You work a lot with patterns and textures you find in nature. Where do you look for these these inspirations, and how did that become a main area of focus for you?
Rachael: In my final year of university I created a book depicting a journey through different states of mind. As this was a (very!) abstract concept I decided to look at textures and pattern in nature as inspiration for different landscapes to visualise the states I had chosen. It was by far my favourite project and the obsession with pattern and texture started from there.
I still turn to similar sources of pattern and texture for inspiration. I’m happiest when exploring somewhere new and will often take close-up pictures of unusual plants, cracked paint and colour palettes I find. Straight after graduating I moved to London and couldn’t be fussy about the work I took, it wasn’t quite the creative career I had imagined. I decided to leave and spent three months in Guatemala, volunteering as an art teacher for an NGO. It was a big challenge but by far the best thing I could have done at the time. I hadn’t drawn in a year but when surrounded by awe inspiring scenery, and with a bit more time on my hands, it was suddenly very easy to get going again.
Rachael's design for Creative Nature Superfoods
Last year I started freelancing for design agency The Creative Team in Dorking, Surrey. My first project with them was to create a series of illustrations for the company Creative Nature Superfoods who were re-branding their packaging. It was the perfect brief for me. I created detailed watercolour images and drawings of the products, added in some pattern elements and these designs were then dropped into templates for their Superfood Tubs. They are now being stocked in Sainsburys, Ocado and Sourced Market which is pretty exciting.
Kelly: How do you balance your time between working as an artist and making money to pay the bills - Do you find this affects your mental health? Have you found these things difficult to maintain?
Rachael: This can be challenging as the nature of being self-employed means that things can be unstable at times. Having a permanent part-time role does help alleviate this to a degree but it can be hard not knowing how much work you will have in any given month. I do go through periods of anxiety but I don’t think this is linked to my career, I love my work so think if anything this has a positive impact on my mental health.
"Getting the balance of being disciplined and also giving yourself a break is important"
If I’m working from home I’ll go for a run when I wake up and am very disciplined to make sure I work for a full day - promise I don’t just sit around in my PJ’s as tempting as that can sometimes be! When you’ve designed something it also can’t help but feel a bit personal, but I’ve got a lot better at not taking this to heart. Getting the balance of being disciplined and also giving yourself a break is important as I know I can be harsh on myself and that’s not constructive all the time.
Rachael's commissioned artwork for a client
But I’ve also been very lucky in that for a few months I lived with my partner's family in London which gave me the chance to earn a very basic wage and get some experience. Without this support I could easily see why someone would struggle to pursue a career in the arts, especially in London.
Kelly: In such a subjective field, how do you measure 'success' in your work?