FK talks to Brisbane based illustrator Rachael about the wonderful world of Penelope & Pip
How long have you been creating and how did you get started?
I have really only been drawing for the last year and a half so I feel very much a newcomer to the illustration scene. A friend of mine is a graphic designer and I thought I would love to have a job like hers, so I started a design course part-time at night. I soon found I wasn’t really that keen on the designing aspect, but I absolutely fell in love with drawing and I have spent lots and lots of time teaching myself over the last year or so. I am like a little hermit crab these days, snuggled away in my studio learning lots of lovely illustration tricks.
How would you describe your work in three words?
A menagerie of curious whimsy.
What materials do you love using to create your work?
I draw with super fine black pens on lovely thick paper when I am out and about, but at home I mostly use my graphics tablet. I love the versatility the tablet has to create pictures with pencil, gouache, chalk and pen, all in one image. Lately I have been designing fabric and am finding it is so much fun to create 3D objects that my trusty sewing machine has been dusted off and is enjoying a revival as well.
Who or what inspires your work and where do you go for inspiration?
To one day draw with the finesse of French artist Adolie Day would be just a dream, however, what really inspires me most are cartoon artists of the 1950s like Mary Blair and Eyvind Earle. I love their use of colour! I don’t have any idea where the inspiration for the stories that go with my drawings come from – the ideas just seem to pop into my head. I buy a lot of art books and look at a selection of beautiful art blogs daily to stay inspired as well. I am a terrible day-dreamer and often find myself staring into space imagining a new character and their quirky background when I should be doing something else.
What is your creative process and what is your workspace like?
Once the idea for a character concretes itself in my mind I find I sit down and don’t get back up until the illustration is close to finished. I can be a little boring to hang around with on a Saturday morning because I don’t want to leave my computer while I have a fun concept to draw. My workspace is a little studio underneath my house full of lovely artworks from artists all over the world, and is also home to one miraculously healthy Zamioculas zamiifolia plant, one very furry old cat and another less furry young cat too.
What has been some of your favourite projects to work on?
I was very lucky last year to be commissioned to draw a piece of artwork for the Free the Bears Fund and sales from that piece have raised awareness and money to help rescue bears in captivity. I didn’t think when I first started drawing about the opportunities it would open for me to help others so it has been lovely to be a part of such a positive project.
How do you find being an artist in Brisbane, and how does you surroundings influence your work?
Brisbane is such a beautiful place to live and is full of talented, inspiring artists, which is a great atmosphere for anyone creative. My work is full of sunshine and light and I think that is probably part of living in such a warm and happy place. Artists these days are lucky no matter where they live as the Internet provides a global marketplace. This means being an artist in Brisbane, which is often considered a small town compared to its southern cousins, doesn’t have to hold you back from finding an audience for your work.
What aspirations do you have for the future of Penelope & Pip?
Oh so many dreams I don’t know where to start! To keep learning and loving what I do, to stay inspired, to grow Penelope and Pip into storybooks and fabric lines, to keep writing little stories and making little pictures and hope that one day I can look around and realise that from my first drawing of a little girl and her cat has grown a lovely full time job as an artist. That would be just amazing!