Questioning Creatives


This article was written on 15 Apr 2013, and is filled under illustrators.

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Rachel Gilbert

My name’s Rachel, I’m 23 and from Somerset, UK.  I’ve been illustrating for about 5 years altogether and studied it at Falmouth University in Cornwall.


When did you decide you wanted to be illustrator?
I’ve always loved illustrations and stories and books, but didn’t consider working behind-the-scenes on them until I did an art foundation course. Then I started to direct a general interest in art into a more specialised, design-focussed area. I found out more about illustration – partly through the course but also through looking at illustration journals and catalogues, as well as new and old illustrated books. Illustration is a good one because it ties into writing and typography – if you like that sort of thing!

I like that illustrations can make you want to – or not want to – look at things and that it is often heavily based on drawing. I always liked drawing but didn’t know what to do with it. And I like that illustration can be very nostalgic. So all in all, illustration seemed like a happy medium; making images that are nice to look at, but also serve a purpose.

Would you recommend studying at art school?
I’m definitely glad I did. It’s amazing to get to do something you love full time. Putting so much time into it does pay off.  Also, working in a creative place and with other creative people is always going to have an effect; I learnt a lot that I wouldn’t have on my own.

How long was it before illustration became your primary form of income?
It’s not yet, I just graduated last year and I’m freelancing on the side of a temp job at the moment, and fitting in creative placements where I can. I’m just about to start doing voluntary work as a shop window dresser too, which is really exciting! The beauty of creative work is that you can do it as well as other things because your ideas are always there.

one flew detail

Could you describe your typical day?
At the moment I get up at 6.30am, go to work, come home around 5.30pm and illustrate in (what’s left of) my own time. When I’m illustrating, I work at home, set myself up a work space somewhere, with some music, some ideas and then I’ll work for indefinite amounts of time producing indefinite qualities of work!

I’m doing a lot of scrappy ideas at the moment, just as long as I’m doing something illustration-wise – else I’m worried I’ll forget how to draw!

What do you wish you’d know when you first started out?
To forget the pressure of ‘The Final Image’! I would get so stumped (and sometimes still do) when it comes to creating a final piece and I’d lose my natural way of working. I find it’s surprisingly hard to keep the spontaneity and liveliness that you get in sketches and silly ideas into the final illustration.


What’s the best thing about being an illustrator?
Getting to look at nice (often children’s) books all the time in the name of ‘research’.

What’s the worst thing about being an illustrator?
It’s a fairly constant struggle to get work coming in and keep work going, you have to stay creative, disciplined and determined and be good at ‘promoting’ yourself – which is not natural!

If you weren’t an illustrator, what would you be?
I can’t choose! I’ve wanted to be a builder, writer, painter (and decorator that is), interior designer…

I’d still like to be a set painter, art therapist, musician, film maker, explorer. And I saw this programme the other day about these guys that go around painting lighthouses from abseil ropes, which looked amazing!

Either I like variety or I’m just indecisive.

Any other tips you could share?
Try to be yourself in your illustration. It sounds silly but I think everyone has a natural style that works for them and that way you get variety which is apparently the spice of life!


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