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Thursday 28 March 2024

Meet The Illustrator: Rachael Robertson

Rachael Robertson

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less.
Bright, bold, textured painted paper collage with mixed media madness.

What items are an essential part of your creative space?
I require very little space to create. My first book, My Amazing Animal Alphabet Alliteration Book was created on my kitchen table. 

My wonderful husband has since created a tiny little work desk in our bedroom for me. We have a small character home, so having a little space to create is lovely and my two daughters come in a lot to create alongside me. It’s very special that they are involved and I love it. 

My creative space is divided into paint and paper drawers. All my painted paper is organised into colours in drawers and I have all of my paint in a separate set of drawers. I have a lot of my girls artwork up around me, inspiring me and motivating me to keep going. It is a bit like organised chaos but I know where everything is, even if it doesn’t quite look like it.

Do you have a favourite artistic medium?
Collage is simply wonderful and I love that you can see the physical texture when creating by hand. I paint all the paper beforehand so there are visible brushstrokes created with paint brushes, palette knives, stencils or even forks. I’ll use anything to show the texture in an artwork. I am partial to a slight shadow when the artwork is photographed in natural light, so that you can see the layers. I created a label for a gin bottle for Banks and Bloom which was really fun. I did a bit of research into the ingredients and included them on the label. I haven’t seen a collaged label before, so I was happy to create it in my favourite style. When I create artwork on canvas, I mainly use acrylic paint but I love fluoro spray paint, glitter and gold leaf. I am basically a magpie, attracted to anything shiny.

Name three artists whose work inspires you.
Eric Carle is my number one picture book inspiration. His unwavering love for collage is inspiring and I love all of his brushstrokes and creatures and how some of his most amazing work is far from perfect. I love the perfectly imperfect way he created. I am also a big fan of Sean E Avery’s digital collage. Sean is one of the nicest creators and lives in Perth like me, and he does some stunning collaged scenes. Tracey English is another collage artist who does some stunning work and I often use her work as inspiration to the students I teach, it’s very beautiful.

Which artistic period would you most like to visit and why?
I studied the impressionists at school and am blown away by the simple beauty in the work. While this is not my personal style, I love Degas’ ballerinas and Monet’s sunrise. Simply stunning! I suppose my style leans into pop art, with the bright, bold colours. What I love most about art is that it is so subjective. Everyone has their own style that they love and are drawn to and that is amazing. I don’t think I will ever be able to create with neutral colours, but I can certainly appreciate its beauty. Colour all the way for me!

Who or what inspired you to become an illustrator?
I have always wanted to write and illustrate a children’s book, that was my number one dream. I think that because of my teaching background, I am always inspired to educate and excite children about literature and art. Since having my own children, this was certainly amped up. I started illustrating my first book after the birth of my second daughter Daisy, which seems to be a common theme amongst mothers. We find our purpose and pursue our passion projects after the birth of our children. My eldest daughter, Poppy, would sit with me while I created and it was a very special time. I often had to create two of the same creature as she wanted one to keep. I have sold my artwork over the years, but there is something so special and so permanent about creating illustrations for a book that allows you to reach a large number of people. When you sell a painting, one family will benefit from that artwork but a book can reach thousands of people.

Can you share a photo of your creative work space or part of the area where you work most often? Talk us through it.
I have a singular desk and drawers to my side. One set of drawers is for paints and the second drawer is for paper. I have some of my favourite artwork on the wall, a couple of mine and a few of my girls.

What is your favourite part of the illustration process?
I love it all. I love the research when writing a story. I love painting the paper. I love getting into the flow and creating for hours and hours but it feels like a mere moment as I was in a state of flow. That’s what happened when I created the artwork for Our Australian HeArt, I vividly remember sitting out the front and creating all day. It was magical! My favourite part has to be seeing the end product. That is really special. Sometimes I create something and don’t even know how I did it, which sounds really weird. It’s like I get into a flow and when I stand back, can be pleasantly surprised with myself. Being creative is a wild ride.

What advice would you give to an aspiring illustrator?
Do what makes you happy. If you love creating on an iPad, do it. If you love creating with physical paper and paint brushes and glue, do it. If you like to do a bit of both, do it. Do whatever sets your soul on fire. I would also suggest not comparing yourself to others and don’t get yourself down when you get rejected from things. I used to get upset with every rejection email I got, not anymore! I now look at it like a stepping stone to greatness. Some of my favourite musical artists were rejected time and time again. No one is an overnight success, even if they look like one. Keep going and keep believing in yourself.
I would encourage any aspiring illustrators to submit to everything, refine your skills, do it because you love it, but try your hardest not to be disheartened when you get that rejection email. They come in thick and fast but eventually, you’ll find your place. I would also say to keep posting your creations on social media because you never know who is following along. I was recently contacted by an author from Loose Parts Press to illustrate a beautiful book titled, What Is It? After she had seen some of my abstract work on Instagram. This was a dream project and it never would have come to fruition if I hadn’t posted my artwork online. Put yourself out there!

Rachael Robertson is an author, illustrator and primary school art teacher based in Perth/Boorlo. Her first book, My Amazing Animal Alphabet Alliteration Book is a fun, vibrant way to learn the alphabet. What Is It? is Rachael’s first book as an illustrator which explores the creative process and why art is so important. She recently had a writing piece published in an anthology, The Heart Will Find a Way and her artwork has graced the front cover of another anthology of authors and illustrators, Our Australian HeArt. Rachael predominately uses painted paper collage, but loves experimenting with any type of medium to create bright, textured works of art.

For more information, please visit Rachael's website or follow her on instagram.