me 2014Rachel Frankel is a freelance illustrator and graphic designer based in Oakland, California. Her interests lie primarily within the realms of editorial & book illustration, surface design, and hand-lettering. She blogs frequently about her process as well as about other illustrators, designers and typographers she admires. In addition to artmaking, she plays guitar and sings in a band called Phosphene. Her love of music often finds its way into her illustrations, especially in her portrait series of favorite songwriters–including Neko Case, Sharon Van Etten, Kathleen Hanna and The National. She also maintains a series of illustrated vegan-centric recipes over at The Slug Kitchen.

Most of Rachel’s work entails illustrative imagery that is largely inspired by music, nature, craft, emotional states, and current surroundings. She specifically enjoys exploring the intersection of human and animal behavior, and is also drawn to themes of isolation and mystery that occur in urban and natural environments. She focuses on the vulnerable and fragile elements of both sheltered and wild existence.

She is currently open to fine art & graphic design commissions and always available to talk. Visit her  website to contact her.

…and now for our exlusive interview with Rachel

How would you describe your art?
It’s a bit bouncy. I work in a variety of styles under an illustrative umbrella in graphite, gouache and digital media. I tend to focus on the vulnerable and fragile elements of both sheltered and wild existence. I’m also inspired by natural and urban environments, current surroundings, and countless musical and literary references. My work ranges from representational and rendered to minimal and gestural.

What is your favorite medium and why?
I really fell in love with gouache a few months ago. I’d mainly used watercolor prior to that and felt it wasn’t nearly as forgiving or bright as gouache can be. But I always come back to pencil–sketching is where everything starts for me.

be-biggerPick one work of art from your portfolio and tell us the story behind it. Why does this piece have meaning to you? What steps did you take to create the piece?
This is my first finished piece of 2015! “Be bigger” is a phrase that randomly popped into my head when I was thinking over all of my possible resolutions for the new year. It’s my hope to think less on petty issues this year and to be a bigger person going forward by not letting the small stuff get to me.

This piece originally started as a gouache painting, and the lettering was drawn in pencil. I then took it into Photoshop and placed the shapes on a dark background, digitized the type, and put it all together.

Tell us about one medium, technique or style that you would like to try working with (that you have not tried before) and why you would like to try this.
I would love to get more familiar with screenprinting and printmaking in general. I’m also a musician so there is always a need for gig posters and printed media. Learning more about the printing process would allow me to see projects through from iteration to completion.

If you could imagine the “perfect art day” for yourself, what would it be like?
The perfect art day would be approximately 45 hours long so I could actually go find inspiration, come up with a concept, and flesh out the entire illustration in one day. It would also take place somewhere abroad, like Iceland or Japan.

If you could spend 24 hours with one artist, living or historical, who would you want to spend the day with and why? What would the two of you do?
Carson Ellis. I’d love to start out the day by grabbing breakfast with her somewhere in Portland, then we’d walk through Forest Park and finally we’d sit together in her studio and would collaborate on a painting. Carson was one of my first big role models in the illustration world. She made me feel like it was okay to pursue the areas of art that truly have heart and meaning.

Do you have any tips or advice for aspiring artists?
I don’t think anyone should ever feel obligated to attend art school. For some (especially illustrators and designers who know exactly what their market is going into college), art school works out perfectly and sets them up for great success. But some of my biggest role models are completely or mostly self-taught and majored in disciplines completely outside of the art spectrum. There is no one way to succeed in art, and as information becomes more accessible, individuals can carve out their own paths toward success. I’m still carving mine!

Also, I recommend keeping a blog where you discuss your process, finished work, goals, personal life (to a point). Obviously you want your work to gain exposure, but these days it’s also important that people know who the person is behind the scenes. Sometimes that can be a bigger reason to support a working artist.

To learn more about Rachel Frankel, to purchase or see more of her amazing work, follow any of the links below:


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