Charlie Clark: Tell us a bit about your background
Rebecca Clarke: My childhood photos are full of painted faces and costumes. As a kid, I felt like it was my role to entertain my loved ones, comfort them, and decorate our lives.
My parents separated when I was very young and now I have a big messy family living all over. This has led me from North Carolina, to France, the Netherlands and currently New York, where I live with my husband, and my whiney cat, Eva.
CC: How did you get into illustration?
RC: Before University I thought illustration consisted of comics and political cartoons. I had a teacher in Paris, where I was studying classical drawing and painting, who suggested I study graphic design because I loved to integrate hand drawn type with my images. It looked like I was on my way back to the States, but random events led me to the Netherlands where I studied graphic design at the Royal Academy of Art in the Hague. Throughout my time at school in the Netherlands, I was told that I should go study illustration instead, because I kept bringing in drawings instead of graphic work. I persisted however because I had fallen in love with my classmate, who is now my husband, and I wanted to finish what I started.
Finally, for my graduation project, I secretly drew portraits of my classmates’ most intimate Facebook photos and then sold them as postcards. This to emphasize the non-private online social habits we were engaging in. I loved drawing those portraits, so much more than designing the type on the back, and image making has been my life from then on. Since school I have gotten to know people in the illustration community, and have solidified my process and personal style through each assignment.
CC :What are your favorite materials to work with? Why?
RC: Watercolor, gouache and pencil. I like the serendipitous quality of working by hand; the feel of the paints, and the texture of the pencils. I have this incredible set of liquid watercolors in every imaginable color that my Nana left me when she passed away. I feel a connection to her when I use them and feel like some of her carries over- she was a ’60s era glamour-puss into her late eighties.
CC: What are some things that inspire your work?
RC: People! Especially faces. It’s fascinating to me how by changing the size or width of someone’s eyes, you can change their character. How a thicker line to illustrate the nose changes the mood. Sometimes seeing someone on the street with intriguing features, makes me want to run home and start drawing.
Travel! It makes life so much richer– I came back from a trip to India feeling like a whole new person.
CC: Describe your creative process – how do you come up with an idea for a new piece?
RC: When I make an editorial piece, I read the text and make notes for ideas. Then I let myself draw all the ugly sketches I want, without being judgmental. I’ll try to see what elements could look graphic or if there is something I have a strong connection to. Once a direction is chosen the pressure is off and I can fully concentrate on the execution.
Then, for portrait work, I research the person, and try to find as many images as possible. I tend to gravitate towards images where something is a bit off, maybe a strange angle of the face, or an image that is a bit blurry. While drawing, I often find myself mirroring the persons expression, and the muscles in my face tell me where to put emphasis. I keep pushing until I find the right lines and proportions, simplifying until the essential is left.
CC: Can you tell us about a piece / project that you worked on recently that you’re particularly proud / fond of.
RC: I tend to love my recent work the most, to the point that it’s hard to be objective. My husband often comes in handy to help art direct when deadlines are tight. Most recently, I’m having a lot of fun animating silly little faces.
CC: Where do you see yourself in a year? in five years?
RC: In five years, I hope to have a very diverse range of projects. I would love to work on stationary as well as patterns for wrapping paper and fabric. There’s an idea for a children’s book that I have in the works, so I hope that it will be on its way if not published. Additionally I hope to have a steady flow of editorial work, and to collaborate with design firms on projects for their clients. It’s inspiring to work with good people and to know that your illustrations will have a beautiful layout to live in.
This past year has been a whirlwind. I gave up my part-time job as a pastry baker to dedicate all my time to illustration. Even though some months are scary if work is slow, it is fulfilling to be entirely immersed in my work and the payoff is amazing when that incredible assignment comes along.
I'm a creative coder living in Brooklyn. I keep myself busy pushing pixels at B-Reel, building interactive data visualizations and curating WAVA.