Introducing | Rachel Hillis
last updated 11 October 2019
Brilliant illustrator Rachel Hillis lives in Liverpool with her boyfriend, cat named Henri Rousseau and her vast indoor plant collection. Rachel frequently visits botanical gardens and uses photographs of her trips as reference photos in her art, also taking inspiration from her memories and experiences. She has worked with Flow Magazine, the RHS, GOOP, Gardens Illustrated and Soho House & co, among others.
Here, Rachel shares her creative process, insight into career and some of the challenges of working as an illustrator.
Can you tell us a bit about your background and how your life impacts on your creative work?
I grew up Hertfordshire and North London and came from a very creative family, on my mum’s side. We were always making things, sewing, drawing and baking. My mum is originally from Liverpool, so this is what brought me up here to study. My nan still lives here and I love getting to spend so much time with her now. She is still so creative. I studied at Liverpool John Moore’s University and graduated from my Masters degree in Graphic Design and Illustration in 2018.
My work is definitely a reflection of my lifestyle and surroundings. I am passionate about looking after the environment and I am vegan, so this all contributes to my obsession with greenery. I have lots of tropical houseplants at home, which constantly makes me feel inspired. I love spending time in the Lake District camping, walking and swimming, as everything is so green and beautiful there.
What’s your creative proccess?
My creative process has to start when I am feeling inspired. If I’m not and I try to force it, it just won’t work. I will start off with a coffee, looking through all of my references and sketching out my idea. If it’s a client brief then I will start with a rough, but usually with personal work I already have the idea clear in my mind. I then get everything out on my desk that I’ll need; palettes, water, paintbrushes, iPad, paper and paint (I use a smooth cotton paper and Holbein Acryla gouache), and start painting over my sketch.
My favourite part of the process is when all the main components are on the page, and I can add the finer details. I do this either with pencil or on Procreate with the Apple Pencil, after scanning and editing first on Photoshop. Adding things like details on leaves, buttons on clothes and ridges on plant pots is extremely satisfying.
What are the challenges and rewards about being an illustrator?
The main challenge I find is that work can either be all at once, or none at all. It can be hard when this happens to find balance. When I have no client work on I try and work on personal projects and focus on private commissions and selling my prints.
I like being able to have control over where I work and how long I work. Recently I knew I had to spend a whole day in hospital whilst waiting for a relative, so I decided to take my art materials and I sat in the canteen and painted, because I felt inspired by an idea I had. I loved the fact I had been able to use a day that would have otherwise been very unproductive, to do something productive. I also love that I am able to do my favourite hobby for a job.
What are your creative goals?
I would love to get into book illustration. I am also planning to hold workshops in a lovely space in Amsterdam at some point. It’s something I am nervous about but it would be great to overcome that fear. My dream project would probably be to work with Kew Gardens in some way. I have been going there since I was little, and it’s still somewhere that massively inspires me.
To see more of Rachel’s work, view her portfolio here.
If you are interested in working with Rachel, please contact Helen Biles.