We caught up with Art Genius illustrator Rebecca Clarke to find out more about her creative practice, and what makes this extremely talented illustrator tick…
How did you get started with Illustration?
I have been drawing since a young age, but didn’t really know what illustration was until I was finishing university in The Hague. Once I moved to New York, I started to become familiar with what it meant to work as an illustrator. I interned with Mike Perry for a few months and got a peek into his world, then went to some illustration events in New York. I showed my work to a few illustrators that I looked up to like Joost Zwarte, and Chris Silas Neal, and visited a number of graphic design studios with my portfolio.
Susan Sellers, one of the partners of a design studio called 2x4, took to my work and she has been an angel on my shoulder for years, connecting me with incredible clients, like Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania, and the Met Museum in NY. What really got things going was working for Riposte magazine, on one of their first issues, drawing portraits of amazing women. I dove into it and found the colour lines that I’ve been using in my work since then. From there, It’s Nice That featured the portrait illustrations and the work started coming in and it hasn’t quit, hallelujah!
How many years have you been working as an artist/illustrator?
I’ve been working continuously for the past 3 years.
Was illustrating an entire playing cards deck different from your other illustration work?
It was a big undertaking, 54 portraits! I enjoyed researching the people behind the artwork. Artists carry themselves in a creative way, and it has influenced my decisions, encouraging me to be more deliberate in my style choices for my home, self, and work. I’m realizing more and more that all the things that surround me influence my output as well, so I feed myself with beauty and beauty comes out easier too. Otherwise it was not that different from my other illustration work, except the end product is more long-lasting than an illustration that graces a magazine for a month or newspaper for a day.
What was your process for creating a portrait of each ‘art genius’?
I sketched all portraits first, trying to find the most recognizable pose, yet still interesting. I chose not to focus on clothing or background, but instead focused on expression and who I imagined each artist to be. Then each person was painted in color and there were a few edits back and forth with Laurence King.
Do you have a consistent creative process you return to or do you change how you work each time you have a new idea/project?
I am very consistent in my way of working, too consistent even. I’m thinking about an artist residency to help shake things up. I sketch small at first, then once my client has chosen a direction I make the sketch more detailed, so all I have to do is paint. I use a lightbox and paint over my sketch with gouache and colored pencils.
Do you have any favorite artists from the Art Genius playing cards?
In terms of how the portraits turned out, some of my favorites are Agnes Martin, Meret Oppenheim, Salvador Dali, Frida Kahlo, Marcel Duchamp, Richard Hamilton, Takashi Murakami, Paul Cezanne, Claude Monet, hard to choose, but those all captured a certain looseness that I’m always chasing.
Have you been inspired or influenced by any of the artists or art movements in the Art Genius playing cards?
Oh yes, that’s why this project was so fulfilling. I got to paint a few of my biggest role-models, like Henri Matisse and David Hockney in terms of subject, treatment, exploration, color, everything! But also Louise Bourgeois, Pablo Picasso, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Frida Kahlo, Marcel Duchamp for certain ideas and techniques. ♡
On your website bio it says you’re from NC then studied in France and the Netherlands. What brought you to New York?
New York was just the direction that life was taking me at that time. Incidentally, New York has been incredibly important in getting established within my profession. Now, with the stability I gained there, over the last nine months I've been able to do some traveling, which has inspired and fueled my creative process.
As an artist working in New York, are there any places in the city you draw inspiration from?
I get a huge amount of inspiration from people watching and everywhere in New York is good for this, but I especially like to sit in a cozy cafe when I have to sketch for an assignment and see what comes up. I love going to the Met Museum to get inspired, the subway is a good place to get ideas, also thrift stores!
Do you have any favorite haunts in the city that you frequent or enjoy most?
I spend the majority of my New York time in Greenpoint, where I had a studio last year, yoga studios, friends, etc. I love meeting friends in that area, there are some of the sweetest cocktail spots, like Diamond Lil is right out of another era, or Alameda, delicious! Plus nice parks, and always new food spots to try.
Art Genius is out now. See more of Rebecca's lovely work here