We first came across Rachel Silva’s art at a local convention called Designer Con in Southern California. Coming across her booth can only make a geek like me smile. Her various pop culture Pop Portraits are such a delight. Delicately blending fun, whimsy and flowers. Her unique style is warm and expressive. We especially love that she incorporates her favorites TV and Movie characters into her art.
Tell us about yourself
I’m from a lot of different places and that’s something embedded in who I am. I was born in Florida and moved around the southern states, Europe and California before I was a teenager. California is my current home where I live with my husband and cat. I’m a rather sensitive person meaning that, certain sounds or colors have an extreme effect on me to the point of tears (happy and sad.) I have a very deep connection with nature and I try to get out in it whenever possible. I also have a strong hobby in natural sciences, space exploration and cartoons.
How long have you been making art and how did you get started?
I’ve been drawing since I could hold a pencil, and it was always something I did every day as a kid. One day it dawned on me that I could be an artist when I grew up so I’ve stayed the course since. I studied animation and illustration in college, and maintain a high interest in that industry. It is so whimsical and full of the kindest, hardest working people I’ve ever met. I have been working on my two current bodies of work for about 3 years now.
What tools do you use to create your art?
I love pencil and watercolor. I usually start any piece with a loose graphite sketch and then finish it with watercolor or colored pencil, depending on the piece. All of my Pop Portraits are done with watercolor and acryla-gouache, whereas my realist portraits are done with oil-based colors pencils on wood panel. I’m also really into resin right now, and most of my realist pieces have a coat or two of resin on them.
I love experimenting with supplies and learning how things work. I recently got a small blow-torch to help with popping bubbles in my resin pours. Its fascinating to find all the techniques and tricks for various supplies.
What is it that inspires a design?
For the Pop Portraits its usually whatever movie or TV show I’m into at the moment. If a character resonates with me its a great way to further enjoy the story, and I have a lot of fun figuring out which details would help describe that character’s personality in the wreath around them. The Pop Portraits are always a great way to break me out of artist block and get the creative juices flowing.
My realist pieces are inspired by music and mental health primarily. I battle with anxiety and depression, which is not uncommon for artists or humans in general, and the topic is very important to me. I’ve found that people who battle with anxiety have the ability to feel joy and inspiration just as intensely as they may feel a panic attack, and these vibrant pieces are a way of expressing those high moments of joy in between anxious lows.
How long does it take to make one of your creations?
It depends on the size. For the Pop Portraits, which are usually 6×8 inches, it usually takes about 5-10 hours depending on the character.
The realist pieces take much longer, ranging from a couple weeks to a couple months. I can get a small 4×4 inch one done in about 2 hours though which took a lot of practice.
“This is the same artist?”
My two bodies of work are very different, which has caused me some concern in the past but I’ve decided to just roll with it and make what I love.
My favorite reactions have been when people get excited to see a character who is less common in fan art, like Buster Bluth or Magnum PI.
The most meaningful reactions to me are when my models for the realist pieces see the finished product and feel beautiful or empowered.
You have a website that showcases your art and where people can purchase your art, what lead you to put up your website?
Its my career and I’ve gotta get the art out there somehow! Having the website definitely gives me something that needs attention and updating, which drives me to make more work which, in turn, benefits the website and it creates a really productive cycle. Most of my sales are made at local shops around LA, but the website does pretty well for itself.
What are your hopes for your art and yourself in the future?
I always hope my art will resonate strongly with people. Whether its someone getting excited to see a portrait of their favorite character, or a deeper emotional resonance with my realist work. I’m also passionate about the craft itself, and hope to always be improving my skill and learning new techniques.
In the shorter term I would love to make progress toward a solo show.
What are the highlights from your artistic career so far?
I recently had my first featured artist position at The Hive Gallery and Studios in downtown LA. I was given 20 ft of wall space to fill and created 19 pieces of work for the show and hung all the work myself (with the help of my husband). I also had my first print interview in Maker’s Magazine back in July, that was very exciting!
Are you interested in other types of art?
Oh yes, very. Since I studied animation in college I have a high interest in that. I’ll animate some short loops occasionally, I really want to try out this program TV Paint and do some more loops. I love animation.
Are there other makers who inspire you?
So many. Too many to list here, but some major influences are Chuck Close, Hikari Shimoda, Brandi Milne, Gillian Keller, Elly Smallwood, Emilio Villalba, and J.A.W. Cooper. I’m also very fortunate to be surrounded by friends and family who are all artists in one form or another, they are constantly inspiring me.
What would you say to someone who is first starting out as an artist? What advice do you have from them?
Draw a lot. More than you think you want to. Give yourself a lot of grace, take a couple breaths to look around and get some inspiration, but then keep your head down and get to work. Inspiration will follow.
For more from Rachel, you can find her at the links below: