May 2, 2014
Without much planning in advance, illustrator Rachel Gale didn’t know ‘how’ many creative opportunities the city had to offer: “In retrospect, my 22-year-old self imagined living in London to be buzzing with energy, fast paced & super busy, inhabited by people thirsty for opportunity & fun. It really did meet and exceed all my expectations.”
I never really knew how long I would last in London. All I knew was that I was about to embark on a new adventure, the start of a new chapter, with no clue of how it would be. Almost five years on, I’m still here and I adore this city more than ever.
Before moving to London, I studied ‘Design & Art Direction’ at Manchester School of Art. After three years of living independently as a student, I wasn’t ready to move back home (sorry Mum & Dad) so I guess London seemed like my next destination. I moved with two good friends so it wasn’t daunting, just exciting. In retrospect, my 22-year-old self imagined living in London to be buzzing with energy, fast paced & super busy, inhabited by people thirsty for opportunity & fun. It really did meet and exceed all my expectations. I hoped that this city would offer the creative opportunities I longed for, although not sure of what exactly they would be. Working freelance always appealed, but it seemed a bit scary, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I began with getting a restaurant job, this definitely welcomed me into this city. Meeting my lovely boyfriend here has been one of London’s blessings. Our first apartment was a high rise, in the middle of the Docklands, it was pretty dull and ‘cultureless’, so after a year or so we moved.
Staying East, we found a lovely house in Bow, with a little garden too. Bow soon felt like home to me. At this time I began working at the Pavilion Cafe in Victoria Park, what a place to work. Its more than just a great cafe, its a social hub, a hive of activity that brings people together. Working there over the last 2 years has been a joy, I feel so inspired by the people I come into contact with every day. Living and working in the same area has brought a real sense of community to my London life, one I didn’t think could exist. I have my local shops that I go to and I recognise peopIe in the street. The abundance of greenery and canals to walk seem a far cry from the ‘Big smoke’ as my Dad used to call it – he’s actually now a London convert, visiting me whenever he can for a weekend break. I admit that I am living in an East London bubble, but hey, when I venture into the hustle & bustle of central London I really enjoy it, it’s still a novelty to me. I don’t like getting the tube, there is so much to see above ground. I like to walk everywhere if I can, it’ss not only good exercise but its the perfect time to think and organise my day. Walking back from Yoga along the canal is my favourite time of the day, this is when I feel most inspired and self aware.
I started practising Yoga last Summer and something clicked. I can’t pin point exactly what it was but I began to draw again after a long drought. I started to create work that felt personal to me and that I felt happy with. I don’t want to come across as a ‘preacher’ but I’ve figured that if my mind and body feel nourished then my creativity definitely flows more. I recently read a quote by Anne Cushman, a Yoga teacher and author, which has stuck with me: ‘Yoga gets the energy body moving and the energy body is the source of creativity’.
I’ve just followed my heart and gone with what has felt right. I do also think that ‘chance’ also plays a part in what comes to us. Often random encounters have led to little jobs, often when totally unexpected. Being adaptable is essential and taking risks is often needed to promote a change in direction. To be a creative in London, I believe your best tool is to be open and connect with others. Like, chatting with a stranger in a coffee shop could lead you to your next job, or could simply inspire you.
My journey as an illustrator has been slow and organic, it’s certainly accelerated since last Summer. I like to draw, especially animals, food and nature. I find the patterns in nature fascinating. I like drawing in pen and pencil, working small using lines and dots is my idea of fun. Taking photographs and keeping a journal is really important to me, especially when travelling to new places. I think the birth of my animal illustrations, have helped me establish my style and it’s nice that people are beginning to recognise my work. I hope that my postcards are being scattered far and wide and my little animals are making people smile. I would really like to crack on with illustrating a children’s book and making more products with my designs, like stationary and home wares.
I always knew that I wanted to take a creative path, however everybody knows that living in London is bloody expensive and you’ve got to pay the bills. That’s why I’ve always juggled a few jobs, working hard and pushing yourself is so important, it’s healthy. I believe, having to live on a tight budget at times has made me more driven and determined. Having money can often buy opportunities and connections, putting your integrity on the line. For me, being creative doesn’t require lots of money, it’s my hands that draw & imagination is free.
I can honestly say that I can never imagine the day when I work solely as an illustrator. I think I would feel lonely and lack the interaction with others that I have had for so long. I love the variety and the social aspect of working with other people, and hospitality is great for that. So, speaking for myself, being a creative in London is great. I’m happy and content and that’s what life is all about. I’m excited to see what the next chapter will bring.