Affair of the heART
From watching The Little Mermaid in her parent’s bedroom to creating her very own mermaids, all Rachel wanted to do was draw
Words by Hong Jie Ying | Photos by Rachel Danam
As a young girl growing up in Singapore, Rachel Danam watched Disney films on her little bedroom television and knew that was what she wanted to do when she grew up. She wanted to do art.
Now at 27 years old, Rachel is a freelance graphic designer and crafter, with a humble business of her own.
"I have always loved to draw," she explains. Disney films from the 90s were a big source of inspiration for her back in the day and is still a major influence in her art.
She cites Brittney Lee and Mary Blair who worked on some of her favourite films, as illustrators she really looks up to. Liana Hee is another illustrator Rachel adores, her gauche paintings of mermaids propelled Rachel's interest in drawing mermaids.
These days, she finds inspiration from illustrators on social media platforms. She is currently partaking in an online illustration challenge by animator Tom Bancroft - Mermay. She states that these challenges help her dive deep into illustration and help sharpen her skills.
To her, the biggest challenge she has faced yet is striking a balance, explaining that people have different tastes, and that one’s art will not be seen if it does not appeal to a wide audience.
The young adult adds: “The biggest challenge would be creating a unique art style that will 'hook' new audiences.”
Rachel wanted to push her limits. As a result of wanting to explore her creative boundaries and making something that was completely her own, she started to work on little self-initiated projects to find out what she was capable of.
Living in the age of the internet, social media and e-commerce makes things easily accessible worldwide. She says: “It is easy to showcase my work and make a business with my own art.”
She saw many young creatives selling their art online and after much thought, she decided to do the same.
Rachel now runs an online shop on etsy, selling a range of enamel pins that she illustrated by herself as well as some handcrafted jewellery. Her business has taken flight since then with loyal customers from all around the globe.
Because she runs the business by herself, she handles all aspects of the business, ranging from the actual creative work, to the marketing of her brand and products, to the mailing of orders.
“Small business owners like myself usually operate alone or with a few other people so it feels like a juggling act.”
She stresses that because it is a one man show, it is important to understand how a business should be run (like managing accounts and marketing), but everything is a learning process and small business owners like her will never stop learning. However, she wishes that she had others that are better equipped to help her make certain decisions.
Like any other artist, motivation is vital in helping an artist create. To Rachel, it is all about the competition. “But in a good way,” she stresses.
When she sees how other illustrators are improving, she believes she can do it too. Similar to illustrating, when she sees how well other people are doing with their business, she uses it as motivation to push herself to do better.
A big part of her motivation also comes from customers and people that follow her on her social media handles especially when they tell her how much they love her work or product they just bought.
“I still get that little bit of excitement when I get an email or notification of a 'new order'!”
Prior to her newfound success in her business and career, Rachel drew existing characters from animations in her own style as she was still developing her illustration abilities. She avoids doing that now.
Constant exposure to different art styles shaped the evolution of Rachel’s. “Art styles rarely develop in a linear fashion, that is how is it for me.” She explains that she is exposed and attracted to various art styles so she usually take bits from different illustrators to learn from.
Though her art has definitely developed a distinct look of its own, she believes that practise will help build and evolve her art style.
“Your art style is never going to remain the same, it will always evolve and that is perfectly okay.”
Rachel does not create art that fits directly into mainstream media. She explains that catering fully to the mainstream media would cost her her brand identity and style that she built and nurtured since the start, “ Though my methods may be more difficult, I try to stick by them.”
Rachel hopes to continue what she is doing for as long as she can. “ I am happy to develop it and take it in other directions, that is the beauty of a small business - it does not have to stay stagnant, it can evolve.”