In conversation with artist Rachel Walker

Apr 02, 2024 | Collaborations

Rachel Walker, one of two Kiwi artists collaborating with BLUNT and Forest & Bird to commemorate a century of conservation, vividly portrays the native kea and kākā in flight on this limited edition umbrella.

Known for her watercolour, spray paint, pen, and ink artworks, Rachel is inspired by the natural world. Her distinctive, drippy, and energetic style masterfully blends loose forms with precise details, capturing the essence and beauty of birds, sea creatures, reptiles, and wild animals. 

In this article, we delve into Rachel's work and explore the inspiration behind her stunning design.

What does your typical day look like as a full time artist?

My day typically kicks off with two cups of tea delivered to me in bed by my wonderful husband. After soaking in some morning sun, I engage in a bit of exercise—whether it's a stroll in the nearby Otari Wilton's bush reserve, a yoga session, or some weight training. Following a refreshing shower I make my way to the studio, conveniently located in a spare room at home, making the commute as simple as slipping on socks. 

Depending on the day, I might be engrossed in painting, signing and wrapping prints, handling administrative tasks, or brainstorming ideas and sketching. Working from home allows for the added perk of preparing a substantial and healthy lunch. After a break for more tea, I dive back into focus, often accompanied by podcasts playing in the background as I paint. I usually wrap up my day around 5 pm, I find that painting during daylight hours with optimal lighting suits me best. Evenings are reserved for socialising and relaxation.

How did you discover your artistic style, and how has it evolved over time?

It's funny how things evolve gradually. Art has always intrigued me since childhood and throughout my school years. My academic journey led me to study design at Massey University, where I specialised in Illustration and gradually delved deeper into painting. During that period, I primarily worked with watered-down acrylics and gouache, focusing on portraits and still life. 

Surprisingly, I didn't explore watercolours or birds until later in life. To me, they bring a sense of spontaneity and fun, albeit occasionally infuriating!

“Mother nature knows all the best colour combos. ”

Quote by|Rachel Walker

Where do you draw inspiration from? 

Currently, the natural world. Mother nature knows all the best colour combos.  And there are so many incredible creatures out there.

What is your favourite time of the day to create, and why?

I find my favourite time to be creative is mid-morning. That's when I feel the freshest, my mind is operating at its best speed, and the studio hasn't turned into an oven under the sun just yet.

Tell us about your relationship with Forest & Bird

I've had the pleasure of collaborating on some exciting projects with Forest and Bird, including a couple of fundraising group exhibitions and multiple features of my artwork in their magazine.

Prior to this collaboration, I designed a set of stamps for NZ Post commemorating the 100th anniversary of Forest and Bird. Knowing that there's a dedicated community of passionate and organised individuals working to protect our natural ecosystems is truly gratifying.

In today's increasingly precarious environment for both creatures and forests, their efforts are crucial, and it's important for us to lend our support!

A stormy sky ambiance with various bluey greys to accentuate the stunning scarlet feathers.
Finally, can you tell us the design process behind this beautiful canopy?

I kicked off the design process with pencil sketches of the individual Kea and Kākā. Using Photoshop, I manipulated their positions in the umbrella template until they appeared natural, making necessary adjustments to wings and other details.

The next step involved brainstorming the colour palette, aiming for a stormy sky ambiance with various bluey greys to accentuate the stunning scarlet feathers. These feathers, along with the inky splashy bits, are my favourite elements in the design. 

To bring the vision to life, I painted each bird separately on white watercolour paper, had them professionally scanned, and utilised the digital versions to layer them in the umbrella template.

Finally, I added the background colour, completing the intricate process.

Next article

In collaboration with FLOX