For our fourth Artist Takeover we invite Scientific Illustrator Rachel Brooks to share her passion for the natural world...
Please can you give me an introduction about who you are and what you do?
I'm Rachel Brooks, I'm a marine wildlife artist and scientific illustrator based on the edge of the Scottish Highlands. I specialise in creating highly detailed ink works, celebrating the ocean and all its inhabitants.
When did you start drawing?
I've drawn for as long as I can remember and art was always my favourite subject at school, but it wasn't until the end of 2019 when I took the first steps to becoming a professional artist. I don't have a formal art education, my degree is in Zoology, I've always been fascinated by animals and the natural world and I wanted to see as much of it as possible. After graduating I spent years travelling as a scuba instructor, seeing first hand some of the world's most incredibly diverse marine environments. I was able to view my subjects in their natural environment, see them in more detail, study their behaviour and gain a greater insight and understanding of them and the ecosystems they inhabited. Introducing people to the wonders of the ocean was incredibly rewarding, opening up a whole new world and sharing my passion with others. When I returned to the UK I wanted to find a way to stay connected to the ocean and continue to share all it's weird and wonderful inhabitants with others. I began drawing again and it's been the most exciting adventure yet!
What appeals to you most about what you do?
I'm extremely passionate about the ocean and its conservation - having seen first hand some of the devastating impacts we are having on this planet I struggle to communicate this without letting my emotions take over. Art has become an effective communication tool for me to engage with a large audience of people from all over the world, I am able to showcase the incredible species we have, share new science and research and tackle difficult topics using artivism.
If you had to start again, what advice would you give yourself?
Just do you! When I started I didn't really have any clear idea what I was doing, it had been years since I had made art and I'd never worked in this industry, or for myself. I dabbled in lots of different things, from landscape painting to pet portraits and wedding stationary - but my passion was for the marine world. I was doing well creating pet portraits (maybe because I was significantly undercharging for my time!) but I didn't love it. It wasn't until I started sharing my marine life work that my art began to shine and I started to connect to the right audience for my work. Create art that you love, not what you think people expect, and it will be the best reflection of your talent.
What are the best resources you’ve found online or elsewhere that helped you get started?
My greatest resource has always been nature, really spend time looking and there are so many incredible colours, textures and characters. Observing in the outdoors allows your creativity the freedom and space it needs to come up with ideas and concepts independently. A lot of my inspiration has been from my own experiences and photos, I take a camera everywhere when I am travelling. I recently took part in an art residency at the Argyll Hope Spot, we explored under water mark making, and practiced observational and art practices that were completely new to me. It was an amazing way to connect with other creatives and learn from each other, I'll definitely look to do more residencies in the future.
Who are the artists/individuals that inspire you most and where can we find them?
I've always been really inspired by the work of Paul Nicklen (paulnicklen) & Christina Mittermeier (@mitty) of Sea Legacy, they are both such talented and dedicated story tellers doing incredible things for conservation. One of my favourite artists is Lisa Ericson (@aqualisa) she creates work which experiments between hyperrealism and surrealism, to create completely stunning wildlife art!
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