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Thompson Hotels X Rachel Maves


Meet Rachel Maves, Washington DC based artist/illustrator. We’ve been a fan of her whimsical, playful pieces of art for quite some time! We were lucky enough to work with her on a series of beautiful illustrations of Spring in our cities.

We caught up with Rachel to learn more about her creative process, sources of inspiration, and more.

Where are you from?
Fairfax, Virginia, about 20 miles west of Washington D.C.

Where do you live now?
Capitol Hill, Washington D.C.

What is your earliest artistic memory?
I’ve had so many that it’s hard to remember my very first. I remember bringing paints with me to a park when I was very young. I went by myself so it was a big deal at the time. The paintings came out terrible though!

Have you always known you were meant to be an artist?

I knew I’d be doing something that involved drawing, but I didn’t think I’d be illustrating for work. Frankly I didn’t know what illustration was until my Junior year of college.

Is illustrating your job or more of a hobby?

A job for sure but I do make time for personal work.

Where do you go to get inspired?
Wondering around the city, preferably in the evenings. I like people watching when folks are winding down from work, transitioning into themselves. If I’m yearning to get away from the city, I visit my parents. My mom has an immaculate garden surrounded by giant trees that loom as if keeping secrets. It’s easy to get lost in there.

Is there a time of day or environment that is best for creating or illustrating?
If I had to choose, probably in the morning in a space with lots of large windows. The neighbor has to be practicing piano, it must be raining and I can’t have anyone bother me for a few hours. Unfortunately this is my ideal description because I don’t have large windows (currently).

What was the creative process for this assignment?
I started out researching each city for landmarks and attractions. I filled 14×17” sketch sheets full of thumbnails and picked out three for each city to send in with color palettes. When the final sketches were approved, I blew them up in photoshop and colored in my basic shapes by ink-dropping from my color pallet. I worked my way down by adding in details within each shape and adjusting the colors. Each illustration took about 3-5 hours.

Do you have a favorite project or piece?
The Miami piece had neon colors which is something I’m not used to. I was enthralled when I made those pink gradients. 

Share something not many people may know about you.

I took piano lessons for 9 years and almost went to college for film scoring. I’m a bit of a music nerd around the right people.

Favorite tool in art to work with?
Ink and gouache, although I’ve been working digitally lately.

What is a typical work day like for you?
I do work a day job creating graphics at a t-shirt company so I joke when I say my day doesn’t start until I get home. But on a full day to myself, I wake up around 8, make myself coffee and remain “studios” until about lunch time and take a break. Then I’ll work until dinner or depending on the deadline/ workload, I’ll keep working until I get sleepy. I try not to go to bed after midnight but I can’t make any promises. I don’t encourage working that long but sometimes you’ve got to hustle. 

Do you ever have Creative/Artist block? If so, how do you combat it?

Definitely. If I really can’t think of anything, I turn to books since they force me to imagine images. The synthesis between whatever book I’m reading and what I’m working on keeps me open minded. The rule to this is I can’t read at home with the exception of reading before bed. I once did this for a month without drawing and was spewing with ideas by the end of it. 

Any dream collaborations or projects you’d love to do someday?
I’d like to score music for an animation some day. I once scored a puppet show in college and even though the show itself was hilariously crude, the music kept it seamless. The feeling of music remains in a lot of my work, as if each illustration is a song of its own. But like I said – someday.