Illustration is an art that I've always admired. The illustrators I find myself most drawn to are those with a flair for whimsy. I'm currently obsessed with the work of Emily Winfield Martin, Carson Ellis, Anna Bond and Fran Meneses, but a recent interaction on Instagram has led me to the lovely Rae Ritchie. An illustrator and pattern surface designer based in Minneapolis, Rae shares how fairy tales, Minnesota winters, and moss inspire her designs in our Q&A below.
Purchase a print of Woodland Girl, here.
1. You mention that your illustrations are inspired by children's books and fairy tales. any other influences?
I love the illustration styles of so many artists! I love Herbert Holzing, Edward Gorey, Alice and Martin Provensen, and current-day artists Oana Befort and Anke Weckmann. I love celestial themes too, stemming from my 20-year obsession with the Smashing Pumpkins' "Melon Collie and the Infinite Sadness" album artwork, and Kay Nielsen’s East of the Sun West of the Moon book illustration. One of my best friends, Natalie Northrup is an abstract artist and textile designer, and her color sense and style really inspires me too! Also, the Scandinavian landscape and wintertime really inspire me. Oh, and I love moss. lol.
2. How did you develop your signature illustration style?
My style just comes really naturally to me. I’ve always been drawn to neutral and muted color, so that inherently influences my work. I take note, too, of inspirational motifs and features I see, and dig deep to understand what I like about them, and find ways to incorporate this internal conversation into my work. I like to balance cute with slightly grimm or offbeat. I’m always interested in images that feel a little bit fancy but also a little weird. I also love antique medicine bottles and oldtimey storefronts. I basically just draw images of things I find fascinating!
3. How has the Midwest influenced your art?
There is such a great community of artists and designers here, which I think inspires me to make the work that I make. Also, the wintertime is a great inspiration for me. I’m a big knitter and homebody, so taking the quiet time of winter and focusing to hone my crafts is a fantastic time for me each year. Also, I am a very hard worker, which I hear is a common quality in the midwest! I like just putting my head down and focusing, which helps me make my best work.
4. What does a typical work day look like for you?
I wake up at about 6:30 and either meditate, go for a run, but most days, will just start work at 7a.m. I start out with emails and try to get my client work done in the morning. For lunchtime, I’ll sometimes meet up with a friend downtown or take a walk and make lunch at home. In the afternoon, I’ll continue working on client work, or try to do some personal work. I usually end up working until about 6:30 when my husband gets home. I work long days, but I love what I do! I’m a workerbee, and kind of always have been. I’m trying to work less and chill out, but I just love working and making progress for my clients and in my own business!
Video from Rae's YouTube channel - she does private commissions!
5. What are the differences between designing illustrations for print versus for textiles? Do you have a preference?
A lot of what I do for client work is textile design. Usually a client will come to me with a specific theme/motif in mind, and we work together to meet the necessary style guidelines/target market/etc. When I’m working on my own fabric line with Dear Stella Design, they help guide me in what works for them, but everything is in my unique hand and I have more control when it comes to the direction. However, some clients I have allow me to have more of a say in direction for their prints and assortments. It all really depends on the client and their objectives! The textile portion ends up being more business-based decision-making than my illustration/art practice, which is mostly used in my Etsy/Society6 shops and private commissions, where clients like my personal work, and request specific images to be rendered and sold as originals.
Rae creates FREE monthly calendars that you can download on her blog.
6. WHAT MEDIA DO YOU USE?
I really love the look of watercolor and gouache. The transparent inconsistent look of watercolor can make the simplest shapes feel more dimensional and interesting. I also use white gel pens or white artist gouache to add details. Lately, I’ve been adding a lot of starry night skies to illustrations, and the white gel pen is perfect for that! I always use an angled 1/4” natural hair paintbrush and a 0 round brush in my illustrations.
7. What are three things essential to your work space? Your makeup bag?
For my workspace, I need a warm drink (this is Minnesota! Brr!), my little Muji pencil bag full of all my black pens, pencils, and erasers, and my new rock lamp from the Crystal Cave gift shop near Spring Valley, WI. I require mood lighting!
For my beauty essentials, I adore Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab’s Alice in Wonderland themed “White Rabbit” and “How Doth the Little Crocodile” perfume oils. I’m a simpleton when it comes to make-up so I love lip balms like Morning Calm’s Rose Jacho Lip Butter. Also, I have been drawing my eyebrows on since I was 15, and I’ve always used the Covergirl Brow and Eye pencil color “Midnight Black”. Piece of advise preteen ladies and boys, don’t over-pluck your eyebrows! They sometimes don’t grow back!
Surface designs by Rae Ritchie
8. What have you read recently that you'd recommend to a friend?
My favorite book is The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff. Recent reads that I’ve been recommending are Lone Survivors: How we Came to be the Only Humans on Earth by Chris Stringer and Possum Living by Dolly Freed.
Rae is kindly giving away TWO tea towels featuring her stunning prints to TWO of my readers - that's one towel per winner.
2. Follow Midwest Magpie (you know the drill)
3. Post the photo of the tea towels on Instagram tagging @midwest__magpie & @raeritchie. Don't forget to use #raemagpiegiveaway
It has been such a pleasure exploring Rae's beautiful work. I'm thankful she liked my Instagram photos one day, which allowed me to discover her prints and illustrations (and her precious cat).
Be sure to stay connected with Rae, as she has some exciting projects headed our way (her fabric line in November of this year!).
Many thanks to Rae Ritchie for sharing her illustrations and surface designs with Midwest Magpie. Good luck to all who enter the #raemagpiegiveaway!