Rachel Caldwell for Wheatpaste Art Collective
You’re sure to have seen Rachel Caldwell’s work all over the place – from shirts on Threadless and House of Blues to the pages of Juxtapoz Magazine and beyond. Her work is easily recognizable and loveable to her fans (after all, who wouldn’t love the wickedly adorable Unicore?), and her hand-drawn, digitally finished illustrations explore themes from nature to femininity with the greatest of ease. As part of our Collective, we want to make sure you get to know Rachel Caldwell behind the work and as this month’s Featured Artist, here’s the nitty-gritty about her inspiration and process!
Wheatpaste Art Collective: Welcome to your feature, Rachel! Let’s get started. A lot of your work is under the name Thirsty Fly – where’d this name come from?
Rachel Caldwell: A few years back when I began posting my ink drawings to various artist communities on the web, I quickly had to choose a screen name one day. I came across a poem written by William Oldys about a fly that was drinking out of his cup. The beginning of the poem states: “Busy, curious, thirsty fly! Drink with me, and drink as I”. I thought it was charming so I went with it. Now I don’t like it as much and I am not as charmed. The best screen name of all time is Killer Napkins–and he is a killer artist.
WP: We still think it’s pretty neat. Plus, I know I definitely have more regrettable screen names from earlier in my internet days. Onward with the questions! What kinds of jams get your creativity flowing?
RC: I like too many different types of music. I like classical music, but I also like Eminem and Jay-Z. I also like Alicia Keys and Adele. But if I ever feel lazy or defeated, Eminem does the trick.
WP: Do you ever do collaborations or are you pretty much a solo artist?
RC: I do not typically do collabs, but I would like to do one sometime down the road.
WP: Anyone that you’d love to collaborate with?
RC: Too many to name, but, I adore the following artists: Lori Earley, Greg Simkins, Brian Viveros, Mark Ryden, and David Bray to name a few.
WP: Any of those artists would be lucky to work with you! Now, we know you have worked and taught in Philadelphia for years. Philly is personally one of my absolute favorite cities ever. What do you love about Philadelphia and how has it helped influence your work?
RC: Philadelphia is less of an “elitist” city when compared to New York or Boston. It has a “raw” sort of “realness” to it that is exciting. There is wonderful architecture, food, and culture. There are awesome bridges, beautiful architecture, and of course great people. The train station is the most beautiful place in the world! The way the museum is featured so prominently is also extra cool . . . I could go on.
WP: What’s your work process? Is it more hands-on or digital?
RC: I do ink drawings on paper, then scan and clean up in Photoshop. Then I digitally color them. No Wacom yet.
WP: Any exciting new projects coming up?
RC: I just completed two new drawings for Fender apparel and I am currently working on drawings for Columbia Sportswear and Four Seasons Hotels. Last year Fender and House of Blues got together and made my “swirly guitar” drawing the “official” House of Blues tee shirt for all HOB locations across the U.S. That felt pretty exciting to me!
WP: That’s awesome, congrats! We’d love to get our hands on that swirly guitar image (wink wink!) Your work has a lot of linear patterns, along with animal imagery. What’s your favorite animal or if you could be one animal, what would it be?
RC: A Great-horned owl or a Raven. Owls truly are amazing animals and so incredibly beautiful. Ravens feathers are so shiny and black (they are visually gorgeous) and they are one of very few species of birds who do acrobatic flips in the air just for the fun of it.
WP: Final question – you’re stuck on a deserted island and can only bring 2 books and 2 movies. What are they?
RC: Books: What Looks Like Crazy on An Ordinary Day by Pearle Cleage; The Red Tent by Anita Diamant Movies: Uncle Buck; The Count of Monte Cristo.
WP: Sweet stuff! Thanks for taking the time to let us into your artist brain.
If you dig Rachel Caldwell’s style and want to check out her work, her Canvas Wall Art and stickable posters are exclusively available at Wheatpaste Art Collective. Stay tuned for next month’s feature!
Interview by Beth Demmon Ivey.