Rebecca Q Yankes is a freelance illustrator and artist who currently has work up in our stair tower gallery. The work she is exhibiting highlights her interest in natural science. Recently I asked her about her process and what inspires her, and learned that the creative process is as much analytical as it is aesthetic.
Chris: What is your medium?
Rebecca: I work in a lot of mediums. When I was a kid, I was all about colored pencils and acrylic paints, which I still use a lot of now. When I was in art school, I did a lot with pencils and gouache (a sort of obscure paint that can act like both acrylics and watercolors). Currently I do a lot of digital art, acrylic paintings, and ballpoint pen drawings. I try to experiment with all sorts of mediums and see how they each allow me to make different types of art. There’s definitely a lot of play in my work!
Chris: What are the themes in your art?
Rebecca: When it comes to my digital art, I really focus on animals. I’ve always been an animal person, and I’m really fascinated by the natural world. When I was little, I’d always slow my family down when we were out taking walks, because I was curious about every little rock and leaf I found on the sidewalk! I still feel that way when I’m outside. There are just so many great animals to keep learning about. Every time I see a new type of animal that I hadn’t seen before, I think about making it into a piece of art. You should see me at the zoo…I take lots of pictures, make sketches, write down every name of every creature, then go home or to the library and do tons of research to find out more about every animal!
Chris: When did you start making art?
Rebecca: I’ve been making art for my whole life. It started with drawings–lots of drawings! My parents have kept every sketchbook I filled when I was a kid. The oldest sketchbooks are full of drawings of my family, our pets, my imaginary monster friends, and things around the home. When I was around ten, I started to make paintings and draw things that I found outside. And the rest is history! I still draw every day. I don’t think I’ll ever stop drawing. Even though I paint a lot, my paintings always start out as drawings.
Chris: What is your favorite color?
Rebecca: On its own? Bright orange, like an orange bell pepper. But there are lots of colors and combinations that I’m also in love with…Chinese lacquer red, grey and daffodil yellow, kingfisher teal, eggplant purple and sky blue…there is just so much color out there to love! Color makes life beautiful.
Chris: What are the great influences on your art?
Rebecca: My digital animals are really heavily influenced by a lot of traditional arts I’ve seen from other cultures around the world. I spent some time studying in Japan, and you can really see the Asian influence in a lot of the smooth, calligraphic lines that I use (especially in the Tiger, Crane, and Dragon). I’m also really inspired by the incredible sculptures of Western Africa, the masks of the Yupik and Inuit Eskimos, and the decorative art of the Pacific Northwestern native Americans. The digital animals rely on my realist training, but they are absolutely inspired by other cultures’ interpretations of animal life. I never made animals like the ones in “Drawn Together” until one of my teachers introduced me to traditional arts from around the world.
Chris: What interests you about working with the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine?
Rebecca: The Children’s Museum has a really incredible atmosphere. It places an enormous emphasis on learning through play, which is important to me, because I feel that studying can be a form of play for the rest of your life as long as you get into it early. That’s how I always got good grades! The museum also encourages kids to get out there and express themselves through theater, which is a really valuable experience. Knowing how to present yourself, how to speak up, and how to be confident in front of a crowd is the type of skill set that stays with you for your whole life. The people who run the museum also really like to introduce kids to art and the many forms it can take, and I’m honored to be one of the artists who could ultimately have a positive impact on a young person through the museum.
Chris: What motivates you to keep making art?
Rebecca: There are lots of things that motivate me to make art. Making art allows me to deeply investigate and understand things that captivate me. In turn, after the art is finished, I have something to show to others and get them interested too. I have a big interest in communicating and sharing with others through art. I love the opportunity to teach and to learn. Then there’s the art community as a whole. Seeing art by other people is so inspiring! I had a teacher once who said that good art makes its viewers see the world in a new way…I think that’s true. Every artist has a different style and a different interpretation of what he or she sees. Looking at the way one artist draws a hand or paints a flower can change the way you look at hands and flowers. I love that. It’s so fascinating. The art community keeps me inspired and motivated!
Rebecca’s artwork will be on display in our stairwell gallery through April 3, 2012; her work appears alongside the illustrations of Nathan Walker in the exhibition Drawn Together.