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An interview with Rachael Horner

Rachael Horner is a graphic designer and illustrator. She has been an integral part of the Moving Parts team since the festival debut in 2017. She designed the shadow puppet characters and logo that feature on all of our marketing, print and stop motion animation commissions. Since then Rachael has designed our brochures, posters and even the beautiful pop-up box theatre as part of the Moving Parts Puppet School.


Rachael Horner with the hand painted collage that became the Tyne Rising poster

Laura Firby, our 2021 Events Producer Intern, caught up with Rachael Horner to find out about her work and the inspiration behind creating the Moving Parts characters...


Tell us a little about your background and training, where did your illustration journey begin?


I’ve always loved art in general and the process of building and creating. Growing up, most years someone would receive a portrait or some other kind of painting as a gift; partially because I wanted a challenge and partly so that I didn’t have to spend any money! Probably the true start of my illustration career though was when undertaking an art foundation at Hull College after finishing my A-Levels and not having a clue what I wanted to do most. I had a fabulous tutor there, Mark Hearld, who is an incredibly successful artist/illustrator. He helped me to develop my love for collage and showed me the wide range of possibilities with studying illustration. I then took a degree in Illustration at Falmouth University, which was wonderful and really developed my style, as well as teaching me the realities of being a freelancer.


Bouquet by Rachael Horner - hand painted and cut out with scissors and arranged

What work or artist has most inspired you?


My tutor Mark Hearld probably gave me the most inspiration in terms of seeing the possibilities of illustration, as mentioned already. Examples are designing surface pattern for fabric, creating prints to sell, designing for home decor, illustrating books and book covers… I’m still very much developing as an artist and there are so many avenues I’d love to explore. However stylistically, I’d say that the artist Ed Kluz is probably my biggest inspiration. He creates wonderfully bold and intricate collages from colourful painted textures and gives his usual subject matter of historical architecture a sense of magic and grandeur that is so impressive to me.

Can you tell us about your process, do you start with a clear idea or experiment and let it develop?


I like to begin with a clear sketch, and think in detail about colour too. This is mostly when working for clients as it helps to show them an idea of the outcome, but it also focuses me and prevents me wasting time. The best and the worst thing about collage is the flexibility – you can rearrange until you’re happy, but also means you could rearrange hundreds of pieces of collage before committing, and spend days doing so – which I have! However, my favourite thing about my process is the happy accidents that occur. For example, interesting textures and colour combinations, and the natural abstraction that comes from using scissors. I find that I’m often way too logical when I draw, and struggle to play with perspective and proportions if they’re not literal, but the scissors have a mind of their own and help me play around, and the artwork evolves of its own accord. I also replicate this process in photoshop using scanned in hand-painted textures when I have to work digitally for a client.


Rachael putting the finishing touches to the Beverley Puppet Festival 2020 brochure cover collage

You have created work for Moving Parts Arts before, how did you find this experience, how would you describe this festival to someone who has never been before?


My first time working for Moving Parts was to create the logo, brand and some illustrations for the debut festival. This was really fun as Kerrin Tatman (Artistic Director) let me have quite a free rein; they just suggested something slightly dark and quirky. I honestly just doodled some characters in biro and scribbled and cut out the text and it just worked. Since then, I’ve designed a pop-up box theatre for Moving Parts Puppetry School based around the characters and style, which was really fun. The latest work was the big 3D underwater collage for Tyne Rising’s cover. I really love working for Moving Part Arts as it is such a fun, quirky ‘out-there’ festival and Kerrin and I work so well together as we’re on the same wavelength, plus they’re almost as obsessed with texture as I am! The festival as a whole is so inclusive and creates amazing opportunities for artists in the North.


Some of the Moving Parts characters designed by Rachael Horner
The Moving Parts Puppet School pop-up theatre, designed by Rachael Horner

And this year you created the illustration for 'Tyne Rising' as part of Moving Parts: Newcastle Puppetry Festival 2021. Where did the inspiration or this piece come from?


Kerrin had a really clear idea of showing a magical scene of Newcastle underwater, so I have to give the credit to them on this one! I’ve also worked on a 3D collage theatre with Kerrin for Beverley Puppet Festival 2020, and they really wanted to use inspiration from elements of that for this. I am obsessed with seaweed and coral though, so this was a dream job for me. Structurally, it was very complex, with a lot of cocktail sticks, cardboard and glue gun action, but creating something so 3D and organic was really exciting for me. Also, what Chloe Rodham has managed to create with the animation for this piece is just insane, I love it!



What piece of advice would you give to someone starting out in illustration?


Show future clients the potential of your illustrations clearly in your portfolio. Clients often aren’t very imaginative; you tend to need to show that your artwork would look just as great on a t-shirt or beer can as in a magazine, so for self-initiated briefs, mock up what the final product looks like with your illustration, and show lots of different examples to show consistency and a clear voice. Make sure your show photos of published work too, rather than the illustration alone. Also, don’t be a perfectionist; if you put off sending out your work until you’re completely happy with it, you never will, trust me!


Illustration and marketing design for Scilly Flowers by Rachael Horner, with branding by Nixon Design

For more of Rachael Horner's work, visit her website and follow her on Instagram.

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