In life, there are certain friends that inspire and motivate. You will be grateful they’re in your life because they reinstill faith in “the dream.” This dream—however vague such a cliched term as such may be—is the flutter in your heart that you forgot once existed. It’s the inspiration that keeps you going. It’s the hater-blocking goodness that comes with being a person. It’s the answer you used to recite without hesitation when people asked what you wanted to be when you grow up.
That is my friend Rachael Payne, also a contributor to this blog. You might’ve seen her machete prints and narwhal lined patterns. Rachael went to art school when I went to college for political science. Rachael believed so adamantly in her ability to create a career path that she so deeply desired that I watched in awe as she honed her craft. She looks fear in the face, laughs, and walks on by in her Jeffery Campbell platform stunna heels. She is complex, intelligent, creative, and a believer.
This 20 something Endeavors is for all the art nerds who want to know, “How do I make a career with this thing called art?” Relax & take notes. Here are some words of wisdom and insight from our dear pal on what her path has looked like, thus far.
To The Chats
Rachael first realized she was interested in art as a kid. She loved to stay inside doodling. Once she got to high school, she began ignoring art—a familiar story. Like many, she was told it wasn’t practical to pursue art. Instead, she focused on something more profitable. She was also a health nut and loved science, so naturally, she chose the more stable option. After senior year, she went to USC to pursue bio and anatomy, with sights set on becoming an occupational therapist.
How did you like USC?
I didn’t really like it. I didn’t make friends easily. I felt like the weird artsy one. I wanted to be somewhere where I wasn’t the only weird one—I was looking for community. Freshman year, I visited a friend at Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD) in Georgia and I just loved it. It just really felt like home. At SCAD, I wasn’t the only one who stood out. I felt like I fit in immediately.
That’s funny! I wonder what it takes to be the “weird” one in art school?
In order to really stand out, you have to use your talents instead of just how you present yourself. Being at a top art school that values artistic talent so much really makes you a better artist. It’s competitive in a good way.
So, after that, you knew you wanted to switch into art?
Yeah. Even before that, I knew I wanted to do art, but visiting SCAD definitely gave me the push I needed. I wasn’t happy at USC so it was easy. I moved back home and took art and science classes at the same time at the local college, GMU. To be sure, I decided I’d try them both, and then choose one path. I was naturally leaning more towards art. I talked to a lot of my professors there who told me if I was serious about it and I wanted to get into some kind of fashion side of it, that I should apply to an established art school and go for it.
Were you ever scared to make that switch from the “traditional” path into art?
No. I never get scared. It even surprises my mom—I never get scared about moving from place to place. I always tell myself, “nothing’s permanent if you don’t want it to be.” My home is where I rest my head. (Editors note: Rachael recently wrapped up an internship at Anthropologie and just moved to California to start a design job with Pac Sun. Cross country ain’t a thang).
Do you ever get worried about not finding your place?
Yeah, of course, but I don’t think about it that much. I think I’ll find it. I think Pac Sun might be it. I feel like I’m on the right path. I totally feel like all the doors that have closed have led me to better paths. Everything seems to be getting better and better.
How would you describe your art?
I majored in Fibers at SCAD, which are the textiles and prints that fabrics are made out of. I always think in prints and patterns now. I like to play with how different motifs can work together. With patterns, it’s fun because you can switch up your style for different reasons. I’ve done street art style with thick, bold letters. Then, I’ve also done a more feminine style with a softer hand and thinner, lighter, delicate drawings.
What’s your favorite print you’ve ever made?
Probably the graffiti alphabet. I made it in my favorite combination of colors — pink and orange. I like how when you look close at it, it doesn’t look like anything. It sort of just looks like an abstract pattern. But when you look closer you can see each letter. You really have to look at the big picture to get it. I like making prints that make people do a double take.
Hah – that’s kind of like you! You’re a complex person and you have to really look at the big picture to get it!
That’s funny. I did have career advisors at SCAD say that I would walk in mean mugging and look intimidating, but then I’d open up and they realized that I’m friendly.
Could you see yourself doing anything else now that you’ve come this far?
No. I don’t even understand how—like when people ask me, “what are you gonna do with a design degree?” I’m like, “What are you gonna do with a business degree?” It’s all about what your most passionate about and interested in. Plus, honestly, design is in everything. It’s a huge part of this world. Even boring stuff like roads and bridges—someone’s gotta think about it. I can appreciate anyone who’s passionate, even if their passion is something different from mine.
When people ask me, “What are you gonna do with a design degree?” I’m like “What are you gonna do with a business degree?”
What’s your opinion on failure?
I definitely failed a lot in high school. It told me what I didn’t want to do. That’s an important experience.
What’s your method for creating art?
Honestly, I don’t really have one. I just let my hand do its thing.
I don’t like to over research. If you look at too much art for inspiration, you’ll end up copying them. It’s human nature to start copying it. When I was learning I did experiment and copy other people’s style but now I feel really comfortable with it.
Thanks, Rach! To see her full portfolio, check out her website.