We had the good fortune of connecting with Chelsea Rector and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Chelsea, have you ever found yourself in a spot where you had to decide whether to give up or keep going? How did you make the choice?
Finding the will to persist is an issue, I would say, for most artists right now. With the emergence of social media and a general ease of access to seeing the work of others across the globe, it is a common feeling to think you’re just a drop in an exceedingly talented ocean. When I am throwing my own art out there into Digital Land to be judged and accepted or rejected by anyone who sees it, I sometimes feel as though it’s in vain. Who is going to see it? Who is going to care? What are my handful of hundred followers (once you weed out the bots) to the artist I follow and admire who has tens of thousands? At certain times, those questions and the sheer volume of content are defeating to me. I don’t post for a while. I hit creative slumps where I feel that nothing I draw is any good. The age-old advice of creating what you want because you love creating is eyeroll-inducing at times, but, at the end of the day, they’re the right words, and many mega-successes will say this very thing when asked how they got to where they are. They drew because they loved drawing! They delved into digital art because it interested them. They sculpted because throwing clay is a passion. I try so hard to keep in mind to draw for ME and that if I love what I’m creating, then it’s just a bonus if other people do as well. It turns into an internal stay-in-your-lane conversation for me. Draw what I want Put my twist on it if it makes me happy. If that’s anthromorphic animals one day and lettering/calligraphy pieces another, who cares! It’s what is putting a smile on my face, what’s making MY heart feel that grip of passion. I keep going and keep creating because even though it may not garner massive amounts of attention or discussion, even though some in my audience may not ‘get it,’ I’m still presenting me, as an artist, and staying true to myself is so important to me when it comes to creating, whether it’s character design, commissions, personal art, etc.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Originally, in a specialized elementary school in California, I was looking at a drawing how-to book at the age of 7, learning how to draw cats. How their bodies curved. What it looked like when they sat versus when they were standing. The round lines of their haunches and the curves of their spines into their tails. I’ve never stopped loving animated movies. I’ve never stopped studying and finding anatomy so interesting. I started, and haven’t stopped, using animals as metaphors for my feelings. Sketchbooks and journals filled with drawings and illustrations ranging feelings from elation and excitement to angst and fear. For all those years, I’m rewarded with pieces that are better than before. Now, I’m sketching with pencil (I still plan my ideas out best traditionally) and finishing digitally (but I still love my markers).
The victory of being able to draw something that’s more convincing and satisfying to me than it was five years ago (twenty years ago) certainly counts as success to me. My continued practice into cartoon styles has heavily impacted my own emerging stamp and brand. Always somewhat of a chameleon, finding my own personal style is a mountain I am still climbing. I take heavy influence from artists who are concept artists and those who utilize aspects from vintage cartoons, something I’ve recently attempted to do when conceptualizing character designs. At times, I still think that I’m rather rudderless when it comes to distinctive ‘style.’ Something that helped me tremendously, and it further impressed upon me to stay true to myself, was hearing a client tell me that they liked my style – the one I couldn’t discern or see. Even in my imitation of other artists and their styles, I had developed my own. To know I was actually developing, not just copying or practicing, was a massive boost and message that I was going in the right direction.
So, I’ll keep drawing, studying, learning new techniques, unearthing my stamp. I’ll keep drawing wolves and anthro art. Because the joy I’m finding in creating characters and pieces reads as passion, and that’s what’s going to catch your eye. That you can see heart and meaning behind what I put out. Maybe you’ll eventually learn about the years of self-study and struggle that went into becoming the artist I am today, but maybe you’ll just see a great piece of art that resonates with you, the thing so many artists want their works to allow: collective appreciation of a feeling.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Oh, man! Tucson is a total gem for visitors, and I think it gets looked over for Big Brother Phoenix a lot. Breakfast spots that would be musts are Saguaro Corners on the east side, The Cup Cafe downtown, and one of the Baja Café locations. One of the Tridents (preferably the OG location at Speedway and Campbell) should be tried for a lunch spot (brunch, if it’s a football Sunday). Seis and the Mercado Market/Annex areas are great for a lunch date and a little exploration. Sprinkle the Desert Museum in there somewhere, as there’s no better way to learn about the surrounding wildlife. Picacho Peak is about 25min outside Tucson, but that hike is absolutely incredible and the view from the top is one of the most rewarding. Mount Lemmon is great for more hikes and the drive up feels like you’re passing through more than a few different states; amazing that you can go from cactus to pine in an hour. For libations, I will narrow my extensive list to Tough Luck Club (play shot dice), Dragoon Brewery, Arizona Beer House, Tap and Bottle, and The Shelter (call me later for the full dive bar list). Take a walk around the University of Arizona campus and make your way to 4th Avenue to see some truly unique shops. Get a nice supper at the iconic Jonathan’s Cork on the east side, Commoner near the foothills, Charro Steak downtown, and BOCA Tacos y Tequila on 4th. There are many more, so my friend would just have to visit again!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
As a self-taught artist, I didn’t have a mentor or guide in my art journey. However, I can say that from Day 1, my biggest supporters and cheerleaders have been my parents. They’ve liked every painting I’ve brought from school. They didn’t care that I ceaselessly studied The Lion King and Balto, eventually wearing our VHS player out. I thank them for their infinite love and support through my art journey. They’ve watched me go from crayons to Apple Pencil, telling me all the while how proud they are, and it means the world to me.
Portrait courtesy of photographer Enrique Martinez.