We had the good fortune of connecting with Rachel Ivanyi and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Rachel, why did you pursue a creative career?
Being a full-time creative person was not my original plan. I have had a love of animals, art and nature from a very early age. I figured art would be a hobby of mine, with my career in veterinary medicine. In college I pursued (and received) a Bachelor of Science in zoology, diving deep into all the branches of veterinary medicine. I narrowed down my interest to wildlife, and had a special love for birds of prey. However, during a particular moment when an injured golden eagle woke up from sedation screaming in distress, and I was the one with the gloves to restrain the bird, I realized I much preferred drawing them to treating them medically. During this time I had been happily drawing all the birds at the raptor center and was thrilled to find I could pursue a graduate degree in scientific illustration, which allowed me to combine my passions for art and science. I initially pursued freelance work, and my first client out of school was National Geographic magazine. For most of my career I have strived to accurately render nature. As time progressed, my style evolved, but the purpose of my work remained focused on literal representation of plants, animals and natural places, many of which were at risk of disappearing. I became a signature member of Artists for Conservation to further this cause. Due to personal loss, I realized that art had become a way to work through grief, while maintaining a connection to those I had lost. Now my personal work falls into more conceptual art, storytelling, and exhibit installations.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
As I evolve as an artist, my illustration and teaching are valuable components of my creative life. I just finished illustrating the fabulous book “The Neotenic Queen, Tales of Sex and Survival in the Sonoran Desert”, by Alejandro Canelos, where my scientist/artist/storyteller self was in heaven. I love the variety of projects freelance illustration affords and bringing my clients’ visions to life.
My personal art lives in the hope that people look closer, feel deeper, and make positive change in their lives and in the lives of others. I use both my scientific and artistic training, bringing attention to lesser-known animal groups and environmental issues, to promote healing in nature and ourselves.
I developed a two-person exhibition with my mom titled “Catharsis”, and I continue to create art under the theme of healing in art and nature. I also created a solo exhibition, “INVASION!”, that opened in the middle of the pandemic, so I am developing components of this as a traveling exhibition. Touching on both those themes, a current body of work honors animals killed on the road. They are created in heart shapes to leave a piece of my heart with them and to give them final rest.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Our first stop would be the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson, Arizona. It is what brought me to Arizona from California back in 1996 for my graduate internship. It’s a short drive from Phoenix, and well worth it. If you don’t already love the desert, visiting the Desert Museum will start your love affair. Before heading down from Phoenix, you can go to the South Mountain Preserve and look for the special chuckwallas (beautiful large lizards- the males have orange tails). In Tucson, I would also take you to the Mercado San Agustin, as well as stop downtown for some Exo coffee, or if it’s the evening, mezcal. I would recommend natural places for spending the day: Sabino Canyon, Tucson Mountain Park, Catalina State Park. We would take time to visit Tubac and eat at Elvira’s Restaurant. On the way back, we would head up to Madera Canyon to see the night sky, and of course keep our eyes out for critters on the road.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I have been fortunate to have many supportive people in my life. My wonderful childhood art teacher, Jacky Wallace, my engineer father, and folk artist mother, were always supportive of my creativity and weren’t surprised when I veered from pursuing veterinary studies to scientific illustration. My husband Craig, whom I met when he ran the reptile department of the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum – we bonded over our love of snakes. Dr. Robert Stebbins, known for his beautiful field guide to the western reptiles and amphibians, was very supportive of my passion for reptile and amphibian art and suggested I check out the Desert Museum for my graduate internship. Another mentor and friend was the botanical illustrator Manabu Saito. An incredibly accomplished artist himself, he was nothing but encouraging and positive about my work in scientific illustration, and branching out into my conservation art and conceptual work. I am honored to continue in the tradition of the incredible storyteller and scientist-artist Beatrix Potter.
My personal photo credit: Ridgeway Visuals All others, none needed