maybe you’ve seen her coloring books around town? or maybe you’ve been to one of her adult coloring meet-ups? either way, rebecca borrelli is a name to know. i was first introduced to rebecca by the dearest jan heaton (if you need a little memory jog, here you go); after sitting down with her for a little bit, i knew a why we love austin artist spotlight was in order!
first off, tell us about yourself…
I’m a sign artist, illustrator and teacher living in the magical land of Austin with my handsome sweet boyfriend and super pup Layla. Talking about myself is still… awkward? I have my hands in so many things right now, I have yet to hammer down a good elevator speech.
when did you start drawing?
Professionally… Only 3 years ago. But of course I’ve been steadily drawing my whole life.
what does your creative process look like? (i’m obsessed with this question- i am fascinated by all the different processes and ways individuals work with their arts!)
Haha, okay my process is almost embarrassingly non-traditional. First off, let me say that I SO want to be one of those artists with a cute Instagrammable studio. You know the ones… all the cute swatches on the wall, with pencils and inspirational quotes scattered randomly, yet in an aesthetically pleasing way. Try as I might, I simply don’t work in a studio. I have one right now, and it’s more a storage spot than a workspace. If the art I’m working on is small, you’ll find me on a couch or bed. If the art is big I’m on the floor.
My very favorite way to work is the “professional doodle.” It’s a term I coined when I began doodling before bed each night during my graduate work at UT. I did them with ink and no eraser, so it really forced me to slow down and just enjoy the feelings and sensations of putting shapes on paper.
That kind of drawing is supremely enjoyable, because I get to step aside, and let the drawing come through my hand from somewhere else. Unfortunately, it is also less conducive for business. It’s hard to be free and do whatever the spirit says, while having a sustainable business with a recognizable brand. Maybe one day I’ll figure it out! In the meantime, I have tried to apply that open-ended approach with my Austin Coloring Book and series of prints. The subject matter is planned, but when I sit down to draw, the rest is accomplished through spontaneous ink line work… no eraser of course. I truly believe the drawings end up being more sincere, the more I leave things up to chance, rather than try to control the outcome.
how did you come up with the brilliant idea of an “austin coloring book?”
Organically! Last summer, I had been trying to get more disciplined with my drawing. I ran across one of those #100daysofdrawing challenges on Instagram. I thought: “This is going to be a great way for me to start that Austin series I’ve been dreaming about.” I love this city, and so I began drawing an hour a day. I was cranking through the drawings, and did all ten pieces in about 3 months. That might not sound like a lot, but for me it was tremendous! I was waiting tables, teaching art on the weekends, and painting chalkboard signs for local businesses, SO getting that body of work done was impressive. I hadn’t been inking them, and they were chilling in my (non-studio) when a friend was visiting. She mentioned she wanted to color them. That was my light bulb moment, but it took me another few months to get up the courage to publish it.
how did you decide what austin hot spots to include in your book?
I picked the spaces I was most excited to draw. I also think I like spaces that have a vibe to them. Austin energy is palpable. That might sound hippy, but it’s really practical when you think about it. People don’t go to Blues on the Green for the beer or music. They might think they do… but if it was really about the beer and music, they could do it at home in the air-conditioning on the couch. People go to Blues on the Green because of the energy between people. It’s a community. People are laying on one another laps, playing with dogs, laughing, hula-hooping, toasting, sharing stories. The spaces in Austin that embody that kind of energy, are the places I get most excited to draw.
any plans for another coloring book?
YES! The goal is to get the second coloring book done by November.
tell us about the classes you teach
I teach at The Contemporary Art School at Laguna Gloria primarily. Sometimes I’ll moonlight at museums or galleries around the area. I recently did some workshops at the McNay in San Antonio. I was a public school teacher for 5 years, and then a Sign Artist at Trader Joe’s for 2 years. My classes tend to be extensions of those backgrounds, and I teach all ages. Painting and Drawing for children and teens, and Chalkboard Sign Making workshops for adults.
what is your favorite medium to work with?
Ink pens and markers on Bristol board. A close second are paint markers on chalkboards.
where do you find inspiration?
I’m inspired by connections. There’s this idea that a lot of people ascribe to, even if we have a limited understanding of it: “Everything is connected.” I really believe that. I get a lot of enjoyment in making everything in my art connect. The trees connect to the clouds, the people connect to the trees…. You get the idea.
who are your favorite artists?
Locally, I geek out over Sophie Roach’s work. That girl is prolific. I’m a renaissance woman, I am doing so many different things. That’s what works for me. But I admire how Sophie is a full time artist. She knows her style, and she cranks out work after work after work. It’s moving, it’s marketable, it’s flexible, and most important it’s sincere.
Generally speaking, I also love abstract artists, even though my personal style is relatively very different. I especially love abstract expressionism. I could sit in the Houston Rothko chapel for hours. I had a great Late Modern Art teacher in my undergrad who got me turned onto what abstract expressionists were trying to do. I love the idea that: “Maybe I don’t get the art, but the art sure gets me.”
how can we keep up with you and your work?
The hub of everything is at my website: beccajborrelli.com. Social media connections are there, as well a link to my Etsy shop where you can purchase work online, and a list of local retailers that sell prints and the coloring book. The best way to find out about things first is to sign up for my monthly newsletter. I send out a subscriber only discount once a month, as well as early bird notice on classes and new art.
where can we purchase your coloring books?
and, of course… why do you love Austin?
Ooh, I love this question (hence why I love your work). When I was finishing up grad school I waited tables at the Four Seasons Hotel. One of the senior career servers I worked with was named Winston. He was in his sixties, and a real man about town. He was the guy that Willie Nelson’s sister, Bobbie, would request when she came in for dinner. In fact, he was the server with the most call tables in the restaurant. He moved here in the 70’s, he’d owned a restaurant here, and he seemed to know everyone. Each Sunday we would walk the 5K loop on Town Lake between MoPac and Lamar. And each Sunday at least a dozen people would wave to Winston. On one of those walks I asked him why he loved Austin. He told me this story and I loved it so much, it’s now on my website.
“You know, there was this article I read about when Willie Nelson first came to Austin,” Winston told me. He went to the Armadillo and saw all these cowboys and hippies hanging out smoking and drinking together, and he couldn’t believe it. He called Waylon Jennings up in Nashville and said: “I don’t know what’s going on here, but you gotta come see this for yourself.”
That’s what I love about Austin. It’s not just the cowboys and hippies getting along anymore either. It’s the techies and the artists, the small and big business. The food trucks and the high rises. Austin is inclusive. It’s a place where seeming opposites co-exist in harmony. And I really believe that this quality is here for the long haul. Even as the buildings get taller. Even as the traffic gets heavier. If you don’t believe it, go to Zilker Park on a weekday evening. Go to Jo’s Coffee on Monday morning. Go to the greenbelt on a weekend. The community has prevailed.
thank you, rebecca for taking the time to sit down with me! if there are any questions related to rebecca’s work or books, please contact her directly!
now, go be awesome.
with love, as always,