When we first saw Brighton illustrator Rebecca de Havas‘ work, we knew we had to feature her. Describing her creations as “beautiful illustrations for dreamers who enjoy the comfort of home and nature” (yep, that’s us!), we wanted to not only shine the spotlight on Rebecca, but also find out about the woman behind the drawings and get her top tips for likeminded ladies starting out too. So grab a cuppa, your notebook and meet this month’s woman in business, Rebecca de Havas:
Hi Rebecca! How did you become an illustrator?
I grew up surrounded by people who made my childhood feel so magical by having stories read to me, beautifying our simple home in Kent with trinkets and painting the walls with vivid colours. I would always be drawing when possible and making things, so my bedroom became my sanctuary for creativity until I was 19 and I decided to move to Brighton to study illustration.
I thought at the time that I was definitely going to be an illustrator but during my course, I was encouraged to experiment and put the drawing process in the backseat. This was really hard for me because I think drawing was such a huge part of my identity. I didn’t really realise that at the time and felt a bit lost through those years. Then I graduated and I ended up falling into graphic design and publishing. During that time I felt this urge to do illustration again but I wanted to pay my bills and make people proud. I was really scared that my choice of a change would be damaging and selfish. After almost a year I decided to go for it.
I took baby steps, drawing bit by bit and slowly I was building a portfolio of new work. I started with friends and family by giving them cards and I used social media to get the word out. I found a flexible day job and I use my spare time to work towards designing and illustration, leading me to where I am now.
What made you set up your biz?
I started freelancing in May 2016 and during that time I was building it all up slowly, back and forth on where I was going and what I was doing. I felt like that until the last few months! I now feel far more grounded, where I have a new found confidence and a style of work I really like. I guess what made me set it up in the first place was my stubbornness and knowing that I would regret never having tried to pursue doing it on my own.
How would you describe your designs?
I think the style of my designs stemmed from my love of the artist Frida Kahlo and the Pre-Raphaelites. So whether it’s a portrait or a Christmas card, my illustrations are always very detailed with a dreamy aura and dark undertones.
What has been your career highlight so far?
Finding people who are like me and being a part of a creative community. When I didn’t have that, I was really struggling to make work and felt so alone. It makes such a difference because at the end of the day you are a human being and humans are social creatures.
Which design has been your most favourite?
It is a unique experience when you create a design so it’s hard to pick one! The Christmas collection I did, consisting of cards and prints was a project that really got the ball rolling and was a challenge commercially. I remember getting home from my day job working on them every evening, being so excited to get them printed and actually selling them!
There was also a period where I hadn’t drawn for a long time and I was really struggling.The band poster that I designed for Rogues, was the first illustration in my new portfolio that got me inspired and took me out of my slump. I really felt a sense of something taking over me and made the process of drawing to feel natural again.
What do you hope the next 6 months have in store for you?
So I hope in the next 6 months I’ll keep adding to my online store and taking part in more illustrations fairs. I’m also planning to make my Instagram a stronger platform by getting involved in more projects and not being afraid to show some more personality. I eventually want to be creating imagery for publishing and editorial work as well, seeing a book cover with my illustration would be amazing!
I’m going to open my online shop very soon and I’m going to be launching a new print of Frida Kahlo. I am also hoping to get involved in a pen pal project which I will keep updated via my Instagram.
Do you have any words of wisdom for other girls looking to step out on their own?
I have learnt recently how to handle being a perfectionist, which I think a lot of people can relate to. It’s a trait I’ve always had which can hold you back and prevent you from putting anything out there, which is what you need to do if you are going to step out on your own. It’s much better to show something than nothing at all. I’m not saying you need to put everything out there but just not to be too harsh on yourself. I had nothing online for so many months and no one knew what I was up to. Just remember you can change and improve on what you have and that’s how you get better at what you do. So use that perfectionist trait to grow and improve but not to hold you back.
And finally, when you’re not working, what do you love getting up to in Brighton?
I love to go for walks along the seafront and I try to squeeze in a yoga class when possible. Brighton helps me to build up my collection of magazines, coffee table books and to grow my wardrobe! Being super specific though, my favourite thing to do right now is to get out of the flat, get a coffee and sit in one of the park squares with my sketchbook. I just sit there for a few hours either drawing, writing, listening to music/podcast or use that time to think about things. I always feel so fresh and alive after doing that.
See more from Rebecca on rebeccadehavas.com.