Rebecca Feneley graduated from BA (Hons) Visual Communication 2015. She is a freelance fashion illustrator and artist based in the North of England. Rebecca specialises in Fashion, beauty and product illustration and her portfolio also includes realist portraiture and fantasy art.

Working both traditionally and digitally, Rebecca's work spans from striking and simple line work to fantasically bold & bright colour renderings. Since graduating Rebecca has worked with various international fashion and beauty brands including Dior, Acqua di Parma and L'Oreal Paris amongst others.

Image: Rebecca Feneley, Manolo Blahnik, Icons Series, 2017.  Copyright REBECCA FENELEY, all rights reserved 2020.

Rebecca  tells us about her career, tips for working from home and how she is sharing her experience with other creatives:

My work is what I’d call non-traditional fashion illustration. Although I do some typical fashion style work (think watercolour, runway looks, etc) a lot of my work is quite different. I like the idea of moving towards a more pop-surrealism/realism style of fashion work, and I’ve found that I often split my work into ‘commercial illustrations’ and ‘personal art’, depending on what I want out of the piece and who it’s aimed at. I work mainly digitally after moving into digital work for the first time in 2018 (this was something I really wish I’d tried whilst at university while I could borrow the equipment!). This really shook up my style and limits, it was exactly the change I needed and it was refreshing to explore a new way to create work.

Image: Rebecca Feneley, Webinar image, from ‘Bags of Paradise' Mini Series. Online event, Let’s Talk Fashion Illustration with Rebecca Feneley, on Thursday 21 May 2020 at 18.30.

Since my work varies so much (I still work traditionally with ink and watercolour in a completely different style to my digital work) my process is completely different for each medium, however I always use at least one reference (if not lots!) for every image, and often take my own reference photography as I’ve found this is invaluable.

Image: Rebecca Feneley, Beauty montage. Copyright REBECCA FENELEY, all rights reserved 2020.

I’ve always known I wanted to work with fashion illustration (I had been drawing fashion campaigns and editorials since I was about 12) however I ended up doing a degree that was neither directly fashion nor illustration related. This helped me in a number of ways but was also something I’ve always looked back on. If you have a creative passion, go with your instinct.

You work mostly from home, do you have any tips?

The best advice I can give you on working from home is to find your peak time- for me this is evenings. I have a slow morning (some TV, posting on social, emails etc) and then get into the real work from around 12-8PM. If it’s personal work I will often draw going late into the evening, or whenever I feel the urge (I’ve never been a morning person!) Finding when you work best and can achieve a flow will really help working from home. Also, make a written schedule if you struggle to get motivated. Set alarms on your phone for when to start, change tasks, take breaks etc. This really helped me whilst I was studying!

You are now working as a freelancer, what has the experience been like for you?

Freelancing for me is something I've worked towards gradually. You can’t really intern as an illustrator like you can as a graphic designer or fashion buyer, and it’s rare to find an in house job, especially north of London. Instead I’ve been building a career of freelancing on the side of a part time day job. I normally don’t talk about this as I feel it’s a bit taboo, but I felt much more comfortable being able to build my work and career from scratch whilst not having the constant financial worry of scrabbling for my next freelance job. It’s given me a lot more freedom creatively, I’ve had a lot of time to work on my portfolio, personal work, trying different avenues and applications to my work. Now I’ve found what works and have built up more connections, it’s something I’m aiming towards breaking into full time with.

How has the experience of working from the North of England been for you?

Working in the North is a different ball game, but not without it’s merits. As the competition in my sector outside of London is minimal it means that there are more gaps in which to find opportunities. I’d say 80% of my opportunities so far have only been available from being in the North (and also the approachability that comes with this!).

Could you tell us a little about what you enjoyed during your studies?

I really enjoyed being able to explore different creative and career avenues, my course especially was so varied. I had always been curious about fashion photography, metalwork, book illustration, I got to try all these things and more. In the end they weren’t for me, but gave me a much broader experience on the creative community and also helped me approach illustration, events and marketing from a completely different angle. I was also able to work on areas that were really specific to me and take control of my own learning.

Do you have any tips or advice for current students or recent graduates wanting to work in your field?

It’s a waiting game, you will often hear illustrators talk about having a very slow start to their careers and it taking off overnight. For me this was certainly true, you have to be persistent and passionate about what you do, accept that there will be plenty of lows as well as highs. Create work that you love, not work you think will sell. Being creatively genuine is invaluable, especially in the age of social media where ideas and concepts are mirrored and copied so frequently.

Finally, are there any projects in the pipeline you can tell us about?

Creatively I’m excited to start doing some bigger pieces again, and explore working traditionally with some different mediums after working digitally for most of the last 2 years. I’d also really like to get into doing some more teaching, workshops and events. Teaching and working live has been an unexpected joy for me, and having been able to do a more of this recently has been really great! I’m hoping to move into some more digital lessons too!

Rebecca will be speaking at an online event, Let’s Talk Fashion Illustration with Rebecca Feneley, on Thursday 21 May 2020 at 18.30.