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Rachel Rivera

Vancouver-based designer Rachel Rivera graduated from the Alberta College of Art and Design in Calgary and immediately started working at agency Critical Mass as a graphic designer. After that, she spent a few years doing freelance and contract work for a number of agencies in Calgary. Then a friend referred her for a job at Aritzia, a women’s fashion retailer. They liked her work, and she spent four years working with them as an applied graphic designer on the company’s TNA brand.

She says, “TNA was a really great outlet for the type of work I do. I had some freedom, so I could tell them, ‘Hey, I’m going to go home and paint a wolf in pastel colors,’ and they said, ‘Okay!’ There were always new challenges, and the aesthetic was really awesome and I was able to own that.”

“I’m really into ’90s skater styles right

now, but I’m also heavily influenced

by Renaissance painters.”

The great outdoors

Rachel has been creating since she was “able to hold a pencil,” but her earliest memories are of painting and drawing her family’s three cats. Animals and nature are still major inspirations, and that’s evident in her work. “I don’t like to draw man-made things. Nature is always inspiring for me. And, I know it’s a trend right now, but I’m also inspired by cultural styles like Mexican or Moroccan.”

Rachel’s influences are fluid and varied, and have more to do with movements and decades rather than specific people. She says, “I’m really into ’90s skater styles right now, but I’m still heavily influenced by the beauty of Renaissance painters — like Caravaggio’s use of light and dark, detailed drawings of floral studies.”

Where do her ideas come from? “Nature, of course. And I love really weird street artists. Their work is so wacky. It’s nothing like what I do, but I love to look at it just because it’s so different. People like that are inspiring to me in their own way.”

Origin story

Rachel’s nickname has been Radcastle for a long time — she has owned since she was in school. So how did she get it?

“My middle name is Castillo, so that explains the castle part. Rad comes from a YTV game show called Uh-Oh! It’s the one where the kids got slimed when they didn’t get an answer right. I was on that show. I had to audition for it and to audition, you had to be very loud and energetic. And you had use alliteration for your name. So I had to think quickly about what my name would be. There were all these people out there, and I ran out and yelled, ‘I’m Radical Rachel and I’m gonna win!’ So they picked me, and I ended up winning. I won a printer. I didn’t even own a computer. That’s where Radcastle comes from.”

Like so many other makers, Rachel makes things because “I can’t not. If I don’t for a little bit, I feel different, like I’m not myself, and I don’t know why. And then I just start doodling and it’s like therapy. I feel so much better, and then I get obsessed. And suddenly I have all these projects and I don’t care if I work 14 hours a day. It’s an obsession, it’s what makes me at peace.”