Rachel Tan, born and raised in Singapore, now a creative thriving in the Melbourne arts and design scene. Rachel is a graphic designer + illustrator with a love for telling stories. At the age of 16, she decided to combine her love for creative writing and visual arts to pursue a greater form of storytelling – design, and four years later reroots herself in Melbourne. After 3 internships and countless freelance jobs, Rachel now finds herself in a creative studio as a full-time designer, and believes it is only the beginning of her journey as a Melbourne creative.
How did your creative career actually begin?
My love for art started when I was a child, and manifested itself in many aspects of my life. I was only able to turn it into a career at 22 when I started doing freelance work for clients I’d found off creative networking sites on the internet.
Can you describe the person you were when you started your career?
I was young, both as a person and even more as a creative. I didn’t trust my capabilities as a designer, never gave myself enough credit for good work, and genuinely felt like I didn’t have anything special to offer except lower hourly rates. I suffered from severe Imposter Syndrome.
Was there a turning point growing up in your hometown that contributed to where you are in your creative career today?
It wasn’t as much a turning point, as it was a slow and organic evolution. As a child, I was always being compared to my sister who thrived academically. I had cousins who were teachers, policemen, lawyers and nurses.
I really just have the media to thank for always portraying artists as somewhat free of social construct, expectations and rules. I wanted that label to help justify my fear of conforming.
So I came all the way here to live the dream of being a starving artist who worked part-time in a diner to pay rent in New York (except I chose Melbourne), wore second-hand clothes and screened her parents’ calls.
Ironically, 2 whole years of that wore me out and I learnt to appreciate the stifling stability of 9 to 5.
Can you describe the vibe of Melbourne’s creative scene?
How has this affected the way you create?
Melbourne’s creative scene in two words is anyone, everywhere. It’s humbling and at the same time, gives me the courage I lacked before to talk to people, show my stuff and take back all the credit I’d sheepishly attributed to ‘good luck’.
What’s been the most transformative experience for you since moving? How has this affected your creative confidence?
As cliché and corny as it sounds, finding myself. I used to think that meant some sort of spiritual awakening, but for me it was as simple as being in control of what I consumed – food, media, advice. Moving away from my family gave me the opportunity to rediscover myself as an individual, unlearn the values and habits that didn’t serve me and redefine my standards of success. As I grew to like myself more as a person, I also became more fearless in my creative choices.
What or who have been your greatest creative influences from Melbourne?
My co-workers, my creative friends, my cat. It’s hard for me to feel inspired and influenced by people (or animals) I haven’t personally spoken to and haven’t witnessed their growth. I like hearing life stories, but success stories told by already successful (and happy) people don’t touch me, even if they’ve had their fair share of setbacks. I turn to the people around me for a realistic picture of big efforts and consistent progress.
How do you see yourself evolving as a creative in Melbourne in the next 2-3 years?
I see myself being 100% acclimated to full-time work life and dedicating my free time to designing for a non-profit organisation I feel strongly about.
What advice would you give 17 year old Rachel?
‘Everything you ever wanted is on the other side of fear” is not true.
There is no other side of fear. Fear is on this side, and the other, and everywhere you go, it will follow. So just go get what you want anyway.