Pearl white and cobalt blue are the walls of the charming and crowded café where I wait for Rachael Cole. If you go to Yelp or Instagram you’ve probably seen hundreds of photographs of this or any other kind of hip and cozy café in Brooklyn, yet pictures don’t quite justify the experience of being there. I am inspired by the brightness in the room and I feel the warmth of the rays of light reflect my skin, just as it is doing to other people’s coffee cups and devices. Rachael walks in, but the light blocks my view. Still, the wise and witty illustrator came to greet me by the counter, and quickly, we started our interview. After nearly ten minutes of chatting we still found ourselves without coffee; this is the busiest café on the block! The lines were too long and time was too short to grab one of our own. Yet, still, without coffee it is still one of Rachael’s favorite spots, and as of now, one of my own.
What makes people come here so much, I wonder? Could it be its visuals, location or the coffee we missed out on?
I’m still uncertain. The only thing there is to say, is that we do live in a visual world where either a picture or an illustration paint a thousand words. This is why Cole’s passion for illustration, ever since she started, has made her flexible within the arts. Who knew that being an illustrator, children’s book art director, teacher, children’s book writer, collaborator, and most importantly; a mother, could be feasible in this overwhelming virtual world, and not to mention city of New York?
“All of the types of work I do inform each other—they’re all related,” she says with composure and proficiency. “Now I’m wondering what project I’m going to do next.”
Not only does she have so many things on her hands, but she also manages to keep thinking ahead, visualizing and preparing herself for what the future has to offer. Yet as the present takes place, creative things keep happening, something in which she enjoys and is nurtured by as much as she nurtures others.
It’s really Cole’s imagination that hasn’t stopped expanding ever since she discovered the world of illustration. Cole has let the nature of motherhood play along enormously well, not letting it get in her way, not letting it get constrained by long hours of childcare. And what is so admirable about Rachael, in fact, is that she has taken parenthood the opposite way, as she allows her four-year-old son to be the insight of her work. Granting the child’s point of view above anything else.
“I find myself thinking about situations that were going on through his day, and they are fascinating,” she continues, “Like the time I ended up writing my first children’s picture book called ‘City Moon.’ The first time my son saw the moon was a dramatic moment. I never expected it to be so magical, but his reverence for the moon was heartening, and it suggested to me of the way primitive people might have viewed the moon, and why there were so many superstitions around seeing it. This experience inspired me to write in my journal, which led to the story. Because I work in children’s publishing as an art director, I guess I had been absorbing the structure of children’s writing without realizing it.
“My son is the most important world that I’m involved with now, and he is also my muse. He has deepened my creative drive in unexpected ways.” said Cole.
No better sentence justifies the rainbow of emotions, colors and angles that have taken place in her work ever since her son came in the picture.
Cole also enjoys collaborating with other illustrators. She is part of Ladies Drawing Night, a collaborationbetween her and two other talented and well respected Brooklyn-based illustrators; Leah Goren and Julia Rothman.
“It cliqued from the very start; Leah, Julia and I began meeting with the purpose of making scarves with our own drawings,” said Cole. After the scarves, they began meeting only to draw, and a book with Chronicle and larger events have grown out of this unique idea. It’s a concept which turned out to be an open conversation between each other, and then a conversation they were lucky enough to expand to other guests.
“It’s a collaboration that keeps evolving and growing, and I can’t wait to see what is going to happen next,” said Cole.
Its clear though that family has always been the most important thing to Cole, that even though there may be times where she may find herself drowned with projects and work, she seemingly refuses to complain and allows herself to revolve the stress around focus. “Just shut it off” she says, “chat with friends, family – it takes pressure away.”
All of a sudden I see her son; and her husband walk into this pearly (and still crowded) café. Now, they both greet us, and Rachael needs to leave. Seems we’re out of time. Rachael is off to another activity, only this time, with her most treasured team.