Rachel Katstaller, 28, The Alps / El Salvador
Tell me a bit about yourself.
My name is Rachel Katstaller, I’m a 28-year-old illustrator currently living in the Alps with my cat Hemingway.
I grew up in the tropics in a tiny country called El Salvador, but had an European upbringing which always made me feel like I never really belonged neither here nor there.
How did you first get into art?
Ever since, I was a child I loved drawing and would find myself drawing a compelling passage from a book or a quote which struck me. I never considered a career as an illustrator until attending the Summer Residency in Illustration at the School of Visual Arts in 2014. In that moment, I realized there was nothing in life I’d rather do than become a professional illustrator.
How does feminism play a role in your art?
Many of my illustrations and the statements within my work center around women. At the beginning this was only part of my exploration in finding my voice as an illustrator, but as I’ve grown as a person, I’ve also started voicing myself in regard to certain issues around women’s rights that deeply concern me.
I think that part of my responsibility as a human being is working on making this world a more just place to live in. And my responsibility as an artist is to make people think and reconsider their opinions around topics they might not have thought about. This is where feminism plays a role in my work: it supports my opinion on many issues that concern women.
I first found out about your work through an Ello post where you wrote, “I’m scared of being a woman. I’m mainly scared of being a woman in a country like El Salvador. A country where your body is not yours to decide upon what to do with it, but belongs to public opinion to criticize and judge and punish.” Could you say more about reproductive rights and the importance of standing up for what you believe in?
Reproductive rights is a topic that deeply concerns me because I have always felt that deciding about whether I want children or not is part of my freedom as a human being. Whatever I do to and with my body is my business and nobody else’s.
As a child, I would suffer from anxiety due to society’s constant pressure of making girls cute little future mothers and not future professionals. I swore I would never have children and so, from an early age, started to deny my gender. I grew up wanting to be a boy because boys weren’t forced to be certain ways nor were they forced to have children. It was a childish approach to a bigger problem that has kept following me throughout my life.
As I grew pretending to be a boy, I was set free from many pressures and stereotypical female attitudes that were expected of me until I became a teenager. It became harder to be a tomboyish girl as I got rejected by my peers, but the essence of these past experiences remained in my life: I did not nor do I want to be a woman in a world where I’m not allowed to be who I want to be, just because it’s so different from the role society wants me to fulfill.
I never spoke out about this, but silently defied gender roles that were forced upon me. Now as a grown-up, I see the importance of standing up and voicing my opinions for all those suffering in silence as I once did. I think of all the girls going through much harder challenges in life and feel it as part of my responsibility to stand by them, even if just with a drawing. Because hopefully it will touch and resonate with someone.
Another thing that I’ve noticed about your art is that you draw a lot of ladies from Harry Potter! What role has HP had in your life?
This is one of my favorite questions by far! I can’t even begin to say in how many ways Harry Potter influenced my life. I started reading the books while going through one of my hardest phases of self-discovery and the books helped me find a footing in my identity.
I was slowly trying to figure out who I was apart from the gender roles imposed upon me, and found freedom and acceptance in Harry’s world that I didn’t have in real life. The books made me feel that it was OK to be different, to stand up for myself and to still believe that there was magic in the world — even in those times when it didn’t feel like it.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve had the chance to meet people to whom Harry means the world just as myself and I’m very lucky to count them now as my closest friends. Harry has always made me feel like I’m not alone.
What do you like to do for fun?
Most of my free time is spent either reading a nice book or outside skateboarding and having fun at the skatepark. I’m obsessed with getting better and won’t say no to a good session.
Skatergirl doodle while planning for an upcoming exhibition. These coming weeks are looking crazy with illo-work, packing and traveling to five cities in a range of 6 days 😵💥. #doodle #doodledaily #sketch #sketching #sketchbook #illustration #illustrationartists #illustrationart #illustrations #ilustración #ilustradora #art #artist #artistsoninstagram #skater #skateboarding #skatergirl #vsco #vscocam
Besides illustrations, are you involved in any other art?
Writing has always been an important way of self expression to me. Sadly, I barely make time for this anymore as I keep concentrating on my illustration career. Whenever I remember and feel the need to, though, I write thoughts or short stories that remain hidden in a secret notebook at home.
Where do you see yourself going in the future?
I do hope that the future brings along a lot of growth, both personally as well as professionally. Publishing a book of my own is definitely on my list. I have several ideas that I have yet to focus on and finalize eventually.
Also, working for a brand applying illustrations to textiles and apparels would be lovely. Whatever it is that the future brings, I’m excited for it!
Another woman who made history on a grand scale was Ada Lovelace, the first computer programmer! ✨✨✨ #womensday #adalovelace #illustree #illustreak #ilustradora #ilustracion #illustrator #illustration #illustratorsoninstagram #illustrationartists #art #artist #artistsoninstagram #draw #drawing #drawingoftheday #childrensbook #childrensbookillustration #picame #girlboss #feminism #worldwomensday #vsco #vscocam