Faces on the Ferry - Interview with illustrator Rachelle Meyer

Rachelle Meyer is an American illustrator living in Amsterdam, specializing in children's books and storytelling. In 2017, she started sketching fellow commuters on the NDSM ferry in a tiny sketchbook. It's a short but sweet trip of about 12 minutes, connecting her home in Amsterdam Noord with her studio in the center of town. Rachelle wants to launch a parallel career as an independent artist alongside her work as an illustrator for hire. We have conducted an interview with her about her Faces on the Ferry project.

How exactly did you get inspired to start your multimedia art project?

I went to the Frankfurt Book Fair in the fall of 2016. I was meeting publishers there, and between appointments, I would draw people sitting around the wi-fi spots in the building. The people I was drawing all looked like me – white, European descent. I thought it seemed awfully homogeneous for the largest international book fair in the world! So I made it a project to find different kinds of faces, going into other buildings where I didn’t have appointments and the publishers weren’t familiar.

When I got back to Amsterdam, I found this sweet little sketchbook on sale at an art supply store for €1,50. My first thought when I picked it up was, “I want to fill this with faces.” And that’s how “Faces on the Ferry” was born.

In a few sentences, how would you describe Amsterdam as a place of inspiration?

Amsterdam is a living fairytale. Most people think immediately of the canals and seventeenth-century houses in the center. Two years ago I moved away from the center and into the developing area of Amsterdam Noord (north). This area doesn’t have the typical postcard image that is usually associated with the city, but I find it just as, or even more, inspiring than the center. It reminds me a lot of Brooklyn in NYC as it was twenty years ago. Raw, emerging – full of artist studios and new ventures. The ferry connects the north to the center, and is, in itself, an experience worth having. It was the perfect place to find a real cross-section of people from all walks of life that I could observe and sketch during the twelve minute journey.

How does the amount of 'light' (or sunshine) plays a part in your entire project?

Light played a really big role in my project, but in a way that wasn’t apparent to me until after I had finished the sketchbook. I started drawing people in January, and the book ran out in May. What really struck me, as I leafed back through it afterwards, was that it told the story of the seasons changing. People were huddled in winter wraps at the beginning, and by the end they were standing on the open decks with their faces to the sun. The book started out in only black and grey tones, but I started adding little spots of color as the spring emerged. That evolution was why I felt compelled to film the sketchbook, because the scope of it was something more than the sum of its parts.

What is your goal? When do you target to achieve it?

I have a big concept for what started out as such a tiny sketchbook! I’ve already started developing silkscreen prints from my personal favorites in the sketchbook, using two separate color palettes for the winter and spring. I’d like to return to the ferry in August and fill another sketchbook with the experience of the seasons changing between summer and fall. I hope to also be able to show all of these materials together as an art exhibit – the silk-screen prints as well as the film I made of the sketchbook. The Kickstarter campaign has been a way to raise the funds necessary for realising this vision and has also proven to be a good way to connect with a receptive audience and supportive organisations in the area.

Where are you originally from? Besides this project, what else do you do?

I’m originally from Texas. I work as a freelance illustrator, I play with my family, and I enjoy reading, cycling, and plotting my next great creative adventure.

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