Creative Evolution No. 3

Rachel Ryle's playful animations bring travel to life

Categories: Inspirations — Melissa Tan

Rachel Ryle is a self-taught illustrator and animator whose wildly popular Instagram account launched her career as an artist. Her unique style of storytelling is largely inspired by her travels and the experience of staying in creative homes around the world.

Where are you from and where do you live?

I was born and raised in Boulder, Colorado. Right now I split my time between Boulder and Brooklyn. A lot of my clients are in New York, and it’s such an inspiring city, so it made sense to be closer to the action.



What’s one fun fact about you?

I taught myself how to animate using the Instagram app. As soon as they came out with video my first thought was to show the process of completing a drawing in stages. I was experimenting, with no idea where it was going to lead. That curiosity about interactive drawing turned into animation. The excitement and encouragement I received from my friends in the beginning inspired me to keep creating.

The engagement people were having with my work kept growing. Within seven weeks of posting my first animation my work had been featured by Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, and Instagram. Soon I had over 100,000 followers. There was this moment of shock, but I trusted my gut and pushed myself to grow. Two months after I made my first animation I quit my day job to open my animation studio. It’s been a little over two years and I still can’t believe this is my job.



What are specific ways in which the places you live inspire the work you do?

Brooklyn, and New York as a whole, has really become a place of inspiration for me. Every street I walk down, every corner I turn down, every window display, the graffiti in alleys– it’s so full of life. When I’m there I’m just soaking it all in and being inspired by my surroundings. Boulder is inspiring in a different way. I’m not as inspired by the solitude of nature, but I do use that quiet time to reflect on what I want to make and how I want to do it. These two locations have become complementary to my creative process.

How has that impacted your work?

I made this animation that was inspired by Banksy during his visit to New York and his interaction with the city. It’s more or less a tribute to New York and the awesome capacity it offers for public art. I gain endless inspiration from New York and many of my animations are a product of my love for this city. I also have a project which is a series of illustrated travel postcards inspired by the places I have visited.

A video posted by Rachel Ryle (@rachelryle) on


How would your work be different if you didn’t live in these places?

I feel like I’ve got a really good combination going on right now between the creative surroundings of New York and the calm and rejuvenation of Colorado. I feel like if I were living in New York full time I probably wouldn’t have the space and creative energy to give so much attention to what I’m making. I could see myself falling into the hustle and bustle of the New York lifestyle, working against the clock and rushing all the time to make new things.


What are some other places or spaces you have visited that inspire your creativity?

The postcard project originated on a trip to Europe where I had brought all of my colored pencils with me because I wanted to take a more deliberately artistic approach to traveling. I wanted to create each one within its surroundings to help me to soak in the experience of really being there. Most of them were drawn in cafes near each location. Sometimes I would go back to my room to work, but the majority of them were made in the neighborhoods they depict.


I gain endless inspiration from New York and many of my animations are a product of my love for this city.


Have you ever traveled somewhere that inspired you to create something?

I made this postcard in Italy that is a drawing of a church that was right outside my Airbnb. I actually picked the place where I stayed specifically because of the view of the church across the street. I knew I wanted to go to Italy to draw, and someone had told me about a town that I should visit. When I looked into it I found this beautiful home on the square. It was such an amazing experience. I would sit at the window and draw, and then go downstairs whenever I needed to check the angles and details. I felt so in the moment there–it was like I was living in a painting.

A photo posted by Rachel Ryle (@rachelryle) on


Are there places you’d like to visit that you imagine would inspire you?

I’d like to go back to Barcelona. It was the first trip I took where I just sat down and drew my surroundings. Sometimes there are these moments where it feels like a city’s buildings are smiling in a way. I feel like Europe has a lot of that to offer. I visited Colmar, France, but I didn’t have my art stuff with me then. It was the most picturesque Snow White village. To go back and draw that would be so much fun, there are so many colors.

I recently went to Miami thinking I would be inspired by the beaches and it’s colorful Art Deco architecture. Then a friend brought me to Wynwood Walls one afternoon, and, needless to say, I was blown away. Street after street, wall after wall– it’s this neighborhood that is drenched in bright colorful graffiti and murals. I ended up changing my afternoon plans. I grabbed a coffee, sat in the middle of it all and sketched new ideas that were popping in my head from all the inspiration that surrounded me.


Can you share more about a current project?

My postcard projects are a reason for me to get out into the world and see things. I was also recently inspired to push my art more toward creating something that included interior design as a major elementI ended up really enjoying that attention to interior spaces, and ever since I’ve had a number of clients who want to have me reinterpret their spaces through animations. It almost has my mind going into set building. As I’ve been incorporating interiors into my work more I see how interior design can tell so much of the story.

I feel the same way about my travels. When you’re staying in someone’s home, you can be in a room that they use to write in or create things in, and it creates a vibe that influences what other people will end up taking from their time in that space. Rooms like that give off a particularly inspiring feeling. That’s the power of being able to stay in locations that are so personal and enable so much creative freedom to flow.

Rachel’s local recommendations

Boxcar Coffee Roasters: When I’m in town you’ll find me here daily sitting out front with my cortado & sketch pad (Boulder, CO).

Devoción: Hands down my favorite coffeeshop/cafe. Delicious, freshly roasted coffee served in the most beautiful, bright and inviting atmosphere. When I’m in New York this calming place is my escape from the chaos of the city (Brooklyn, NYC).

Brooklyn Art Library: This place is an artist’s dream. Thousands of sketchbooks created by artists around the world fill the bookshelves of this library. I often find myself sitting in the middle of this library, sipping a hot chocolate from Mast, and flipping through pages of charming art (Brooklyn, NYC).


Interview by Melissa Tan, a San Francisco-based writer/copy editor who loves motorcycle rides along the coast. Hero image by Sunny Wang. Hand lettering by Adam Glynn-Finnegan.

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