Ms. Davidson, a Vancouver native, is a guidance counselor who started working at Collingwood in 2020. However, her relationship with the school runs deep - she was a lifer at Collingwood. Her office walls are covered with postcards from around the world and beautiful illustrations, handmade by herself. As a young girl, Ms. Davidson’s parents were very encouraging of her creative endeavors; “especially with my dad being an art director and having a hand in the business. He would encourage me and I definitely take after him in that he would also draw cartoons as a kid. He used to do architecture models and a lot of illustrations as well.” Being of Irish and Chinese descent, Ms. Davidson describes the impact of growing up with both Eastern and Western influences - a theme present in her artwork: “Growing up, I really enjoyed Japanese aesthetics like anime, kawaii, and cutesy stuff, so that was one aspect I think I've explored through art.” At first, she channeled this passion by tracing her favorite pokemon characters, and later digitally manipulated artwork through her father’s Adobe Creative Suite program. Moving through high school, she continued to develop her artistic skills.
When Ms. Davidson graduated from Collingwood, she took courses at UBC and Pomona College analyzing art and English literature, before enrolling in the JET program. The JET program sets English speakers up with a local government in Japan, where they teach English. Ms. Davidson says: “Going to Japan, I really got to immerse myself in the Eastern side of me. I was very inspired by the sights I saw, the people, and their generosity, and I wanted to bring the generosity of spirit to my art.” As well as being an illustrator and painter, Ms. Davidson is also a talented photographer, and has created photo books documenting her experiences abroad as well as her time in Japan. The books capture the essence of each location she visits. She explains the books have a “wandering feel,” and are each accompanied with a map of all the locations and a playlist she created. When asked about turning points in her art style, she responds, “I think the photobooks are a real touch point moving from just photography as a fun hobby to something more concrete.”
Ms. Davidson’s website (https://racheldavidson.com) and Etsy page are home to a variety of watercolor paintings featuring colorful ice cream cones, egg tarts, and more, but watercolor wasn’t always her medium of choice. “I was given a watercolor set by a friend and I hadn't done any traditional painting before that, [other than] just a bit in high school so I was a bit intimidated. It's hard with watercolor because once you put the color down, it doesn’t go away. So I would build it up really slowly and use a photo reference, removing some of the anxiety around wanting it to be perfect.” In highschool, Ms. Davidson saw art as not only a part of Collingwood’s Four Strands, but also a part of herself. Today, she feels that art has an even more central position in her life. She is working to remove categorization from her relationship with this field. She says, “Most of the meaning I've found in life is from art and art appreciation, analyzing it in college, and talking about it. Realizing that there's something above the everyday concerns of just getting by, and that we can aspire to higher values and ideals; that's important for me to remember when the everyday gets a bit much - that there is a certain realm [where] you can go to calm yourself.” For Ms. Davidson, art has allowed her to explore different contradictions between the East and West, as well as create a philosophy for life, along with much more. Her advice to aspiring artists and creative individuals alike is “just to try [art] and not get caught up in those thoughts of what it should be. Just sometimes let it go where it goes, and you may have a serendipitous or interesting result you didn't expect. Try new mediums and new subject matter, [or] maybe think of life as art too, like cooking or making an instagram post. Any way of expressing yourself is central to life, and I think it's almost a biological imperative for us to do that.” While it can be difficult to balance the whirlwind of life, Ms. Davidson is an example of interweaving art into your day-to-day existence. In her eyes, the best place to begin as an artist is “thinking all of life is art.” During our interview, Ms. Davidson recounted her wisdom in a soft spoken way, shedding well deserved light on the beauty of her artwork. She is an advocate for art as life, and life as art. She made me believe that I too could create beautiful things, simply by existing.