Rachel Larkum standing in the animation studio

Rachel Larkum

Staff. Designer and Animator.

Rachel Larkum is Course Leader for the BA (Hons) Illustration and Animation course at Cambridge School of Art. She combines this with freelancing, doing graphics and animation work, currently having regular clients in the rail industry, digital magazines and publishing. Her previous clients include The Body Shop, Cancer Research and creating interactive games for Cartoon Network and The British Heart Foundation.

She has also worked as an animator for over 10 years in all areas of animation, from 2D (in children’s television, working in Sydney, Australia to London) to 3D (in children’s TV for ITV) to computer games (working for Sony Computer entertainment).

What one thing inspired you to do what you do now?

As a student I was always inspired by the work of Spanish designer Javier Mariscal. I loved his bright colours and the fact his work was so multi-disciplinary and he had a visual language very much of his own. I also looked to the work of American sculptor Alexander Calder for inspiration and loved his kinetic sculptures, paintings and prints.

I originally studied on a visual communication course at Edinburgh College of Art and did illustration, graphics and animation. I then went on to study an M.A. at the RCA in Animation. Over the years all my work has very much been inspired by bold bright colours and I think that all goes back to the early days, being inspired by great designers like Javier Mariscal.

What single piece of advice would you give your younger self?

Change is good, don’t stand still. It’s good to step outside your comfort zone, though sometimes that can be scary. I think it is important to keep challenging yourself and embracing new things.

What’s the most valuable thing you took away from education?

The importance of self-belief and confidence in your ability and embracing new opportunities that come your way. When you first leave art school you have to have an almost entrepreneurial approach and put yourself out there create opportunities yourself. You have to be thinking two steps ahead and sometimes the path ahead isn’t always straight, but I try to always approach all opportunities positively.

I also see the importance of your art school friends and keeping in touch. These guys are friends for life, you have so many fun shared experiences.

Travel has always been important to me and the opportunity to see new places, meet new people, is an extremely valuable thing.

What do you think the future of illustration and animation, and related university courses, will be like?

I think courses will become more vocational and industry-focused, with students being able to pick and choose more options/modules to tailor what they want to get out of a course. They could potentially be more multidisciplinary and collaborative. Collaboration is good and the crossover in the arts helps creativity and makes for an interesting life!

Courses need to keep up with the changing environment and industry. Within animation things are always evolving, so its important to keep up with some of these changes, whether its technique or software. Things are always on the move and studios come and go. Students need to develop a ‘can do’ attitude and embrace the fact they will always be learning with an art careers.

What’s the most interesting thing you get to do in your role?

I enjoy working with students, seeing the progression in their work and the development of projects; how ideas and concepts evolve. Watching the development process from the initial concept ideas and thumbnails in sketchbooks to finalised animation with sound, this always makes me happy, as you are aware of the long journey to get there!

Tell us one thing about Cambridge that other people might not know...

I have lived in Cambridge for over 14 years now, there are some great places for illustration & animation students to visit. It’s such a beautiful city and so easy to get around by bike. My recommendations are Kettle’s yard, The Fitzwilliam, Heong Gallery, Hot Numbers Cafe and The Orchard Tea Rooms – always a great place to sit in a deckchair, have tea and chocolate cake and enjoy the sun!

Where now