St. Austin Review: A Daughter Made in the Divine Image
Last month illustrator and graphic designer Jacob Popčak interviewed me for a feature in the St. Austin Review (StAR), which is the premier international journal of Catholic culture, literature, and ideas. In the article, I talk about my identity as a Catholic creative and the challenges I face in my work. Read the interview below, and be sure to check out staustinreview.org!
Rebecca Loomis is a graphic designer and photographer specializing in web design, branding, and event photography. In 2017, she published her debut dystopian novel, A Whitewashed Tomb, which was a finalist for the 2018 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. Here, she sits down with StAR’s Jacob Popčak for a conversation about creativity, craft, and Catholicism.
How did you get started as an artist? Give us a sense of your artistic journey thus far.
My identity as an artist has been ingrained in me for as long as I can remember. As a little girl, I was constantly drawing; oftentimes—to my mother's dismay—on things I wasn't supposed to draw on!
Despite the messes I made, my family was very supportive and provided me with the means to pursue my artistic endeavors. They enrolled me in art classes. They gifted me a DSLR camera. They encouraged me to submit poetry to contests and publications. I believe it was this upbringing that kickstarted my artistic journey and paved the way for future success. By the time high school rolled around, I knew that I simply had to be an artist “when I grew up.”
I found myself off that track a little bit by the end of college, however. When denied entry into my graduate program of choice for illustration, I began to wonder if I’d missed the mark. I felt like I simply wasn’t good enough to be a “real” artist.
Over time, however, I realized that being an artist is so much more than having a knack for creating decent artwork. It’s also more than monetizing creativity. It’s defined by the way one sees the world; a calling to create that’s been written on one’s heart by God that, when denied, leaves the artist feeling restless and incomplete. Everyone feels that ache for Heaven when put face-to-face with beauty. It’s artists who are compelled by that ache to create beauty of their own.
You mention the doubts you faced post-grad. How does being a Catholic creative change how you tackle struggles and challenges, both in life and in your work?
The greatest battles I’ve faced have been within myself. Like any artist, I struggle with a lot of self-doubt. I’m my greatest critic. What makes this struggle different for me, as a Catholic, is that I know where that fear and frustration comes from. Being creative is one of the surest ways I can actively claim my identity as a daughter made in the Divine Image, because He is creative. Naturally, Satan is going to try to interfere with that.
Since being an artist is so tied to my identity, it can be easy to assume that criticism of my work is equivalent to criticism of me as a person. This is a challenge I often have to take to prayer. Alternatively, there can be a struggle in finding the line between my personal prayer life and my professional creative work, which requires maintaining a high level of professionalism and healthy boundaries within the workplace.
One of my favorite things about you is just how multitalented you are. How do you establish an artistic identity when you do so much more than one thing?
That’s been one of my greatest struggles—I love too many things! It’s taken a lot of effort to avoid being the “Jack of all trades but master of none.” Over the past couple years, I’ve been trying to find that sweet spot of being a master of few, and that’s required giving up a handful of endeavors. The process involved a lot of trial and error, and a careful evaluation of my skills. I asked myself, Do I love doing this? Am I excellent at it? Can it make enough money to sustain my lifestyle? If the answer wasn’t “Yes” to all three criteria, I would put that skillset in the hobby box. As I’ve heard countless times in response to “Fear of Missing Out,” your “Yes” is only as strong as your “No.”
That’s solid advice. Any other words of wisdom for other artists out there?
Be humble: you’re not the only artist out there, you’re not the absolute best of the best of the best, and that’s 100% okay. Sometimes it’s better to admit you can’t do it and pass the torch to someone who can.
Own it: be confident in who you are and what your creative work is. God made you this way. Not everyone is going to like it, but who cares? You are the only one with your voice and your vision. Go share it with the world.
More of Rebecca’s work can be viewed on her website at: RebeccaLoomis.com, while Jacob Popčak’s portfolio can be viewed at JacobPopcak.com.