We had the good fortune of connecting with Phoebe Rankin and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Phoebe, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
I always like hearing how people answer this question; because they tend to more or less echo the same sentiment. For those pursuing creative or artistic career trajectories, typically the propellant behind their motivation is some skew of, “I am already naturally creative/artistic. I’m passionate about creating more. Why not get paid for it?” For me, it is much the same. To create is my default, it’s what I do, it’s who I am; applying my creative skills professionally only seemed the natural route. I loved to draw ever since I was a kid and right after high school even managed to get a series of 7 pieces into a small gallery in Colorado Springs. Creative people will always seek to create, even if only for themselves. I think it’s such a shame that there’s this narrative surrounding creative/artistic career paths being pointed to as unrealistic, unsustainable, or even unattainable, that combining passion and profession is a coveted rarity in today’s work culture.
I’d love to regale about how my design career was jump-started by clear vision and raw passion, but it’s really not so glamorous or straightforward in actuality. In fact, it really just went something like, “I’m good at this, and I need a job.” Not to say I don’t love what I do, or am not absolutely over the moon about the success I’ve been able to find in my career thus far. What I’m really trying to iterate here is that if I can do it, anyone can.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I’ve been very lucky in establishing myself as a professional creative as I’ve been designing professionally for over 6 years by what started almost by accident. In my college days at the genesis of my career, the idea of pursuing art professionally seemed out of reach as I was wrapping up my BS in Marketing & Business Administration in hopes of getting into music marketing. In my senior year I did a marketing internship with a small independent record label. However, as time went on I found myself getting handed a lot of design related tasks which sparked the idea that, “Maybe I CAN do this.” From there I started to receive a growing stream of design projects coming mostly from people I’d connected with in the music community. I was soon doing logos, album art, promos, etc. for a number of bands and the idea of doing this for a living just seemed more and more viable. I pivoted, enrolled in some extra classes, picked up projects wherever I could, and started to put everything I had into assembling a solid design portfolio in hopes it’d maybe be enough to get my foot in the door.
A month after graduating I was offered a position as a lead designer for a local non-profit called ICON inc., I stayed there for nearly 2 years before deciding I wanted the freedom of designing on a freelance basis and now had the portfolio to carry me. I wanted to shift into more illustration based work and prioritize projects that let me flex my personal style a little more. I quickly hit my stride and was soon pulling in projects I was genuinely excited to work on, and the realization that work doesn’t have to be an utterly soul-crushing endeavor was earth shattering. At only 26 years old I feel really lucky to have had the opportunities and success that I’ve been afforded. It’s been really exciting to see my work gain recognition and some of it seems a little surreal at times. For instance, I illustrated assets for fitness apparel company Blogilates’ Summer 2020 and Fall 2021 for Target™ and seeing things I designed while buying my groceries is absolutely wild. I also recently had some product mockups I did for a company called SnappyScreen air on Good Morning America this March which was really nothing big but was nonetheless fun for me to think of so many eyes being on something I helped create.
Success for me relative to design lies in creating something that I am personally as happy with the result of as my client is. As a designer I love what I do and I really enjoy the creative/problem solving processes involved in visual asset creation and love the feeling of victory in materializing something that was before just an idea. That said, the projects I take the most pride in are usually the ones I feel I get to be most creative and think outside the box with.
However, on some level work is still work and I like to make sure I take the time to create just for myself too and work on my own passion projects. I occasionally showcase my personal pieces at events (I got plugged in with RAW Artists which is a great resource for independent creatives looking for both connection to their city’s art community and opportunities to expo their work), and also will hang my pieces in local galleries around Denver when/where I get the chance to, and I’m in a band here also which has kept me involved with Denver’s music scene (I adore music related design projects and staying part of the community has also lended more opportunity therein). My primary goal in saying all this is that anyone who’s doubtful in the face of pursuing a creative career not be discouraged. Anyone can be an artist, and anyone can plan it right to do it professionally. Skill can be taught and improved upon but the only thing that truly defines an artist is their desire to create.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I actually painted a mural and hung a series of 8 pieces at DAGAR (Downtown Art Gallery & Axe Room) on the corner of Lawrence and 20th a little over a year ago, and I would absolutely recommend checking that you if you have a group of people. Ghost Donkey is a fan fave in terms of hole-in-the-wall bars I’d take someone visiting here (or of course Union Station if you’d want an on-the-nose Denver experience). I’d also recommend checking out some of our smaller music venues to catch some local artists, there’s a lot of really promising acts coming out of Denver lately and from it’s divest corners. I’m kind of a homebody so I’m basically Denver tourist myself, I’m always surprised by stumbling onto cool little places I’d previously overlooked.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Again, I’d love to shoutout the RAW Artists program (although, I don’t believe they have any upcoming Denver showcases) for allowing local artist communities to network, gain exposure, and showcase at their nationwide events.