We had the good fortune of connecting with Rebecca Youssef and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Rebecca, why did you pursue a creative career?
I’m not convinced I ever thought I’d become an artist. Yes, I went to art school for painting and ceramics and then got my masters in art education, but I still didn’t think I would be a working artist. Being an artist seemed fraught with uncertainty, so I was always dancing around the idea. I found ways to be creative by working in graphic design, then teaching and doing some community-based art projects, but it wasn’t satiating enough. In 2015, I returned to painting and fell in love with it all over again.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am a creator and a cultivator. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had my hands in either dirt or paint. I’d say my work finds a home in the space where art and environmentalism collide. I cultivate native California oak trees in an attempt to bring back Los Angeles’s declining tree canopy. The need for more trees in our urban landscape informs my artwork. However, being a tree lover is in direct conflict with my love of working on and with paper. A few years ago, I started painting on recycled paper grocery bags and during the Covid-19 lockdown, I taught myself the traditional art of papermaking. My collages give new life to discarded paper, boxes and bags by immortalizing them in art and honors their journey from tree to canvas.
I’m currently in two shows in Santa Monica on view through July 2022. Dropped: Drop Cloths Reimagined, is a collection of repurposed and collaged drop cloths at the 18th St. Art Center’s Slipstream Gallery. The Vanishing Canopy, an installation at The Propeller Gallery, addresses the declining tree canopy in Los Angeles.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’m a Westsider, so I’m partial to views of the ocean and hikes in the mountains. Some of the best hiking trails are on the Westside of Los Angeles. Los Leones Trail in Pacific Palisades is one of my favorites. The trail has tons of oak trees that are ripe with acorns in the fall to forage. It also has gorgeous views of the coastline. Before hitting the trail, I’d grab some sandwiches from Joe & The Juice on San Vicente Blvd. in Brentwood. Their bread imported from Denmark is so good! I lived in Venice for many years and always take out-of-towners there for a visit. Abbot Kinney is great for shopping and people watching and has tons of amazing places to eat. From Venice, I’d stroll up the boardwalk to Santa Monica and just take in the vast blue of the ocean.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
In 2015, I plunged back into my art practice. My kids were all in school and I had more time to commit to the studio. However, jumping back in was a lot harder than I thought it’d be. Yes, I had so many great ideas that had been marinating, but execution is a whole other story! It was frustrating. I was making a lot of crap and I thought I had lost my creative mojo. So, when nothing was turning out quite how I imagined, I swallowed my pride and took classes. This was big! After all, I was a classically trained artist and had taught painting and drawing until I had my first child! But I couldn’t seem to find my creative voice and/or execute my artistic vision. I heard of a local artist who lived right in my neighborhood who did workshops and signed up for a collage class. Meeting Kathy Leader was the spark I needed. I realized that those muscles just atrophied and needed exercise. And the more they’re exercised the louder your creative voice gets. I’m so grateful to Kathy for helping me find my way again after my baby-making hiatus! Moral of the story- keep learning, no matter how “experienced” you think you are.