Born in Boston, Burgess spent many weekends and summers traveling with her family in Massachusetts and Maine. She received a B.A. in Literature from Yale in 2004 and an M.F.A. in Illustration from the School of Visual Arts in 2007. Besides working as an illustrator, she has pursued her own art, drawing on her New England roots and her love of literature for inspiration.
Her work is shown nationally and internationally in galleries and museums, including the International Print Center of New York, the Monmouth Museum, the Pyramida Center for Contemporary Art and the Seoul Museum of Art. It is also featured in publications such as CMYK Magazine, 3×3 Magazine of Contemporary Illustration, and the Society of Illustrators Annual. Recently, Drawing Magazine named Rachel a New and Notable Artist; she was also selected as a 2014 artist for Brooklyn CSA + D, and received an artist residency through the National Park Service at Acadia National Park.
Burgess lives and works in New York City. She often returns to Maine to draw on location in preparation for her finished work.