CH.89: If you were to categorize or describe the style of your artwork, what would it be and why?
RW: This is probably one of the most difficult questions for me to answer, and is also one of the most frequently asked questions. I am a painter. I would say that my style is abstracted realism. I use source images and work from the organic forms of different tactile materials. My work is usually monochromatic or dichromatic, but I am unsure which title to give my actual style.
CH.89: Where do you draw your inspiration from?
RW: I draw my inspiration from my life experiences, in all their various forms. I do paint primarily about the state of our consumption as people, and the communal pain it causes us and our planet; but these thoughts and viewpoints are a collection of what I learn by existing in this world. I guess my inspiration mostly comes from the things I learn about that make my stomach twist, and in hard moments, I often find myself saying ‘well, paint about it’. So whether apparent or not, a lot of thought and dialogue goes into each of my paintings, and the motives for each painting are dynamic as well.
CH.89: Can you talk a little bit about what your creative thought process is like when starting a new project/ piece of artwork?
RW: My work now and in the last number of years has been a constant evolution of itself, one painting resolving itself by me beginning the next. Usually I start a new piece in a huff of excitement; if I have to start a new painting that day, there is little stopping me. I build my own canvases, so there is forethought that goes into the size/shape but I usually don’t know what is going on the canvas until I begin to paint. I have a huge stack of source images that I have collected over a few years and haul around with me; they are photocopies or photographs I have taken of crumpled paper, tin foil, different plastics and fabric mostly. I go through the stack if I am not sure (usually I have a texture/material in mind) and then draw it out and paint.
CH.89: Is there anything in particular that you would want people to take from your artwork?
RW: Peace. I like focusing on my subject matter in part because it is physically pleasing to look at, in my opinion. It brings me peace, and if anything I hope it might do the same for another, while sparking a conversation or dialogue.
CH.89: Can you talk a little bit about your lifestyle as an artist and what that is like?
RW: A word that comes to mind is ‘dynamic’. I would say that my lifestyle as an artist is dynamic in that in order to make my artwork, I must be flexible and so must my studio practices. I have moved and traveled quite a bit in the last few years, and have had a variety of studio spaces, one being a large warehouse-like (dreamy) space where I could paint big and often, to my current studio, which is a 2×3’ table. For a long time I thought that I needed a studio in order to be an artist and make work, but as necessity has it, I have learned the value of flexibility, especially in my studio practices. While I definitely have dreams and aspirations of making art full time, and having my art sustain my lifestyle, I have always had a day job (or two). I have been lucky enough to have jobs that allow me the time to make art; recently I have been doing freelance graphic design and waiting tables again. It is all about balance, and giving myself time to explore my craft, while still paying rent, and not going crazy on social media. It is a lot of work to be proficient at promoting your art on social media, something I am working towards, and it takes up a lot of time. But it always comes down to the work, and that is what I am committed to.
CH.89: When starting out an artistic task, do you think it is better to have a particular direction/set plan guiding your way? Or, is it better to act on impulse and go from there?
RW: Honestly, I think both absolutely have their place. Personally, I tend to have a set direction in mind when I actually take pencil or paint to the canvas. With my paintings I tend to get precious really quickly, and lately have been encouraging myself to loosen up, not look at the source image as much, or maybe not blend as much. When I am getting too monotonous, or find myself going through the motions, I open a new page in my sketchbook and put down whatever comes to mind.
CH.89: What is one major lesson you’ve learned as an artist thus far?
RW: Just to keep making. I had some time after I earned my BFA where I didn’t really know how to fit into the ‘art world’, and had so many hang ups about being successful with my work that I was not even making it. I still often worry about these things, but what has changed is that when I am in that thought process, I sit down at my painting table and paint. Every time I do this, change my thinking and put my energy into my work, only good things come from it. It is difficult at times but so important to keep making, and one of the best feelings is coming out of a rough spot with a new painting or two.
CH.89: Do you regard personal style & taste to be of highest importance?
RW: I put a lot of value in authenticity, so I suppose in a way, yes. I think there is also a lot of pressure to be within a certain vein of ‘style’ as a young artist, and I try not to pay much attention to that.
CH.89: What do you consider to be the hardest thing about being an artist?
RW: Getting my work out there. With such a competitive market and so many talented artists trying to get their work seen by the right people, it is tricky for sure. I am also kind of an introvert, so approaching people with my work is not totally comfortable for me, but it is necessary, especially as an emerging artist.
CH.89: What is one thing you love about being an artist?
RW: The multitude of opportunities it brings, and the beautiful, dynamic lifestyle that I am lucky enough to have.
CH.89: Is there anyone in particular, any artist’s that inspire you in any way?
RW: Yes, many artists inspire me every day. There are, of course, many wonderful painters like Jenny Saville and Cecily Brown who motivate me to explore and play more in my painting practice, but the one artist I would say that I draw most inspiration from is Ann Hamilton. The way Hamilton talks about her work speaks to me so dearly, and I have had a relationship with her work for a long time now. Listening to different interviews of her or reading what she has written of her work encourages me to see my practice in a different light, and to really value the pace of my own making, the pace of being human.
CH.89: What do you think of technology in terms of being a useful tool for artists today?
RW: Oof. Personally, the use of electronic technology in my work is often a source of uneasiness. The Internet is of course an outstanding wealth of information and imagery, both useful when making art, but I think we often overlook the harm immediate satisfaction brings, and alternately, the joy and nourishment analog ways of doing things brings as well. I am a graphic designer, and gain resources from that in order to live, but my true joy is squeezing paint out of a tube and moving it around on my palate. I truly believe art will save the world.
CH.89: Do you think being an artist allows you to view the world differently from those who don’t follow creative paths?
RW: I would say yes. I think that everyone has creative power, but choosing to be an artist as a profession requires one to ask different questions, and invent their reality in a way that most conventional jobs don’t require.
CH.89: Do you enjoy traveling? If so, do you have a favorite city?
RW: I LOVE to travel. I really love Berlin, and would love to return sometime soon, and Prague. Brighton, England is also a really lovely city; I could spend some time there. There are many places I have yet to travel to, and would love to explore South America or Canada next. I want to go everywhere.
CH.89: Do you have a favorite author or book?
RW: Difficult question, but I would say the writer I have gained the most insight from is probably Alan Watts. A dear friend gave me “The Wisdom of Insecurity” a few years ago, and I find myself visiting that book a lot, as well as his others.
CH.89: Any future goals or plans for your artwork?
RW: I have a two-month solo show coming up in Portland, OR in May and I just started selling limited edition Giclée prints of my work through my website. I hope to be in more shows this year and possibly do a residency as well, but either way I plan on keeping busy with my work.
CH.89: What does being an artist mean to you?
RW: Being an artist for me is simply a means to demonstrate my existence.
CH.89: What’s the last song you listened to?
RW: I am going to be honest here: Get Your Freak On by Missy Elliot. Feeling a bit saucy today.
CH.89: Any last words on the aesthetic of your artwork?
RW: My work is a constant exploration, and I truly enjoy the opportunities it brings me to connect with others. Please feel free to contact me through my website (rachaelwarnock.com) or instagram (@ratchael_paints) with any comments, questions or thoughts. And thank you for the lovely interview.