Our first artist spotlight of the month focuses on the work of Rachel Rowse, a mixed media artist based in North Carolina, USA. You can view more of Rachel’s work on her website.
Can you tell me a little about yourself and your work?
RR: My name is Rachel Rowse. I’m a 24-year-old mixed media artist living and working out of Durham, NC. I’m a dual citizen of Canada and the USA. I grew up on the west coast of Canada in beautiful Victoria, BC. When I was 11, my dad’s job moved my family to the USA in Charlotte, NC, I’ve been a resident of NC ever since. I attended Appalachian State University and graduated in 2018 with a BFA in studio art and a minor in psychology.
Art has always been a big part of my life. I was born with a genetic eye condition called nystagmus, which causes my eyes to constantly move/ dance around. My art started out as a way to cope with my imperfect vision. I explored, through my work, all the beautiful details of the world around me that I couldn’t see. The more I created, the more I understood my vision and that what I could see with my creativity was beautiful. I grew comfortable with my unique way of observing my surroundings and decided it was worth sharing.
In my work, currently, I focus on using illustration as a tool for education. I use drawing typically done in pencil, pen and ink, and watercolor, as well as other media, to produce colorful surreal images that open up a space to learn and talk about concepts otherwise left undiscussed. My work draws off themes from my background knowledge in psychology as well as my experiences as a dual citizen of Canada and the US.
How does your work reflect your life experiences?
RR: My work is strongly tied to my experiences. I reflect on my past experiences to find inspiration. If I witness something that stands out to me, or if I have a memory that keeps popping up in my mind, I’ll paint about it. This is most apparent in how I select my imagery. I often draw landscapes based off of places I’ve been or paint using symbolism that reflects my experience. For example, I often use plants found in North Carolina and animals found in Victoria, BC.
What do you wish for your viewers to take away from your work?
RR: In psychology, I learned about how the mind is able to learn through looking at images. Illustrations are placed in textbooks because they allow people to absorb information in a different and often deeper way. With that in mind, I believe that fine art can be a wonderful place for education as well. I hope that my colourful, surreal drawings are able to open up spaces for viewers to think about themselves, others, and the world around them in a new light.
What is your process?
RR: Process is a big part of creating for me. Every piece I create starts with an idea or concept I’m trying to get across. I try not to limit myself to one medium, and I choose how I go about creating based off what I think will best communicate what I’m trying to say. With that being said, most of my work I ended up creating is done using a mixed media process of layering pen and ink, watercolour, gesso, and colour pencil. I start by laying down a detailed underdrawing with the pen and ink. From there, I use colour pencil to define the drawing and create depth. Then, I slowly layer watercolour and gesso to build up my colours.
How do you choose your distinct colour palettes?
RR: I believe colour is what breaths life and emotion into a painting. When choosing colours, it’s always my goal to capture the feelings associated with the image rather than how it looks to the eye. Over time, I have found that I gravitate to softer, more muted pallets when I’m reflecting on memories or past events and brighter, more vivid colours when painting about recent or future events.
How did you develop your style?
RR: My style developed naturally early on. Due to my eyes, I have always painted the world not how it actually looks, but rather how I understand it which has led to a very cohesive look to my work across mediums. I used to think it was a curse that you could always pick my art out no matter how I tried to change it. In college, it was made clear to me that this was a good thing, so I learned to embrace it.
What’s next for you?
RR: Going forward, I hope to keep fostering creativity in my community. The world needs art now more than ever. I plan to keep painting and, through my imagery, provide a space for my viewers to gain new perspectives about the beautiful world that we live in. I plan to keep showing traditionally in galleries, as well as focusing on exhibiting nontraditionally by bringing my art to the public more directly through live painting.
Any advice for artists starting out?
RR: My advice for any artist who is just starting out is to fully embrace your work. Find ways to bring art into every aspect of your life. Look for inspiration in your downtime, find ways to talk about art in your conversations, and keep creating constantly in any way you can. There are opportunities all around you. Don’t be afraid to seek them out. It can be easy to get discouraged when you’re starting out, but you have to stay positive and keep motivated. For me, it always helps to remember that the world needs art because art is culture. Regardless of what anyone says, or how much money you do or don’t make, creating culture is important and absolutely worth pursuing. So, chase your dreams and keep on creating!