In the large quantity of artists that I follow, a lot of them end up being professors/teachers, and fortunately some of them share the awesome student work that’s produced in their classes. This was how I came across the promising work of young artist, Rachael Vince. Vivid color and with a keen eye for representation, Vince creates brilliant paintings and drawings that are flush with emotion. She’s also begun sculpting and making jewelry and while the style has shifted, her natural talent shines through once again. As students, artists are forced to challenge themselves and make new things they might not make otherwise and it’s really interesting to see how Vince is navigating this journey. She’s certainly got a tremendous amount of talent, so she’s definitely someone we’re going to want to follow for the future.
I got to have a chat with Vince about the origins of her work, style, and how she feels that she’s developing and it was very insightful. As well as giving great insight on her work, she also talks about the current fiasco of shifting art school to online and how that’s been going for her and her classmates. We’re certainly in a crazy time so it’s great to see how artists are managing. Enjoy!
1. I always begin by asking about background, so what got you into art? What made you want to pursue it at university? Big inspirations? What has helped shape you into the artist that you are?
I’ve been making art for as long as I can remember. I don’t come from a family of artists or anything, creating just always felt natural and I feel like most artists would agree. Art has allowed me to visually articulate my thoughts and emotions in ways language could not. As someone who has always struggled with communication, painting definitely opened up a new world for me. I’m constantly imagining ideas for future projects, and there’s no better feeling than being able to translate these ideas into physical works of art. I started out drawing from observation--a practice that became comforting and meditative. Somewhere around Middle School, I began painting. My first paintings were mostly acrylic landscapes or abstract pieces, but once I discovered oil paints I never really touched acrylic again. Despite my obsessive art-making, I didn’t seriously consider art as a profession until High School. I’m very thankful my school had a great art program where I learned all the foundation skills that got me into college. I’m currently studying at Tyler School of Art as a painting major but also experimenting with metals.
Living close to the Philadelphia Museum of Art meant lots of trips there (so many). I remember being completely blown away the first time I visited. I realized the level of detail and mastery I saw was exactly what I wanted to achieve in the future. Artists such as John Singer Sargent, Andrew Wyeth, and Lucian Freud have especially impacted my work. I’ve always been drawn to darker more surreal imagery. My goal for the future is to slowly leave behind what I feel comfortable with and begin to navigate my own interests and style.
2. You've got quite a touch for representational work, is this something that you've always been interested in and honed over several years or is it a newer discovery?
Realism does have a strong presence in my work, however, it’s something I plan on departing from in the future. I feel like it’s important to understand how to paint realistically before you explore other styles because it teaches you control over your materials. If you don’t have the control you might not convey the exact message you're trying to convey. The only issue is once you’ve trained your mind to paint realistically it is very hard to break away from that. I’m just now learning to change my habits--experimenting with color and loose brush strokes. The perfectionist in me needs every inch of my paintings to feel resolved and detailed, yet the art style I’m drawn to is more impressionistic and undefined.
3. Your representational work features a variety of subjects from portraiture to still lives to scenery, is there a subject you prefer or favor? How do you approach representing these things similarly and differently?
I have to say of all the subjects, portraiture captures my interest the most. The subtle color shifts in skin and complexities of the human form are infinitely enjoyable to paint. Portraits are also a very challenging subject matter which is great practice. You can capture so much emotion in a portrait that I don’t always feel while painting a still life or landscape. In regard to approaching landscapes, I tend to paint through an impressionistic lens while still retaining a certain degree of detail. Because I’m often plein air painting, I only have time to add detail where it’s necessary for the composition. When I’m painting portraits from a photograph, it’s easy to become obsessed with capturing every little detail of the skin--thus resulting in representational works. I’m slowly working on weaving this loose plein air quality into my portraits. Although my process is different, I treat all subjects similarly in the way I break down color and form--emphasizing these subtle shifts in light and color.
4. You've been loosening up your colors and getting a little bit more whimsical with your drawing and painting work. Is this something you'd like to pursue more heavily or are you just experimenting?
I am experimenting with pushing color further in my work. I think this is the start of me trying to separate myself from old habits. For a class assignment, we could only use two colors and couldn’t use the actual colors we saw. It resulted in some really eerie landscapes which were very intriguing and vastly different from my usual style. I think if there’s one thread that connects all my pieces it’s vivid color choices. Even in my more neutral pieces, I try to pull out as much color as I can. This thread will most likely continue as I don’t plan on switching to black and white anytime soon.
5. You've also been venturing into sculpture/accessory making, has this been an exciting venture beyond painting and drawing? Is this something you'd like to pursue further?
My grandpa was a jeweler and inventor. When I was younger I was unfamiliar with the process of working with metal, so it always felt distant to me. I have vivid memories of sifting through his tools and trinkets--hidden treasures buried throughout his workshop. Something about his whimsical creations inspired me to explore accessory making. I’ve recently been learning to create jewelry through the Tyler metals program and really enjoying it so far! Something that I always felt was lacking with painting is not being able to interact with or touch the work. Jewelry provides this tangible aspect which I find appealing. If I could find a way to incorporate painting into my jewelry, I would definitely pursue that path further and see what I can make of it.
6. As a Tyler student you're in the midst of this online art school experiment during these crazy times, how has it been for you so far? How has the student-professor and student-student dynamic shifted? Just tell us about the experience.
It sure is a crazy time to be an art student. I’m currently taking drawing, ceramics, and metals. So far it seems like ceramics is the one class that I straight up can’t make anything for unless we’re making pinch pots… metals will be challenging, especially since I’m not an organized worker. It’s just a very unfortunate situation because students are paying for all these tools and resources that we need to create art and we’re suddenly cut off from that. Disabled students who need assistants to help them work now find themselves limited in the type of work they can make at home. Glassblowers, potters, and printmakers are especially affected by the switch to online. I just wish I took advantage of those resources while I still could! Despite the whole home studio struggle, I think this will force me to think more creatively as I try to problem solve. I’m in the process of creating a neckpiece with hundreds of found acorn tops and connecting them with silver jump rings. I will also include a mini oil painting in this piece, so maybe this was the push I needed to venture out of my comfort zone.
With classes transitioning to Zoom, the student-professor dynamic has shifted considerably. The largest issue is the lack of one-on-one support. My professors have been very helpful and present, however, It’s difficult to stay engaged when you’re just watching a video of a lecture at home. I think it’s the small things like feeling free to ask questions and hearing other student’s opinions which really helps you learn and develop. Although you can ask questions through zoom, it’s difficult to feel comfortable doing so. With a few of my classes, one-on-one conversations have been completely cut off--severing any meaningful dialogue with my professors. The student-student dynamic is gone as well. None of my classes require us to interact so for the most part we just don’t. Art school simply does not translate to an online format like business or English can.
7. Finally, PLUGS! Where can people find your work? Any shows/events coming up? Anything and everything you'd like to share, fire away!
I post all my art on my Instagram @rachyvince4 !!