Meet the Artist: Rachel Ward
It’s been a few months since we announced the winner of our Student Artist of the Year competition, so we decided to catch up with winner Rachel to discover a bit more about her, and what she’s being inspired by this year.
Meet the Artist: Rachel Ward
How did you get into art?
I suppose I have always been arty, even when I was little, but I never really knew it until I was fourteen. I was struggling with GCSE art and found myself going off track from what the teacher wanted. I started to take an interest in traditional line animation and over a weekend, I suddenly found that I had filled a whole sketchbook with my copies of Disney characters such as ‘Bambi’ and ‘Lady and the Tramp’, as well as other characters from my favourite films. Eager to prove to my art teacher that I could in fact ‘draw’, to a better quality than what I was producing in class, I showed off my sketchbook. I think in their eyes it was just a book of doodles, but when I look back, that was me teaching myself how to draw and interpret life with just a few simple lines. From then on, I really felt that I was improving and it wasn’t long until my art really started to develop and become what it is now.
What’s your artistic style?
To be honest? I don’t really know what I’d call it! I still feel that I have a long way to go with my art, so it’s still very experimental and I like to practice with all types of styles and mediums. But if I had to describe it I’d say, graphic, interpretive and colourful- I use all the colours! I tend to oversee things, which is why my art has so many layers of colour. It’s also why I struggled at school, I would always put in too much detail when it wasn’t necessary, simply because I didn’t know how to control my style. But now, I think it is my use of colour that defines my style, and with practice I have learnt to use it to create textures and shapes (the flecks in a fox’s fur for example) in a non-realistic but still life reflecting way.
What’s your favourite medium(s) and why?
My favourite mediums are watercolours, especially watercolour pencils. They are vibrant, simple to use and easily manipulated with water and brushes. I prefer using watercolour than acrylics. Even when watered down acrylics blend too easily, so you lose the colour and definition. This means you have to wait between each layer of paint to dry, before you can add more, which for me, drives me crazy because I’m really impatient, so the medium doesn’t work with my way of painting. Therefore, I tend to layer watercolours with tons of oil pastels and pens markers, as a quick and expressive way of working. I use a lot of dry materials too, but watercolours, from a tube or palette are always a must.
Tell us about your favourite piece of artwork that you created.
My favourite piece is probably my Red Lechwe Antelope. I wanted the main body of the animal to be sketchy and dynamic, but detailed in the eyes and antlers. This was my first piece from my AS level project where I didn’t use oil pastels, and focused on a more illustrative and mixed medium look, to diversify my technique. I drew a lot of deer in that project, I liked the pointillist detail in their fur and pretty eyelashes. The piece is also when I really learnt how to manipulate dry materials for example, mixing white spirit to bleed colour, or mix in coffee to add deep tones and texture. I also used washing powered to displace the watercolours and create a rougher look to the paint. I’ve always been super happy with it, and when anyone wants to see my work, that piece is the one I show them.
What projects are you working on now?
Recently I have been thinking of Christmas card ideas and prints to hopefully sell online for December 2017. I’ve been drawing a lot of Christmassy animals like penguins and arctic foxes, but also the not so festive animals, like orangutans, and fitting them into quirky Christmas themes. I’m also planning to build up a portfolio to apply for an illustration degree. I really love ocean themed art, so I’m going to work on some larger scale pieces to include.
Where do you do most of your artwork?
On the floor where I can spread out all my paints and pencils, and sit right in the middle of an arty mess! Or, I’ll set up in the conservatory where its fresh and light. I really want my own room/studio in the future to blitz with art stuff, paint on the walls and not care…
What has been your favourite new product or discovery over the last year?
I discovered ‘Derwent Waterbrushes’ over summer after seeing illustrators uses them online and I knew I needed them. They are basically a brush and water holder in one, but because of the small size, you can hold and use them as easily as a pencil and get some cool inky effects out of them. I would definitely recommend for an artist of any style, they could even be used for calligraphy designs.
Where do you get your inspiration?
I get a lot of inspiration from traditional animation, as well as book illustration. My favourite artist, ‘Nico Marlet’ is a character design artist for ‘Dreamworks Animation’, I especially love his work for the ‘How to Train your Dragon’ films, and is one of the reasons I stared to draw in the first place. I’m also a fan of ‘Raymond Briggs’ illustration, I love his colourful detail, and how something that looks innocent, can tell a moving story. I think this is why I want to use my art to tell stories and help promote animal conservation, in the future. I’m inspired by a lot of music and I’m pretty outdoorsy too, so good music and nature always put me in a good mood to draw.
What are your top tips for anyone looking to get into art?
Just practice and start small, don’t overthink what you are drawing or making, otherwise you will get bored and frustrated, you just need to find an art that reminds you of why you wanted to start in the first place. If you are drawing a cat from an image for example, try looking at it upside down. This breaks up the image, so it’s easier on the eye and it becomes a picture of simple shapes and tones, rather than your eye telling you it’s a detailed image of a cat you must copy. Finally, don’t compare your work to other artists. Even I do it, but if I compare too much, I lose all inspiration. It’s great to look at what other artists can do, especially if they use the same mediums as you, but stop there. Remember, they probably have years of experience, so there is no point comparing when you have just started. When you first get into art you will learn so much and see your progress each time you draw, so don’t give up, you’re only going to get better!