Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rachelelm/ (Careful, some pieces are NSFW!)
I’ve been following Rachel’s work for a couple of years, and wanted to start off with her because she’s kind of a hidden gem. She used to have an art tumblr but took it down after there was a little bit of controversy over one of her drawings. Thankfully, she can still be found on flickr. Her site is a mix of fanart and original work, and she mostly uses traditional media like pencil, pen, ink brushes, marker, and pastel. Believe it or not, she once confessed on her old blog that she usually only draws on copy paper!
My first exposure to her art was through these beautifully raw inksport drawings. Not only are her markings confident and economical, her drawings display incredible movement and tension. She seems to have captured the quintessential character of the sports, as well as the breathless quality of anticipation, brutal climax, and stunned aftermath that so characterizes sports in general.
Rachel uses color in a bold way that always facilitates the emotion of a drawing, whether it be sweet and gentle or desperate and fraught. She often uses random markers to color her drawings and, after scanning them in, plays around with filters and adjustments in Photoshop to get the crazy colors that she likes. I run the risk of revealing how closely I followed her old blog, but I know from a post that she actually enjoyed the scratchiness and grain of pencil sketches and didn’t even clean them up after scanning them!
Another thing I love about her work is the imperfect, messy quality of it. There’s no secret to her drawings, no complex masks and layers, no fancy brushes. She’s publicly said that she grew tired of the “eternal pixel-f***ing” that comes hand in hand with digital art, which just refers to the ability to edit your work infinitely on a computer, on a smaller and smaller scale. While I’m a complete proponent of digital art, I’ve experienced firsthand the black hole of applying minute changes to your Photoshop document for hours on end, just to end up with something that looks identical to what you started with.
There’s also the scary sense of impermanence that comes with abusing the undo button. Drawing traditionally doesn’t just improve your draftsmanship, it forces you to practice good habits while drawing. Since you can’t just undo everything, you have to think about your strokes as you make them, and plan ahead. If you trust me on anything, trust me on this: good draftsmanship will never hurt you, it can only help you!
From following Rachel for so long, I know and admire the parts of her life that she shared with us, and with great honesty. She went to art school, but decided a career in art wasn’t for her because the hours were too long and stressful. Her usual day consisted of going to work, then coming home and drawing for several hours until bedtime. She had a period of several years where she didn’t draw, and experienced a crippling fear in returning to drawing. When she did return, she regretted those years, but was also relieved to be drawing again. The last I knew of how she was doing, she was working for a flower shop in New York City, and of course, drawing on the side.
Before it was taken down, she said on her blog that in her opinion, the best artists are those who make it really obvious what they’re into. Artists who make it really obvious what they love. I just can’t help but think that Rachel herself is a wonderful example.
Of her albums on flickr, my favorite are