As promised, the blog has returned full force. Today’s post is a long awaited conversation with Rae Ann Pritchard (big thanks to her for really taking time to answer all of my questions so thoughtfully), another artist friend of mine that I met through some very fun and decidedly music-instigated channels. We met two years ago during a crazy convergence of three groups of people from Cleveland, Akron, Philadelphia and Los Angeles, all of us descending upon the small conglomerate of twin towns, Thomas and Davis, West Virginia for two (now infamous) performances by the always amazing (and equally comedic) Jim Bianco. Before arriving I only knew one other person, my sister Adrienne, who I traveled with. When I left, I had 6 new friends, and Rae is one of them.
Rae is a multi talented artist and I am fascinated with the combination of her degree industrial design with her output of fine art. I thought it would be fun to pick her brain about the differences and similarities between the two, how she applies them, and also to learn more about Rae herself and what makes her tick. So, settle in with a cuppa whatever and have a good read about another talented member of our blog community!
TT: Who is Rae?
Rae: I have a twin brother named Joe. We were born in Sandusky, OH in 1984 and our family moved to Akron OH in ’86. I went to Miller South School for the Visual and Performing arts from 5th grade through 8th grade and attended Firestone High School, graduating in 2002. I was going to go to school out of state originally, and had been accepted to a school in Philadelphia, but then, perhaps because of some sort of separation anxiety from my twin, I decided to go to Bowling Green State University. I attended BGSU for two years. After a family vacation to Chicago, I decided I needed to live there. I attended the University of Illinois at Chicago for 4 years graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Industrial Design and a minor in Classical Civilizations. I’m currently back in Ohio but am looking into graduate school for set/prop/production design.
I’m a bookworm. I read a lot and I’ll read pretty much anything anyone suggests. Some of my favorite authors are Dave Eggers, Kurt Vonegut, Leo Tolstoy, and Joe Meno. Some of my favorite poets are e.e. cummings, William Wordsworth, and Shel Silverstein. I also love board games, especially Apples to Apples and Scrabble.
TT: What first got you interested in the arts?
Rae: I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember. I don’t have a memory of deciding to get involved in the arts, I’ve just sort of always been involved. When I was in 4th grade, my art teacher told me about a new visual and performing arts school called Miller South and suggested I go there. I did, and I continued the visual art program through high school. I’m not sure what would have happened without the encouragement from my art teacher in 4th grade, but I’m pretty sure I’d still be doing art related things.
TT: Fine art vs. industrial design. Interpret that in any way and tell us about it!
Rae: Design, as Charles Eames has said, is the recognition of a need. It’s noticing that something is missing and then doing what you can to fill that hole. Painting, and other fine art also comes from a need, but it’s more from the need of an individual (the artist) than from the needs of a group of people. Industrial Design, is basically product design. Anything a person uses was designed by someone for a specific use and more often than not, an industrial designer worked on a team to figure out what you might want/need, why you would buy it, and how you’d use it. Industrial Design and Graphic Design, are both areas where the final product is something created with the intention of being mass produced, whereas, fine art pieces, such as a painting are not.
For me, design is the removal of self (of the artist), as much as possible, from the equation and fine art is all about the self, or at least it should be.
Fine art, especially painting, is my way to relieve stress and work through emotions. It’s why I couldn’t major in Painting; it’s my release. When I’m having a tough time there are two things I turn to; music and painting. Of course, I enjoy those things when I’m happy or contented as well, but they are the two avenues I venture down to work things out for myself. I would never consider turning to Graphic or Industrial Design to help me work through things.
One of the main reasons I chose Industrial Design as my major was because of my interest in set and prop design. My second year as an Industrial Design major, we were given a furniture project. We were to design the piece of furniture focusing on what area of Industrial Design we wanted to further explore. This project was more of a combination of fine art and design because there wasn’t the removal of self. Our goal was to make a piece of furniture we identified with; that we were interested in. Some people did kid-sized furniture, some made tables out of bent wood, others chairs out of recyclable materials. I decided to create a chair that looked like it could fit on a Tim Burton set.
The first part of my process was to sketch and brainstorm. I needed to decide what type of chair I wanted to make; a hardwood chair, a rocking chair, a lounger? Once I chose the type of chair I wanted to design, I looked at how people, including myself, sit in chairs. I discovered that no one sits in one position for very long and decided to design my chair to be big enough to combine at least the three most common types of lounging I observed. Next, I needed to figure out what a piece of furniture needed to do to look like it belonged in a Burton film. My research included watching a lot of movies and looking at a lot of sketches from Burton. I decided to pick a few characters and a few films and focus on those. In the end, I chose The Nightmare Before Christmas, not a film Burton directed, but one that is his regardless. The chair is based off of the character Sally, the rag doll. This is the biggest model I have made for any of my Industrial Design classes, but I figured that if I had to do a model, it might as well be full size – I wasn’t making this for my dog!
As an Industrial Design student, most of our projects began with examining the user group for whatever product we were designing. Identifying the user group, whether it be women 24-36, kids ages 9-12, or senior citizens 64-85, is the best way to keep a project on track. Knowing the user group is what helps you create a successful design. The user group is another very big way that design, especially Industrial Design, differs from fine art. I would never begin a painting by thinking: “This is going to be seen by people mainly in the age range of 21-30. What would they like to see?” I begin paintings with a visual in my mind, or a feeling, or just a color and go from there.
So, with all of that said, I think it would be obvious that I consider the bags and jewelry I make to be part of Industrial Design. This is because they are created with a user in mind and with the intention of being used for something/by someone.
TT: You went to school in Chicago, what are some of your favorite spots there? What do you miss most about being away?
Rae: I loved Schubas. It was a lot of fun to see shows there and they have some decent sweet potato fries. I’m a sucker for sweet potato fries. I also really enjoyed going to Reckless Records to just wander among the cds and vinyl. Dave’s Records was a fun place to wander around too. And then there’s Myopic Books –my favorite book store. I actually really miss the CTA, which is kind of hilarious since I spent most of my time there complaining about it. I don’t have a car though, so the CTA made it very easy to get anywhere I wanted and it provided some of the best people watching opportunites.
TT: What is your favorite medium to work with (fine art related)?
Rae: Paint. I like acrylic because it’s easier to clean up, but I like oil because I feel like I have a little more control over it. I’m not big on watercolor.
TT: What projects are you working on now?
Rae: I am a collector of fabric and material. I use this fabric & material to make bags/purses, all handsewn. I also paint a lot. Right now, in between sewing and doing smaller paintings, I’m working on a pretty big painting directly inspired by Jakob Dylan’s Women & Country album. It is on an old wooden door and is tentatively titled Battle Songs. Before this painting, the biggest one I’d done was 4′x4′, so this is taking me a bit longer than I anticipated, but it’s a lot of fun.
TT: Rae Ann Pritchard in 20 adjectives.
Rae: Ok, I asked my friends to answer this for me. Here’s what they said: funny, smart, nice, worrier, caring, polite, savvy, pretty tall, honest, dedicated, talented, awesome, generous, spontaneous, creative, calm, sweet, cool, tough, stubborn, independent, witty, friendly.
TT: I know you’re a music head, too! What are you listening to these days? Who are some of your all time favorites?
Rae: As I am answering these questions, I am listening to a playlist that includes music by the Kinks, Buddy Holly, Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros, The Traveling Wilburys, Warren Zevon, Elvis Costello, The Jam, Roy Orbison, The Clash, The Replacements, and Leonard Cohen. I grew up listening to a lot of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and like them quite a bit. When I was younger, anytime we were in the car we were either listening to Tom Petty or the Traveling Wilburys
I also really love Bob Dylan, Jim Bianco, Gary Jules, Joe Henry, Fiona Apple, Collective Soul, Silverchair and Powderfinger. And, I’ve actually been listening to She & Him and Vampire Weekend a lot lately.
Of course, my absolute favorite band is The Wallflowers and my favorite singer is Jakob Dylan. I’ve been listening to the Wallflowers since I was 12 years old, they were the first band I considered “mine” and not one of my parents bands (even though my parents are big fans too). I’ve seen the Wallflowers or Jakob Dylan in concert at least 15 times in at least 7 different states. I once flew to L.A. for 25 hours to see a Jakob Dylan concert. Anyone who knows me well, knows it would not be smart to diss the Wallflowers or Jakob Dylan in my presence. I will take it personally! The reason? Jakob Dylan is an amazing songwriter. His lyrics & music have been there for me in times when nothing else was. Those songs are what I turn to for strength, comfort, and hope. His music reminds me that there are things worth fighting for, things you need concern yourself with, things you need to leave alone, and that you do have the strength to make things better or walk away.
TT: Favorite lyrics?
Rae: “You are safe in the arms of the unknown, I just need to remind you that the brave, they carry on” – Jakob Dylan, lyrics from No Matter What
TT: (Drum roll please, the now infamous question everyone gets asked!) If you were a super hero, what would your super hero powers be? What would your super hero name be? Costume?
Rae: I would definitely be able to fly. Other powers may include, but are not limited to: ability to learn to play any instrument really well as soon as I pick it up, ability to control music that gets played on the radio, and the power to knock common sense into folks who are otherwise greatly lacking it. I do think the Point-Of-View Gun from Hitchhiker’s Guide could be fun as well; only to be used in the most dire circumstances, of course. I would be known as Super Lizard which is a really silly super hero name that makes little sense unless you know that one of my best friends, Levi, came up with that name when we were in eighth grade AND I have a gecko tattooed on my shoulder. My costume, however, would look nothing like a lizard. It’s hard to say what the costume would look like, all I know is I wouldn’t want you to see me coming.
This was the first painting I’ve done on wood. I’ve decided to paint on a wooden door for another (bigger) painting I’m working on but wasn’t sure how it would work. This was a test run of sorts and I really enjoyed it! The paint dried much faster than I was used to, but I enjoyed that because it kept me from second guessing where I put the paint or why.
This one is a combination landscape/abstract painting also done on wood.
Partly inspired by lyrics from Jakob Dylan’s album Women & Country but deals more with how I was feeling at the time. It’s sort of a commentary on feeling stuck or stalled, and as a result, rushing into things before thinking them through, even though you should have known better.
This painting was completed for a set design class and was the beginning of my abstract paintings. It was the first painting I completed that was all abstract and also the first painting where, when I was done I felt such relief. I enjoy painting and will make an attempt at any type of painting, but abstract painting, or a combination of abstract and realism, is what I would choose for myself. It’s my release.
For more about Rae, and more examples of her artwork visit raeannpritchard.com