Jac Rundell is a freelance illustrator based in Paisley. She recently returned to Paisley after completing her degree in Communication Design at Grays School of Art, and is enjoying reconnecting with Paisley’s creative scene with her work.
Her work is constantly evolving and changing, but she is currently enjoying working in ink and watercolour. She loves tight patterns and flowing lines and has taken this style into both personal and client projects.
Click an image to view gallery below.
Her aim for the coming months is to fill her sketchbooks with urban sketches of her beloved Paisley and layer them with the ink work she does in hopes of pushing her portfolio into the semi-abstract.
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Kill Your Darlings
I remember one studio session in Art School clearer than all the rest. Our tutor asked us to work all morning and afternoon on an intricate still life. The process was exhausting and highly rewarding. It was just how I imagined art school should be as I perched on a tall stool in my paint splattered overalls and with my hair piled high on my head with the aid of many paint brushes. This was what it meant to be an Artist. I remember that feeling very clearly. I loved it.
Then, naturally, our tutor told us to cut our paintings off of our drawing boards, rip them up, and put them in the bin. We all laughed nervously. Most of us were very proud of the work produced by the day’s hard graft and, for some of us, these were the masterpieces we had been searching for.
He impatiently moved the bin into the centre of the studio, “Rip them up and throw them away. If you’ve done it once, you can do it again and you can do it better.”
I didn’t understand this at the time, (in fact, it felt like unadulterated madness) but it is only now I am beginning to understand the reasoning behind this bold gesture.
I think as artists we often get attached to the work we create. We are explorers and creators who make new discoveries. We assign ourselves a place within the creative world and identify that place by the work we create. Our style is our armour and our paintings are an extension of ourselves. Although this concept is highly romantic, it often leads to problems when, for example, you are given an honest critique or a client asks for a revision. Up until recently, when a client was unhappy with work produced, I would assume it was a personal attack on me and my creative work. Which, of course, is very rarely the case.
So, can it then be helpful to detach yourself from your work?
Often, I find that when I finish a painting I convince myself that it is the best I’ll ever make, yet, 6 months later (and it’s often much less than that), I am embarrassed to even admit the same piece is mine. This is because, as we improve, the bar gets lifted higher. It means that we are always reaching for the next rock, and it means that the summit of the art mountain, doesn’t actually exist.
At first, that concept was terrifying to me, but now I find it oddly comforting. I am attached to my work as I create it, and then take huge amounts of comfort from the knowledge that I can send it off into the world to interact with people on its own. It is nice to know that as I grow and develop, my art does too, and that it represents me in the moment, as a t-shirt might, but I then outgrow it.
Similarly, I can often be working on a piece and get all caught up in its imperfections. This is usually because it isn’t as beautiful as I see it in my head, which can sometimes lead to me giving up on the piece altogether, and I don’t think this is uncommon with artists. I know so many creative people who burden themselves with the label of ‘perfectionist’ to the point that they never create because it will never be perfect.
Artist, Michael Landy, created an interesting piece around failure called “The Artist Bin” or “Scrapheap Challenge” where he encouraged artists to throw away their failures. He described it as invigorating and freeing. Many famous artists like Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst contributed by throwing the work they disliked into the huge glass bin, despite the work potentially selling for millions. This says that even artists considered at the top of their game are comfortable detaching themselves from their work and discarding the old in order to allow the new to grow.
So how can artists work on detaching themselves from their work? I would not suggest ripping your masterpieces up in order to impress your tutor, but I would, however, encourage you to remind yourself of the impermanence of art and its meaning.
When a client asks you to change a colour that you love, remind yourself that it is their baby and you are a surrogate mother. When you feel a pang of regret from selling your originals, remind yourself that you have the potential to paint the same piece again, but much better. When you find yourself clinging to an artistic style despite it no longer serving you, remind yourself that art is always evolving.
Keep a sketchbook that has the strict purpose of being ugly, and bask in the feeling of pressure lifting when you go to it to scribble. Draw all over your walls before you paint them and enjoy knowing that the doodles will last less that a few minutes. Let your ego come along with you for the artistic journey, but don’t let it sit in the front seat and don’t let it touch the radio. And most important of all, remind yourself that there is infinite beauty in the impermanence of things and that you should view your work as a constant development rather than an end goal. This allows for failures to always be triumphs and for your art to always keep up with who you are and where you are in the world.