Meet Liz Rackard, our August Artist of the Month.
Liz shares some insights and secrets of her arts practice.
When did you first feel like an artist?
I loved drawing and colouring as a child so I decided I was going to be an artist or work in a kennels (I loved dogs too).
Do you have a ‘day job’?
Yes I work as an art therapist with children mainly but with teens and adults too.
If so, does it drain or fuel your personal work?
Because I love working with art materials I enjoy working with children in this way. Sometimes the work can be draining as you come across difficult situations but you learn to deal with it. Having the space to do my own work provides a balance. I couldn’t work full
time at art therapy, as I would find it too emotionally draining.
Where do you find inspiration?
Everywhere. Nature, man made environments, people, TV, packaging, colour, debris on the footpath, I’m always looking – mind you what I see in my mind and what comes out on the page can be very different. I make masterpieces in my head but they don’t always translate. Also I tend to work quite slowly so while I have loads of ideas it’s impossible to get everything done.
How do you research if you need reference material e.g. Pinterest, Library, personal photos, etc.
All of the above plus observational drawing and doodling.
Do you work from home or in a studio/shared space?
I’m very lucky to have a studio in my garden. It’s a sanctuary.
What is that like?
It’s one of those purpose built wooden garden houses. It’s great, looking out onto the garden, away from the house but only takes seconds to get there. I can walk away from something and leave a mess without worrying that dinner has to go on the same table. It’s not huge, I sometimes wonder if I’d make bigger work if I had more space.
Have you ever experienced creative blocks?
If so, how do you deal with them?
Just keep working. Sometimes what I have in mind and what comes out my hand is so way off that I think what am I doing? That’s when I have to leave the judgmental part aside and push through and keep working, it’s the only way I know. Looking at other work can be very inspiring too when you’re stuck but in the end you have to get back to the blank page, canvas or whatever. Just keep doing it, whatever it is.
Do you ever equate your self-worth with your artistic successes?
No! Way too dangerous. But it is a nice thing when there’s success in terms of jobs or sales and it’s good to celebrate that.
Are you a morning lark or a night owl?
A bit of both.
Does criticism affect you?
Naturally. We all want to be loved and praised.
If so how do you handle it?
I try to see if there’s something useful in it. Constructive criticism can be really helpful. Then I try not to take it too personally and go back to my own work bubble.
What was your favourite commission to date, if any?
A double portrait I did of a friend’s son ‘Eoghan’. Also a glass piece commissioned by the OPW for the Valuations Office. I made two glass books sandblasting old maps and valuations onto the glass. Designing stamps for An Post was great too. I like working to a specific brief.
Is you work primarily imagination based or observational?
It varies and can be both. I work from life and also from imagination.
Do you keep sketchbooks? If so is it daily or now and again?
Always have a sketchbook/ journal on the go, always scratching at something or other except if life is super busy, but always get back to it eventually.
Do you enjoy location drawing? If so do you have a favourite spot? Yes I like drawing from life in general. I don’t have a favourite spot as such – I like the challenge and stillness that comes from close observation.
Do you have a list of favourite pens, pencils paper or art materials? If so what to you love about it/them?
I like different media for different things. I love the Strathmore mixed media sketchbook for gouache and Posca pen. Then I love working oil on canvas or acrylic or watercolour on paper. I like to work with a wide range of material depending on the piece and what mood I’m in.
Do you have any ‘tricks’ or habits if you are having trouble with a piece? Walk away and leave it for a day, then look at it again. Show it to someone and ask their opinionLast option, bin it and start again.
What does your inner critic say (if anything)?
At one stage I didn’t have an inner critic, I had a panel of them. It takes a while to work through that and recognize that the inner critic is always going to be there, waiting to pounce. I’m very familiar with mine but try not to let them rule the roost. Recognition is half the battle; if you recognize it’s them you can tell them to zip it.
Which artists are you most jealous of, and why?
There’s so much work I love it’s hard to list it all. In illustration I love Lisa Congdon’s approach, Ricardo Cavolo, outsider artist Howard Finster and Mary Delaney (1700 – 1788) and her “paper-mosaicks”, she did her most amazing work from the age of 71 – 88.
Would you throw a piece away (or delete it!) if it was not working, or would you just ‘keep at it’ until you were happy?
Sometimes a piece can be rescued if you ‘keep at it’ but sometimes it’s better to walk away and start afresh. Mostly I tend to keep at it until something is resolved, new and unexpected discoveries can be made along the way.
What would you do if you weren’t an illustrator?
I’d be involved in making or doing in some way. I started out as a weaver so maybe working in textiles – I don’t really know but there would have to be colour involved!