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Inside Out: Process


I am fascinated by what was and what will be, by landscapes and the people that inhabit them. I like to imagine what that landscape and the people in it will be like in the future, a future fairytale enabling the greatest scenario we could possibly hope to happen to us. The thinking, seeing, and scouting part of creating is as much a part of the process as laying down a layer of paint. When I get to the paper and pastels I have a general idea of what going to happen, but leave the ending unplanned. In sketchbooks, I tend to alternate between tight drawings and loose watercolors or pastels. My paintings are similar, but with gouache instead of ink.

There is a book that came out about a year ago called The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human. The premise of the book is that as humans we cannot help but to connect everything to some sort of narrative or assumption. Even if one is looking at a minimalist piece by Agnes Martin or a light piece by James Turrell or a building by Gropius, as humans we cannot help but invent a story regarding these works. A story about its maker, about the space the object inhabits, the relationship between the objects and people around it. Narratives are a part of human life as instinctual as breathing. The narratives are already there waiting for me, what surfaces with paint and ink or pastels can be metamorphosed a bit by what I am currently reading, music I am listening to and most certainly my environment. I love to read and listen to books as much as possible, usually three to four a month, and I like all sorts. Right now I am reading the very entertaining Devil in the White City. Prior to that I read Lean In, in which Sheryl Sandburg does something for women akin to what Jared Diamond did for culture in Guns, Germs and Steel.

The interplay between elements of dark and light, color as a shape, color as an object, reactionary colors, additive and subtractive colors, these are so important when making a piece! And it is across the art board important—whether working in 3D or 2D. The colors used change everything. My husband is very daring with color and completely unafraid. I am inspired by his choices. In comparison, probably due to my studies in design, I am pretty calculating.

Relationship to landscape
Where I live has a direct relationship to what I paint as much as it would to what a photographer would photograph. We’ve been living, off and on, on a tiny island in the Pacific Northwest. It has been highly influential in subsequent paintings and drawings. At the moment, we alternate Waldron with living in Sacramento during the school year for our kids. I don’t think we could have picked two more different places to live in. I’m still figuring out Sacramento: I think I would describe it as a river town. In the area where we are there are many tea-party, religious, racist fruitcakes, and then there is also a big New Age, Rudolf Steiner-following, biodynamic, hippy community—there's quite a bit of random farmland. It's a strange mix.

About Author

Rachell Sumpter grew up in the suburbs of San Francisco. Swayed and beguiled by nature, she travels throughout the west coast of the US to find relics of inspiration. Her work has been exhibited worldwide and profiled in a variety of art, design and culture publications including Artforum.com, The Boston Globe, San Francisco Cronicle, Mean Magazine, Giant Robot, Artweek, The Art of McSweeneys, and Color magazine, to name a few. Sumpter graduated from ArtCenter College of Design in 2003 with honors.

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