Rowan Walton, artist in residence at Main Street Arts during the month of April 2019, is working in one of our two studio spaces on our second floor. We asked Rowan some questions about her work and studio practice:
Q: Please you tell us about your background?
I grew up on a ridge of Mt. Tamalpais in Mill Valley, California; about 20 minutes north of San Francisco. A winding road snakes itself up to my house, often through heavy maritime fog, so it can feel like an island up there (which is why I tend to identify with the mountain and surrounding shoreline rather than the town below). As a kid on this conifer-covered island, I rarely enjoyed reading, so while my twin brother flew through books like a falcon, I drew or even just sat with our dogs and thought for an hour. My brother’s vocabulary grew to an intimidating extent, but so did my ability to draw—especially dogs! Did one of us benefit more than the other? The jury is still out. However, I have been exploring art ever since then.
Heading into college, I was well on my way to an extraordinary art school on the East Coast until I realized that as an artist, especially a young one, I need more than art. A month later, I was pursuing a degree in Environmental Studies in Seattle…as well as a degree in Visual Arts because…well…who I am kidding?…I can’t shake it.
Q: How would you describe your work?
My work is a bit of a mixed bag. Pieces can be cheeky; charming; challenging; and often a bit peculiar. I have a tendency to convey concepts through something I’d put as “anatomical narrative”— gestures depicted by human or nonhuman subjects that serve as emphatic reflections of my own perceptions based off of assumed associations, be they conscious or not.
Moreover, I typically draw with a graphite pencil because it gives me direct control over what I am trying to visually articulate. I also enjoy challenging myself with other mediums like painting and sculpture if the materials and space are present. Similarly, if I have new materials and/or tools to work with, I am almost always inspired to use them.
Q: What is your process for creating a work of art?
Complicated, but well worth it. Feel free to reach out for the full story!
Q: Do you collect anything?
Jars, exhibition cards, cafe cards, some records, and the odd thing or two.
Q: What type of music do you listen to? How does music affect your artwork?
Music is vital to my life. Frankly, I believe that its power to connect and comfort individuals outweighs that of visual arts, but I also think it’s no coincidence that most musicians explore other artforms and vice versa. It’s a topic I shamelessly nerd-out about, but I’ll keep it to a minimum for now…
I worked for my university’s radio station as a disk jockey and booker, so I made a lot of promotional art for shows back then. Most recently, I created a drawing inspired by the macabre lyrics and cheeky wit of Marika Hackman, an all-time favorite of mine. Aside from that, I’m not usually inspired by music in that way, I use it more as a vessel for productivity and a soundtrack for “The Zone.”
The genre changes with the time of day, but I often need some kind of softness in the sound. For example, some classic go-to’s are Mazzy Star, Jessica Pratt, Stereolab, Shana Cleveland & the Sandcastles, John Maus, Natural Child, Widowspeak, Allah-Las, Celtic fiddling, and roots reggae.
Q: What are your goals for this residency?
I am currently preparing to apply to graduate school, so initially, I had applied to this residency because I felt it would be a wonderful opportunity to help me discern what sort of program I want to pursue. In particular, if it would be a studio practice or a research program.
My goals for the residency are to champion some of my longstanding ideas, build up my portfolio, rollout my social media presence, and to simply grow.
I am currently working on a series of ¼” plywood pieces that are inspired by the air fresheners that hang in cars. Each piece is a painting of one of my favorite vintage car models (like a 1970 Ford Bronco), about a foot or so in height and 2-3 feet in width. The final products will have a resin finish with a secret ingredient, so you can hang the car on a wall and get a whiff of something pleasant as you walk by (fingers crossed). I am also working on concept art for a hypothetical children’s book about crows.
Q: What advice would you give to other artists?
Lean into it. If you want your artwork to go anywhere, it’s your responsibility and no one else’s.
Move at your own pace. Whether it be quick or slow, let it happen and trust it. Life is ultimately a matter of timing, so the sooner you can accept that not everything is in your control, the better off you’ll be.
Keep learning more. Artists should not be boring.
Cultivate that sense of humor. You can virtually forgo the aforementioned tips if you honor this with all you’ve got. Humor is the flesh that connects us to ourselves and gives us patience.
Challenge the traditional/societal notion of the artist. Unless you want to make money off of your art, the only person who truly needs to know you’re an artist is you.
Q: What’s next for you?
Graduate school!? Also, hopefully a show this summer to unveil those cars pieces.
Q: Where else can we find you?
On Instagram @slowwag. It’s a bit misleading due to a lack of posts, however they’re on the horizon and I am indeed in the background of it all. Please feel welcomed to reach out!