Abstract artist Rachel (Ray) Swinn (@rayswinn) has dug her heels into the Atlanta creative scene in only a year of publicly sharing her art.
When I sat down to have coffee with Ray, it was clear that she was excited to discuss her art. The pieces she makes are expressive and loud, but Ray herself is more soft-spoken. Her art is the way she screams, the way she emotes.
SGC: To start out with, tell me about your artistic background.
RS: I’ve always drawn. As a kid, I used to trace the dinosaurs in my books, and I’d draw superheroes. I drew Spiderman over and over and over. It was just something I always did during school, and it was my favorite class. I hated school. I actually left my junior year — I was depressed and needed to get out of there. Art became my outlet about a year ago.
SGC: So the art you share on Instagram, etc., is from just the past year alone?
RS: Yeah. As a kid I had a “Deviant Art” if you remember that. I posted a few things on there and made a few friends, but I really started diving in a year ago.
SGC: It’s pretty impressive how far you’ve come in just a year! Obviously, I’m always looking at and keeping up with your art. I’m curious — what kinds of mediums do you typically use?
RS: Most of the time it’s markers and pens. I started this artistic journey by collaging. That’s kind of what opened my mind. I was like, “OK, I can kind of abstract some things a little bit.” Then, I started applying drawing techniques that I’d learned in the past — just self-taught anatomy things — and just kind of exploded it.
Ray uses art as a way to purge — to get the good and the bad feelings out and into a visual, tangible form that can then be processed, and hopefully provide some healing for herself and others.
SGC: Some of the pieces I like a lot are the faces you’ve been doing recently with the pronounced cheek bones. What medium did you use for those?
RS: Those are chalk pastels. The faces were an exploration that I started when I was having a rough week and needed to get it all out.
SGC: Describe to me your creative process and when you get the most inspired.
RS: I’m definitely inspired by my emotions and trying to understand them. Usually art is something that I do that makes me feel like I’ve done something. It provides a feeling of accomplishment.
SGC: Do you usually go into it with a plan, or do you just go?
RS: I usually just go. It’s all about getting it out of me. If it’s something bigger, I do plan. I’m currently working on something for an art show — it’s a larger, textile piece — and I have to take some time to think about how I want to compose it.
SGC: Do you have a specific message you’re trying to convey with your art, or is it more of an exploration for you?
RS: It definitely is an exploration, but it’s all about overcoming trauma. It’s about vulnerability and the development of confidence in my abilities and in myself.
Ray says that the Atlanta creative scene has embraced her in just a year’s time, providing opportunities she never even dreamed of. The support that creatives give to other creatives is an unmistakable trademark of Atlanta and the way it’s growing artistically as a city.
SGC: Do you have any favorite pieces or styles that you most like using?
RS: I think the pieces that are most aesthetically pleasing for me are the ones that I do digitally — the quick ones. The chalk pieces, though, are more emotionally intriguing. There’s a lot more depth there.
SGC: So you’ve been doing this fully for about a year now — how do you feel about the support that you’ve received from the Atlanta creative scene?
RS: Really great. Even just in a year I’ve come so far — it feels like my life is going really fast right now all because of the support and community around me. I’ve come into contact with the right people who know the right people, and things just start to fall into place. People here are really great about providing opportunities to the people in their community.
SGC: I see artists as having a role advocating for inclusivity, etc. How do you feel about that? Do you feel that artists have a responsibility to or can influence the inclusivity surrounding the art and creative scene?
RS: Respect. Have respect for other people’s work regardless of their identity.
SGC: You said you’re working on a piece for a show right now. Do you have any other things in the works?
RS: Recently I’ve been going to the Museum of Modern Perspective recently — it’s a small studio space that is rented out to people who want to host art shows in events. There I’ve been a part of a few fashion shows — designing collateral or face painting. The Museum of Modern Perspective has been a big part of all the opportunities I’ve received. I’m also working on illustrating a poetry book for a local poet.
SGC: I noticed you’ve been sharing your painting on various pieces of clothing. What brought you into doing that and selling those pieces?
RS: Wearable art seems to be a trend right now. It’s a good way to monetize your art, but it’s also an interesting way of reaching people who might not normally approach fine art.
SGC: Going forward in the next year, what do you see as your goals as an artist?
RS: I want to have a show at the Museum of Modern Perspective, and I’d love to have some more commissions. A lot is already happening, and I can’t believe it’s only been a year.
>>> Check out more of Ray’s art on her Instagram, and follow along to keep up with her artistic journey. <<<