Rachel Brask

1. Who are you and what do you do? I am a creator, a connector, a communicator -- I often find that no matter the job or position, I’m somehow creating, connecting and communicating as my primary actions. I am an abstract oil painter and a graphic designer.

2. What’s your background? I was born in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, and then immediately exported over the state line where I was raised in North Attleboro, MA before moving to Seekonk, although I’ve always been involved in Providence in some way over the years. My husband and I became official Rhode Islanders 4-5 years ago when we bought a home and I set up my studio in East Providence. Some of my experiences over the past 10 years have included: working with at-risk youth, teaching and directing after-school programs for elementary children, teaching art classes for kids and adults, project management, and providing design to non-profit organizations, small businesses and individuals. I’m a member of a few art & design organizations:  Art League Rhode Island, Pawtucket Arts Collaborative, Attleboro Arts Museum, Graphic Artists Guild, AIGA, and now the East Providence Arts Council. I earned a B.A. in Art from Houghton College and am contemplating an MFA sometime in the near future. In addition to painting and designing, I’m also into writing, photography, loose-leaf teas and anything to do with speaking Spanish.

3. How do you work? When in the studio, I start a painting first with a sketch in oil pastels that captures that color and spatial composition of the idea I may have in mind. I typically work with oil paints in a non-objective, abstract style, so the ideas I’ve had before have been rooted in color theory, movement and the interaction of rigid, geometric lines with flowing, organic lines and shapes. My latest and current series, Abstracted Rainy Moments, recently strives to capture the essence of looking out the window on a rainy day on a bunch of colors that have been smeared together through the lens of water pouring down the outside of a window pane. Currently, I research different “scenes” or situations in which the colors would be recognizable if smeared through rain -- an autumn afternoon, a coastal beach, a winter scene, an urban nightscape. After researching the colors concepts, I create a small maquette painting (about 5”x7” or 8”x10”)  before starting the final painting at 30”x40”. I apply thick daubs of paint in the colors selected all over the canvas, until it is covered, including the sides. Then I’ll use a combination of stand oil, palette knife and brushwork to smear and recreate the feeling of colors blending in the rain. After I walk away from the first day of the painting, the next day I have noticed that the stand oil continues to drip and pull more of the colors down the canvas with it, creating a more dynamic interaction on the painting’s surface. Through a few phases, I’ll retouch the surface with a brush, blending the paint drops where I’d like to see them blend and intentionally leaving other drips.

4. Why do you do what you do? I love to paint. I love to connect with people. I love to inspire art in others who think that they can’t make art. I love to inspire others to explore the process, and movement, the messiness. I love to have people over studio for tea or coffee. I love working hard and seeing the “light bulb” go on for someone that has finally learned to connect with art. I love to be an ambassador for abstract art to people who say they don’t “get” abstract art. I love to design and create solutions to visual problems that people can connect to and take delight in. I have always been drawn to art, always drawing and sketching. It wasn’t until I started picking up a paintbrush more regularly that I really felt most strongly connected with oil paints. I choose oil paints on canvas because I like to work with the slower drying time of oil paints, and the ability to change the viscosity and the translucency and thickness of the oil paint’s texture. My paintings include many layers, so the slow drying time helps me to contemplate my next layer and the thickness helps to create more tactile textures for the painting’s surface.

5. What artists inspire you? The artists that most inspire me tend to come from the Impressionist or Abstract Expressionist movements. Vincent Van Gogh’s use of color and texture inspire me. Claude Monet’s attention to changes in lighting and hues at different times of day inspire me. I am inspired by Wassily Kandinsky’s ability to express musical “compositions” and orchestrations and the movement in his pieces. Rothko’s vast color fields and scale are inspiring. I would remiss if I didn’t mention Paul Klee somewhere in here too, for his experimentation with color.

6. What role does the artist have in society? The artist’s role in society is to provide a unique perspective on how she or he interprets the world around them and in them. Without getting into the whole truth & beauty conversation, artists are to use the talents within them to express to the world what they see, how they see it, why they see it, and why it is of value for others to also see it. As an artist, I feel that my personal role is to help others to realize their own creative spark so that they can access the tools available to them to express it visually. One of my artist missions is to help viewers come to an understanding of what goes into an abstract painting, so that even if they initially “don’t like” abstract art, at least they can gain some insight to what goes into the process, so that --hopefully-- they can at least respect it, even if they don’t necessarily agree with the abstract art itself.
7. Why art? Why not? Because art is beautiful, and art is messy, and because art engages all of the senses in so many ways! Why art? Because the process of creation is so very vital to our humanity, to our expression and interpretation of the world around and the thoughts within. Art can transcend language to many times more powerfully impact viewers through the visual rather than the verbal -- especially in communicating ideas, emotions and experiences.

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