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12 Questions: Rae Klein

Rae Klein will be part of the inaugural group exhibition at James May North opening June 7 5:30-8. You can find her work on our Artsy page.

1. What are 1-3 books that have influenced your life?

“Art and Fear” by David Bayles and Ted Orland, “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron, and ‘Creating a Charmed Life’ by Victoria Moran. All of them basically have the same message, which is how not to be so worried, and it’s nice! I do a lot of house sitting and most of the books, including these, are ones I find on their bookshelves. There’s something about the books people personally select to have in their homes. They have an extra oomph. 

2. What are you currently working on?

I’m trying to work out some concept things. “Loosening up”; focusing more on using color, texture and direction to convey feeling in my paintings rather than blending and representational technical detail. I have a theory to try out for my own work which is saying more with less as a way to get the response of an emotion, rather than  presenting a direct image and trying to get to that emotion through that. It’s really hard for me, especially since I don’t really understand it! I’m trying to look at paintings I really enjoy and be honest with what it is that draws me to them. I like to feel a “heat” coming off of a painting. What does that mean to me? To practice this and to find out, I am doing a series of 16 small paintings with the goal that I “finish” them in under two sittings. Because of their size, I like that you have to be close to them to view them. They also get me in the studio to work while I’m waiting for large paintings to dry. 

3. How has failure set you up for later success? What was your favorite failure?

My favorite failure is a recurring one. Every year I apply to the RAiR program in Roswell, New Mexico, and every year I open my annual Rejection Email. In fact, I just opened it this morning! I take my allotted hour of grieving. This year I did some somber plant repotting. After that I have a new goal for the next 12 months: How can I improve my work so that I am closer to being qualified? Is it size, subject matter, the way I write? Did I say “I should have done x or x instead on that form” right after submitting my application? If I take all of my failures and rejection letters from the year and investigate the questions they bring, and average out these questions, then I figure my work must improve. It’s important not to make work solely for impressing judges, but it is important to reflect and grow in a way you can measure for yourself. I know my work has issues, and it’s not about trying to paint what I think others will like. But these questions help me to learn confidence in what it is I am trying to convey in my work. 

4. What is your most unusual habit?

I can highly recommend drizzling a little honey on mac and cheese. Don’t stir it in, you just need a little bit over the top.

5. If you could have any painter, living or dead paint your portrait who would it be and why?

I recently discovered Andrew Cranston, who paints with

 Oil and varnish on old book covers. They’re luminous and soft. Even if he just painted me as a faraway smudge or a monkey in a jar, I would be so excited. He’s my favorite painter at the moment. Even the size resonates with me. Paintings you can hold as a small object. I like it!

6.     What is the most indispensable item in your studio/workspace/office? What is your studio like? Could you share an image?

LAMPS. My studio is very dark. It’s an attic area above a gallery space. I have four lamps crowding my desk. Usually I’m there at night but I also enjoy being there while it’s open. Customers never notice me upstairs. Next month I’m moving my studio to a garage, so I’ll still need my lamps. Second is my camera. Photographing work and even progress shots well is almost as important as the work you make. I use the camera everyday. Lastly, I use Murphy’s Oil Soap to clean my brushes. It’s a floor cleaner. I always have some of that around!

7. When you feel overwhelmed or uninspired what do you do? What do you do to get out of a funk? What questions do you ask yourself?

First of all, it’s important to just show up to the workspace. Even if just to tidy up. I always have my paintings sitting out and at some point I’m going to notice that one of them needs something. And tada! I’m painting. If I choose to ignore all of them, then I’ve usually settled in to flipping through my collection of source imagery, or adding to it, trying to figure out what it is I like about all of those images, what single word or feeling might draw them together, what I can research to find more images. That question is an endless struggle so I can always work on that. If I don’t see anything there, I go on eBay because I love the weird photography people do to sell their knick knacks. Then I can use that as a jumping off point for a little still life painting. 

8. Who/What influences your work?

This was the most difficult question. There’s so much. Music has a lot to do with it, whether it is music I like or not. Especially being in a car with loud music. A lot of sudden painting ideas can come that way, and I have to write them down as soon as I get home. Lately, I enjoy elements of unprofessional photography, like what I find on eBay or discarded family photos. I used to buy cameras at thrift stores that I could tell still had film in them. I would get them developed and see what comes out. I never painted any of them, but I loved their mystery.  Instagram is the best way for me to  discover other artists. I love Ambera Wellmann, Franklin Ratliff, Kevin Sloan and Shaun Tan, just to name a few. 

9. Do you collect anything?

Plants, and pots to put them in! But I only have a small collection. I want to work on a terrarium next. I also have a decent collection of pinback buttons. 

10.  What words of advice would you give to your younger self?

I used to write off other people’s work that I didn’t immediately “get” as “not that good”. Now I understand that the summation of their experiences makes their work important to not only themselves, but others like them, which might not be me and that’s okay. At this point I can use that to understand others’ work ( and like it!), but I used to do a lot of grumping about work I didn’t “like”, and I regret that! 

11.  In the last five years what new belief, or habit has most improved your life or studio practice? 

That “done” is better than nothing! It’s tempting to hold off on applying to something, starting a special painting, or showing your work until you feel like you’re better at it. But guess what, you’ll never feel better. Others will see you grow and improve, but you may never feel good enough. Getting it done, even if it doesn’t turn out as good as you had hoped is better than waiting and never doing it at all. 

12.  Share an inspiring image.

(Yikes! Wish I knew a really good one! But I only have this image that I’ve always had saved.)


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