Artist Interview: Rachelle Sutherland
Up a long tree-line drive, secluded from the busy road below Rachelle Sutherland sneaks away from her busy life to slowly create images consisting of hundreds upon thousands of dots.
Dot after dot, over weeks or even months, Rachelle carefully crafts intricate subjects from one of the world's most trafficked creatures to a Edwardian inspired botany study of a rose's lifecycle.
Working in perhaps one of the most labour intensive art styles takes patience, an eye for detail and a steady hand. For those unfamiliar with you and your artwork please tell us a bit about yourself.
I am a self-taught stippling artist: stippling or pointillism is when you use small dots to make an artwork. I have been using this style for the past 5 years.
As with a lot of artists I have a ‘bread and butter job’, I manage accommodation which also involves cleaning and setting up for guests’ arrival. I live on a lifestyle block (a dream come true) with my husband who is a vet and my two boys. I am a bonus mum to identical twin daughters and a son; they are now grown up and working.
Our family has a menagerie of animals, horse, cows, goats, sheep, chickens, ducks, dogs, cats, a turtle and some fish. I try to grow most of our vegetables and meat in a sustainable manner.
Last but not at all least I am learning te reo Māori, a slow process as an older learner and on my own, but a journey I have wanted to take for a long time.
You are mainly self-taught and have worked in various styles and mediums before settling on stippling. How did you discover your current style?
I have worked in a few different mediums, oil and acrylic paints, stencil works, screen, lino and mono printing. The first dot work I did was just mucking around with a pen not much smaller than a sharpie and I did a silhouette image for a friend. I now use pens you can hardly see the nib on.
After that first dot picture I was hooked on stippling and I felt like I had finally found my ‘thing’ with art. Being a person who is detailed focused, stippling suits my style, sometimes I think I would like to be more flowing with my art but the attention to detail always draws me back.
How do you develop a work or a series? Is there a certain pathway that takes you from idea to paper? Or certain routines you follow?
Sometimes researching work and compiling ideas feels like it takes as long as the art works!
I start with writing down words/ideas and rough sketches. Then I move onto researching meanings and images, from there I compile my ideas to make the image.
I then start dotting and keep going or decide it is not going to work and I start again. I have to feel invested in an artwork; I find it very hard to do justice to the piece otherwise.
Once I get going it can become a bit addictive, and it can be hard to draw my attention elsewhere.
Stippling is a labour intensive and slow artform compared to many other styles. What is something you would like the viewer to understand more about the process?
Probably how time consuming it is, how a small area can take hours, especially if it is a black area or dark shadow. When I work, I am focusing on a tiny area, but I also have to be aware of the image as a whole as it all connects. I think there is art in the dots themselves and once you move your focus to the whole work, they form an image.
I know it sounds silly but if I get too many dots wrong, it is all I can see, even when I know no one else would ever notice.
What has been the most demanding work (or project) you have worked on to date? What about it challenged you?
The biggest project I have worked on would be my ‘Materfamilias’ exhibition. I put over a year aside to work on this including months of research.
'Materfamilias' was focused on the matriarchs of my family and the influence their lives have had on the generations to follow. The strength and spirit of my kuia, mother and sister will always guide me.
You mentioned before in addition to your artwork, you manage a boutique accommodation, have a lifestyle block, and a busy family and home life. What do you do to relax?
The beach and swimming in the sea, no matter the time of year, is a massive draw card to me, there is something magic about a swim in the surf first thing in the morning.
On a more daily basis, relaxing involves walking my bullmastiff and visiting my Kaimanawa horse "Tinks". She doesn’t tolerate anything but a calm mind and breath, so it is a good opportunity to mindfully enjoy her company.
Putting on some music and cooking food from the garden, whether that be pickling, jellies, dehydrating or making dinner. I get a lot of satisfaction in growing our own food and eating seasonally.
Gardening (flower and vegetable) and reading (I have so many books lined up!)
Playing cards with a G&T on a Sunday evening with my hubby.
Board games with my boys – can sometimes be relaxing, hahaha.
What does the year ahead hold for you?
I will just focus on the art side of things or else I could rabbit on for ages!
I had an exhibition at the start of the year and decided after that to have some time off from them. I love the opportunity and drive that having an exhibition gives you, but I felt I needed to give my creative energy some freedom to muck around with other artforms.
In saying that I have a lot of stippling ideas and I am looking forward to starting these works. Currently I am working on a piece for a local competition.
I am also hoping to start some house renovations that have been in the pipeline for a while but seem to get put at the bottom of the pile, lol.
And finally art means different things to different people. What does art mean to you?
It is a little bit like poetry to me, in an image instead of words. I like feeling drawn to an artwork for what ever reason, it might be the story it conveys or the artists unique skill in creating the work. I appreciate a range of art and I am not drawn to any one style. Art is an outlet for many and a way to tell a story, there is no right and wrong and that is pretty cool.