Rashelle Stetman is a full time fine artist and commission artist currently living in California. We caught up with Rashelle and discussed her creative practice and her client work
Thank you for taking the time out to answer our questions and provide an insight into your practice and motivations! We’re looking forward to learning more about your work and upcoming projects.
You’re a full time fine artist and commission artist, how did your relationship with art begin?
When I was young, I was “drawn” to drawing...Get it?! But seriously, I was. I would spend hours on our deck drawing my mom’s garden and the Aspen trees surrounding it. I started off with a passion for drawing nature. From there I entered art contests as a kid, then as I grew older I took as many art classes as possible. In high school I took Advanced Placement Art and passed the college exam with my portfolio. This was a big moment for me, it was the first time I considered becoming a professional artist after years of hearing about how that isn’t a “real” career. My mom really inspired me to create growing up, she even made sure my sister and I had a room in our house dedicated to art. That “craft room” is where breakthrough moments happened as a kid that kept me interested in creating something out of nothing.
Could you tell us about the current custom work you’re doing? What is the process behind collaborating with a client and bringing their ideas to life?
Creating custom work for clients has been such a fulfilling part of my artistic career. It pushes me to work outside my comfort zone and teach myself things I may not have learned otherwise. The process of working with my clients varies per every project. Circumstances, content and size can change the process immensely. Some clients ask for me to work directly from a photograph and draw it realistically. Sometimes a client will come to me with an idea and we break down what the visual representation of that could be. From there the inspiration really comes alive. Once the goals for the drawing/painting are solidified, I then send the client a Commission Proposal form that outlines all details of the project. It breaks down what the work will include, and specifies the most important parts requested. This is important when creating for someone else, the client needs to have trust in the artist and the artist is responsible for instilling that trust. If I don’t feel my client has trust in me I am likely to doubt my ability, so setting them up be confident in me is everything. When creating commissioned work, the job is not only to create what the client wants, but to go above and beyond so when they look at it, they experience it. This requires that I am the best listener, communicator and business minded human they could have hired. Trust is everything, so outlining clear terms from the beginning is essential. If you are an artist, remember, not everyone sees your vision the way you do, so you have to find a way with words. I text my clients throughout the process with pictures, timelapses, anything that helps them feel more a part of the work coming to life. That's what it is all about. When the work is finished, I seal it, protect it and I send a few other Rashelle Stetman Art goodies in the package with it.
Currently, I am working on a geometric skull painting for a new client that measures 40 x 45 inches. It’s my largest custom piece yet! This one has been a blast so far. Other projects I have are a couple pet portraits, a clothing design piece and a tattoo design. It’s a pretty fun mix of work, not one day is the same as the one before and I love that about being an artist.
You lived in Denver, CO and studied at Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design. Your art contains lots of beautiful imagery found in nature, such as flowers and wildlife. How does your environment influence your work?
I lived in Denver for almost 9 years, and attended RMCAD, yes. Living in Colorado definitely had an influence on my landscape drawings. In April of this year, I relocated to San Diego, California. I already have created some CA style landscapes similar to the ones inspired by CO. Everywhere I’ve lived becomes a part of me so naturally I use it as inspiration. If I find appreciation in something, it most likely will come into my work. I moved to Southern California for many reasons, one being the ocean. I love sitting at the cliffs that overlook the ocean. What’s more important to me than what physical place I am in, is the people surrounding me. As artists, you could create in a crappy basement with bad lighting if you're inspired, hell that’s where a lot of us started, but surrounded by low frequencies or bad vibrations, work and business will suffer.
A considerable body of your work is produced on wooden panels with many textures and variations in colour that will affect the overall mood / atmosphere of the final artwork. Does the substrate you are working on dictate the imagery you will create? If so, do you go in search to hunt out the right panel to compliment the imagery?
I work on wood because I love the feeling of shading over it, its so smooth and I enjoy seeing the grain underneath. It is like two images coming together to make something new. I love sanding, staining, and the fact that it’s not a thin, blank piece of paper. I like to think every piece is that much more unique. Most of the wood I work on is Baltic Birch. It has a nice color and isn’t too busy to create portraits over. I used to use Beetle Kill among a few other kinds, but more often i’ll go with Baltic Birch. From there you can manipulate it with stain and paint as much as you want.
The late painter Margaret Kilgallen was quoted saying "I do everything by hand... Even if I'm doing really big letters and I spend a lot of time going over the line and over the line and trying to make it straight, I'll never be able to make it straight. From a distance it might look straight, but when you get close up, you can always see the line waver. And I think that's where the beauty is."
As an artist that works primarily with analog media producing highly detailed works by hand, does this resonate with you? I imagine that there must be many unforeseen challenges and errors within your work that you face on a daily basis. Have you too accepted that imperfections are part of what makes analog art human/beautiful?
This quote really makes me giggle as I feel the same. I love that when I look at something I made I know I created every square inch of it without Photoshop or a projector. I know a lot of artists who do, its part of their process. Making mistakes is part of it, sometimes it leads you to where you needed to be.
You are a professional, full time artist with experience working for range of commercial and private clients. What do you think is the essential ingredient to a good client / artist relationship?
Like I said earlier, it’s all about trust, communication and listening to each other. The relationship should feel easy and trustworthy. That will set the project up for great success, and again, that comes from me establishing this element. Your client is the boss, it’s the same as any other service provided except you are the one in charge of all parts of the purchase. An Artist cannot only be strong at their craft, they have to be strong at all angles if they want people to take them seriously and be confident in them. Many people go their whole lives not commissioning a custom piece of art. It’s good to be aware of this. People will have questions, concerns and need reassurance at times. That is normal, if you're an artist don’t let your ego come out when this happens. Whenever you're spending money on something, don’t you want to know what you're getting? Don’t you want the guarantee it will be everything you desired?
Your work must take a considerable amount of time to produce, do you listen to any music or podcasts whilst you work, and if so, what’s on the playlist now?
I listen to a lot of music, and all kinds. I blast it so loud all day, sometimes I don’t realize how many hours have gone by. Right now I am really into 6lack, Rage Against the Machine, Flume, and anything country. Every genre affects me differently so sometimes I have to change it up depending on what type of work I am doing. When you are drawing a lot of linework in pen listening to Metal might not be the best choice.
You were a featured artist in Drawn Volume. 2, can you tell us about the work you published in your portfolio? (‘Bloom Where You Are Planted’, ‘Time is of the Essence’ and ‘For The First Time’)
That body of work was created last year. It is really close to my heart because I know the models illustrated in those portraits. I was really developing my style of the female portraits on wood by drawing them in color pencil and playing with stain to push the figure forward. I can’t explain my excitement to see them published in Drawn. I feel very honored that they asked me to be a part of Volume 2 next to some of the best artists I‘ve come across.
What do you think is the most rewarding and challenging aspects of being an artist?
The most challenging and rewarding part is dealing with that unpleased inner critic. I find myself suffering from the thought that I could have done better when I look at my work. But then that 1 in 100 times comes around and you glance at your painting and laugh a little cause that inner critic is like…”alright, I’ll throw you a bone this time”. There is the reward.
Can you share your plans for the next year? Are you able to divulge news of any projects we can look forward to seeing?
I have a few confidential projects for next year but I can tell you this, it's going to be entertaining.
Thanks for your time today Rashelle! We’re excited to hear more about your new projects.