Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Bi-Weekly Interview #8 - Rachael J. Sparks

As an artist, it seems like the landscape is ever-changing from simply the tools, to the aesthetic. I intend to be an artist that never wants to stop learning, and as such, I find more and more interesting artists everyday. Each artist has a unique insight and point of view, no matter the experience level. New views help open my mind and teach me there are many ways to utilize my skills and I hope that sharing our stories will help others in the same way. I believe there are many paths on an artistic journey, and each interview will help to show the stories of the artists that tread them. 

Today we'll be interviewing Rachael J. Sparks

Kaminski: My first question is pretty much always the same: Firstly, tell me a little about yourself. What got you into art? What makes you continue perusing it? Is it something that you always saw yourself falling into?

Sparks: Well... I was born with a healthy dose of humility. I never felt like an artist and still struggle often with... feeling that this is something I’m actually good at and can pursue. I’d have to say the thing that got me into my own art was other people, watching them light up. It pushed me to see what else I could accomplish. I wanted to show them a world beyond the one staring them in the face day after day. Helping them believe in magic helped me to believe in myself. And even though I often have a hard time continuing even after all these years, I know I’ll never quit. Not ever. Because of the magic I have inside that craves a voice. And because of the people who still believe.
I’d have to say the thing that got me into my own art was other people, watching them light up.
Kaminski: Hell yeah! Don't let anything push you down.
Through your experience thus far in art - who or what led you down the path of self-discovery and finding your own voice? In that vein - what kind of voice do you see yourself as having? i.e. what kind of art do you ultimately see yourself creating and why?

SparksStephanie Law. I spotted her watercolor worlds online quite by accident and instantly fell in love. Her art has held me in its gravity for over a decade now and inspires me still. She takes you to the edge of your known world and opens a door to a place beyond... and I see my art being the same way.

(The pieces above were done with an etch-a-sketch!)

Whether the subject is silly or serious, everything I make is about that door. I pour all the magic and mystery I can into my art, but keep it grounded in with one foot in reality. Showing people how to find that door is my job. Where people go after that is entirely up to them. My artistic mission is more than mere entertainment. I want to make people look twice at their life and see something more there. I think about it every time I reach for a pencil.

Kaminski: That's definitely a noble mission - one that I think all of us artists strive to reach for - and because of that, I assume that making things like fan art is out of your wheelhouse.

Sparks: Yeah basically. I do make things just because people want to see it done... I think fan art is inescapable in some ways, but for the most part I try to focus on being original. It doesn’t always get the popular vote, but it’s what can strike that chord and wake people up a little.

Kaminski: Since you have a good range of skill sets, what with your variety of medias and all, do you find any one of them preferential over the other? Why?

Sparks: Oh man. You ‘would’ ask me to choose my favorite child, wouldn’t you?

Well nothing beats pencil and paper. Nothing. It’s a childhood tool. A primitive creative feeling, that scratch of graphite and processed wood. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for digital. I just got the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil and I’m just dying with how amazing it is! But you can’t save your soul on a zip file can you?

What I mean is, when someone holds an original unrefined sketch by an artist they get a piece of that person, unedited and tangible. So yes, that’s it; if I had to choose. Then come all the others in dead second: digital, watercolor, clay, wire, wool, aluminum powder, alcohol ink and all the other mediums I can get my hands on. There are no art forms in third place. Anything goes and it’s all my favorite thing. You can even include the performing arts in that list, I want it all!

In a nutshell, for me it’s pencil and paper. Then... the world!

Kaminski: Your open-mindedness is astounding!

Sparks: This is how I am! I try to narrow the playing field and focus like everyone else, but there’s a part of me that remains caught in childlike wonder about everything. It’s a hungry curiosity that I want everyone to experience. So I’d say if my art in all its wild variety had only one word to describe it, I’d want that word to be “Wonder

KaminskiAre there any specific projects you'd like to promote or talk about?

Sparks: Oh man, YES!

I always have to ask people “How much time do you have?” because I am an IDEA person. I always, always, have something on the table. Ok, that’s a lie, it’s more like a dozen things on the table. It depends on if you want a taste of everything or if you want to hear more in depth about just one?

Kaminski: One in depth, if you please, to start with.

Sparks: My current personal goal is to create a series of illustrations called Grimms. The Grimms are about shining a light on the human emotions we have a hard time speaking about. I’ll be writing literature to go with the art for those who want an in-depth look at the symbolism behind each one. But they can also be viewed on their own and just allow the visual story to speak to the audience.

Kaminski: That seems to be a pretty noble goal - to speak on issues that we find a bit hard to speak about via words. It must be therapeutic for both the reader and the writer I'm sure. To get it off your chest and to help people that might be dealing with the issues themselves. In some regards I see art as a form of therapy for both parties as well; this could explain our love for it throughout the ages.

Sparks: I’m extremely high functioning on the autistic scale (I’ve got Aspergers) so not only do I feel deeply, I also don’t have the same boundaries as other people. When big emotions come up, I need to share them. But doing that in people’s faces isn’t helpful so I do it through art. This way, I shed light on difficult topics and the audience gets the chance to look at their own feelings through the filter of art. It’s safer for them and for me. I feel like art is a universal translator between a lot of things.

Kaminski: Since you delve into the macabre naturally, are there any specific tropes or archetypes that you find preferential over others?

Sparks: Right now an archetype I’m focusing on is Hunger. Doesn’t sound like an archetype but it is. The predator and the prey. The desire for recognition. The feelings inside that we can’t explain but drive us day after day. Nightmares from our past. Dreams for our future. It’s all driven by Hunger and to me that’s an archetype, it’s a story that resonates with us all.

Kaminski: Switching gears: When you hit lulls in your work, what are some techniques you use to get back on track?

Sparks: Pinterest is my drug of choice. You spend time there and you are bound to find all the photography and art any drifting artist needs to relight that spark.
That, and power music. If it gets your blood going eventually you gotta pick up the pen, right? Music helps move everything along.

Kaminski: I painted a whole series to the new DOOM soundtrack!

Sparks: DOOM, really? I believe it! That stuff will get you every time.
My current addiction is Imagine Dragons, Florence, ODESZA (and other atmospheric electronica) and the Greatest Showman soundtrack. Goodness gracious.

I think the history of a person’s art can be tracked through their playlists!

Kaminski: My mood is kind of cyclical, and depending on the season, I go through music in certain, what-could-probably-be-tracked-as-oddly-methodical, ways.

Sparks: I’d have to say I’m darkly optimistic... is that even a thing? You look at my music and you can see that I often walk in shadow by my eyes are almost always fixed on the sun.

Kaminski: My music gets highly repetitive too. It brings me comfort to run the same old trails again and again. Helps my mind calm down.

Sparks: Talking about this makes me want to study the musical habits of other great artists now.

Kaminski: Hahaha! Yeah! I bet you'd find some serious patterns there.
Speaking of habitual: What's a typical day in the creative life like for you? Do you have any habits that you find yourself repeating?

Sparks: My number one habit that rules the day no matter if I’m high or low is “OH MY GOSH DID YOU SEE THAT SHINY THING?!

It’s the curiosity that drives my creative style, which is good, but it’s also something that drives my daily habits, which is bad. Haha The urge to try all the things is a habit I’m trying to tone down. Not entirely eliminate, mind you, because it’s a habit that keeps me fresh and helps me find an artistic voice unified through so many mediums. I’d have to say it’s a “dangerously useful” habit.

Which brings me to my second habit. Lists.
If I put it on the list, it gets done. If I put it on the list, I don’t have to keep track of all my ideas all at once.

And I’d say my third habit is tutorials/art demonstrations. I can play them while I’m working or while I’m doing other things but I am constantly watching artists of a higher skill level which teaches my hands what I want them to be doing. I’d say that’s one habit that has really leveled up my work. I’m sure there are other really great habits I do on a daily basis that I should share right now but honestly, DID you see that shiny thing??

My number one habit that rules the day no matter if I’m high or low is “OH MY GOSH DID YOU SEE THAT SHINY THING?!

KaminskiWhat kinds of goals do you have set for yourself in the immediate, and the long term?

Sparks: Some of my short term goals are more of a personal achievement, exploring my own voice and expanding my skills. I made this needle felted fox for myself for my birthday and my goal is to practice more needle felting, and work my way up to making my own creatures! Dragons and strange beasts from my novel. It takes a long time but I’m excited to show people that you can do some pretty awesome things with a barbed needle and a bunch of unspun wool. That’s my selfish pleasure right now.


A couple of other immediate goals: I’m making a series of tiny alcohol ink paintings of animals on dominoes. I wanna complete the set and sell it. I’m also working on creating tiny polymer clay dragons and experimenting with resin paintings as well as teaching myself how to make and edit digital art videos. I want to make tutorials and inspirational stuff with that.

My future plans have some bigger things in store. I’m hoping to publish a few books with my own illustrations in it. I have a children’s story, a motivational book, instructional art book (but I might not do the book and just make a YouTube channel for all my teaching) as well as adult coloring books and also print just a collection of my artistic journey. (And even though my art isn’t involved, I’m also writing a sci-fi/fantasy trilogy called “Dragon of Heaven Angel of Earth” It’s got technological angels and dragons the size of planets. We don’t do anything by halves around here!) I also have plans to launch my business selling professionally crafted Etch-A-Sketch art. Right now, I can make anything on the Etch-A-Sketch you can imagine, but I need to get together some supplies and a proper fan base before I can actually begin to sell them. (Yes, I can make them permanent so they can be shipped across country and hung right on the wall!) That’s mostly it for now, but give me five minutes and I might concoct half a dozen more crazy plans for world domination. Crafting plans for overturning the mediocre life is like my brain’s resting state.

I’m kind of a jack of all trades master of none. But I’m getting there! Each project in a different medium levels up my skills in the others. At least that’s my hope haha

Kaminski: The last question: what's the best piece of advice you've ever received OR what's the best piece of advice you can give to fellow artists?

Sparks: Oh I love this question, you saved the best for last.

The best advice I ever got was actually at a writer’s conference where Kevin J. Anderson told me:

“The best advice I can give you is this. QUIT. Get out now while you can because being creative is often a solitary thankless job. Go do something sensible with your life. BUT. If you try to quit and find that you just can’t... give your whole heart to it.”

We don’t do anything by halves around here. Dreaming is messy business. Like I said at the start of this interview, I quit often as a kid. I’m always on the verge of failing myself. But I find that I can’t ignore the call so as long as I’m here, I’m giving my whole heart to it.

My audience, my muse, my creations, my students and even myself... we deserve nothing less than that!

Kaminski: Thanks for a great interview! This is why I love doing them so much! To get great insight into other creatives!

Thank you all for reading, I hope you enjoyed this interview with Rachael J. Sparks.
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You can view this interview, and many more, HERE.

You can find out more about Rachael J. Sparks, at her Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/rachaeljsparks

If you would like to be a part of my interview series, simply fill out the contact form HERE and I'll get back with you as soon as possible!



  1. Interesting take on the path of an artist. I wish you all the best on your way Sparks. Thanks for the great interview Mathew.

    1. @HAWK - Sure thing! She was an incredible artist to interview...

      I'm really starting to get on track with doing these bi-weekly, so watch for the next artist coming Feb. 27th.


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