Rapunzel – original by Shane Swann

Medium: Acrylic paint, 0.05 pen, coloured pencil, graphite.

Rapunzel blog post
Rapunzel started off as an experiment, I had a couple of weeks off work last year, and decided to spend my time drawing exactly what I wanted to draw and trying to develop my artwork.

I had for the past year or so only been producing work in the aim to create something commercial that people might like to buy, after finding it quite difficult to sell my abstract and surreal style work. Once I had developed and refined this more commercial style, it did become more successful than my more personal abstract work. But this success started to lead me down a specific path in art. I found myself in a situation, realising that I could potentially make a living from something like illustrating children’s books, or creating pretty pictures to go on collectable crockery. At first this realisation was brilliant, because for my whole life I’d wished to be able to make a living purely from creating artwork. However the further I went in pursuing this, the more I started to feel uncomfortable about the whole thing. I wasn’t sure why I was feeling like this because it seemed on the surface that things were all coming together. I eventually realised what it was- art to me had always been away in which I express myself. My heroes, and the people I have always looked up to in the art world are the people that have real creative talent, but break the rules and create excitement in the work they produce. For example the Surrealists, Street artists, people like Francis Bacon, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Swoon. Not that I am comparing my work to these artists, but this is where part of my inspiration comes from. So to think of compromising what art means to me and to change my art to a more conservative style for the sake of income, started to make me feel like a sellout. So Rapunzel, was the beginning of me going back to making art for art sake.

As I previously mentioned Rapunzel began as an experiment, I wanted to create something colourful and expressive, it didn’t actually have to be of anything representational. It was more about just making something for the fun of it, without having ‘will it sell?’ in my mind. I started by mixing up acrylic paint with water so it became almost like ink. Then splashed this on to a piece of mount board. Whilst the paint was still very watery, I began to tip the board in different directions so the paint would roll in drip like form across the board. I then tried all sorts of things to try to create an expressive effect before the paint dried, like waving the board and throwing it around the garden in the wind. Once it had dried there were elements that reminded me of another artist I really like, Carne Griffiths. He uses ink and tea splashed across paper, then draws detail in to the splashes with paint based pens. I took inspiration from this and started drawing into the paint with my fine liner pens, creating a linier effect into the marks that were already there, pretty much using them as a guide. I ended up with a very abstract image that in someways reminded me of hair or fabric.

I left it like this for about 6 months locked away in a folder and was going to just use it as reference. However after getting it out again, I really liked it as a piece of work and not just as some fun experiment. So I thought to myself how could I turn it into something I could exhibit. As I previously mentioned, the form reminded me of hair, and I could almost see a hair line in it. So I started to work in to this to create a face, then a neck and shoulders. The abstract then became surreal long flowing hair for the person I had drawn. I then had to add in some more splatter paint effects around her to balance up the composition. I thought the title ‘Rapunzel’ was appropriate, due to the long unravelling hair effect.

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