(Comix) RAQUELLE JAC
Austin, Texas-based artist Raquelle Jac creates work inspired by the underground comix of the 1960s and 70s. In this interview, she talks about the unique ways the comix paneling format can convey difficult and personal topics, the artists who have influenced her, and the concert poster she recently made for comedian Marc Maron.
Interview by Tyler Nesler
Did you begin drawing at a very early age? As a kid, did you have any formal training such as art classes in school? If so, did you consider any of that training helpful, or was it ultimately too narrow or confining?
Yes, I began drawing at an early age. It’s always been the only thing I’ve ever been good at. Growing up, we had art class in school. But it wasn’t anything too in depth. It was pretty much the most average art class you can imagine. I didn’t go to some kind of art-magnet school if that’s what you’re asking. Yeah, I mean it’s helpful in the sense of getting a kid express themselves for forty-five minutes a day, god knows I needed the outlet. I don’t see the art classes I took in grade school as being relevant to my practice now, though. It’s been a long time since then and everything I learned in grade school I’ve either re-learned or un-learned.
Both the content and style of your artwork is reminiscent of R. Crumb and other underground comic artists from the 1960s and 70s, such as artists from the Zap Comix stable (S. Clay Wilson, Gilbert Shelton). How and when did you first discover classic underground comix? Who are some other artists (comix-based or otherwise) you consider influential?
I discovered underground comix when I was nineteen, after losing my virginity to a comic artist…also, I was on MDMA. It was a double whammy, and ultimately ended disastrously years later. But anyway, he showed me underground comix. And so, like how most great things are made, MISGUIDED LOVE inspired me to start making my own comix. The immense love and attachment that was forged in the combination of being on ecstasy while fucking for the first time EVER, inspired me with an unstoppable drive to impress this man. I’m not ashamed of this reasoning — most of the beautiful things in life are created in a misguided attempt to impress the objects of our infatuation.
Some artists I look at and admire are Aline Kominsky-Crumb, Sophie Crumb, Pheobe Gloeckner, Basquiat, Phillip Guston, Henry Darger, Ralph Steadman, Kidd Tommy, ZUZU…There’s a lot more obviously, but those are the people that come to mind immediately.
Exploring compulsions, mental illness, and sexual power dynamics are major components of your work. How do you think the comix paneling format best facilitates the exploration of these complex issues?
I think comix are generally thought of as being light and fun, so by addressing heavy topics in the comix format, I’m enabled to convey more accurately how I feel about the memories I’m depicting. I like to find the humor in my trauma, because if you can’t laugh at it, what’s the good of having trauma anyway? Otherwise you better try and get money back, right? Paneling also splits a story into bite-sized pieces that help with the digestion of a heavy story.
Recently you created a limited edition gig poster for comedian and podcaster Marc Maron. This has brought you significant new exposure. How did this project come about? Any other concert/gig poster projects in the works?
Well, I wrote-in to his podcast and told him some stuff — my “story” — and I closed the email saying how I think he’d like my comix. He replied and said he dug it, and then followed me on Instagram. When he came to Austin on his tour, he got me into his show. Afterwards, we met and a couple days later he texted me about the poster. As of now, I don’t have any gig posters in the works. Patton Oswalt commented and said he wanted me to design a poster for one of his shows but I haven’t yet heard anything from him since. It would DEFINITELY be groovy though to make another poster for another immensely talented comedian.
How has your approach to art making evolved up to this point? As your audience grows, has your comfort with the personal/confessional nature of your work changed much for you?
I do a lot of research now. I make art that’s in conversation with things I’m reading, music, and the work of other artists. I don’t do it overtly most of the time, but I’ve found my art-making has become much richer since recognizing that no art is made in a vacuum. Everything I make is influenced by the environment I exist in. I’ll have fifteen art books and novels splayed out on the floor surrounding me while I’m working on a given piece. And yeah, the large influx in followers I’ve gotten on Instagram since the Marc Maron poster has given me the occasional surge of anxiety. The anxiety I feel doesn’t have much to do with the “confessional nature” of my work, I don’t think. Maybe it does. Hmm, well, it probably does. I’m still driving towards my goal of digging deeper though. Never gonna stop digging. I wanna dig to the deepest depth and catalog what I find and make it beautiful…Squish them into palpable comic narratives. Bite-sized organized frames.
You produced a zine called Ovo from 2015 - 2017 which featured a collection of emerging and underground artists. Do you have plans to curate any other collected works (either via zine/publication format, or a show?).
Curation-wise, at the moment I'm not working on anything specific. Kidd Tommy and I have spoken loosely about starting something, but right now I’m mostly concentrating on the production of my own work for upcoming solo shows — prioritizing my more selfish endeavors. But the work I have done curating zines and the like won't be the last of it. I love getting together groups of artists and orchestrating the production of an object. It's really rewarding to have finished something and for people come up to you afterwards, inquiring when the next one's going to come out and if they can be in it. It's also a great way to meet people and to work with peers whose work you admire. It's a role I really thrive in.
You also printed and hand bound a book this year called The Bookcase Book. What was the experience of self-producing a book like for you? How has it been received?
It was a good experience. The book was printed on the risograph with a middle insert of digitally printed full-color photographs printed on translucent vellum. Only a very small batch was made, and they’re all sold out. I’m not planning on making any more of this book, but my website has documentation of the book if anyone’s interested in taking a gander to see what’s all the fuss about. I will be releasing a small batch of a different handmade book very soon, so if you missed out on The Bookcase Book, stay tuned.
You oversaw the printing for the Maron poster (via the silk screening studio Raw Paw in Austin, Texas). Had you done much work with silk screening before? What were some creative rewards and frustrations for you throughout the poster's printing process?
Hmm, I think “oversaw” is a liberal conception of my hand in the printing process in this project. I didn’t actually physically print the poster, if that’s what you’re getting at. I have done a bunch of work with silk screening before though. So, I know how the design’s gotta be made in order for everything to run smoothly. A frustration that is inevitable in silk screen is the disparity in appearance of how inks can look wet vs. dry in the context of the tone of the paper. That’s something I was worried about, but Raw Paw did such an amazing job — the poster actually turned out better than I could’ve imagined. Raw Paw’s got some really great and talented people over there. They’re also kind of an Austin institution, so it was exciting for me to work with them.
So far you're mainly known for your comix work, but you also produce paintings. Any plans to shift more focus to your painting work, or do you think that the comix medium will remain your primary mode of expression?
I wouldn’t say I have any plans to make either one a priority over the other. My work in comix builds off my work in painting and vice versa. They feed each other.
What's coming up for you in the near future? Any particular works or shows that you'd like people to know about?
I have a lot in the air right now. I think I’ll be having a solo show in Austin relatively soon…an exhibition for my postcard series. I have plans to drop a couple silk screened poster runs in the coming weeks. I’m also planning on releasing another hand-made risograph book — all of this will be sold in my online shop. There’s a couple more exciting things that I won’t mention here, for anticipation’s sake. Right now, I have a handful of original drawings listed on my online shop that are waiting for someone to scoop them up.
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