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Creative Chats with... Pepper Raccoon

Friday, 12 January 2018
Pepper Raccoon perfect guacamole illustration print

Hello and welcome to the first part of my Creative Chats with... series, starting at home in little ol' New Zealand with the lovely Pepper of Pepper Raccoon. Illustrator, artist, designer, pin maker, patch maker, and an apparel maker, this girl does it all. She's even got her own washi tape for sale! This series is to look into the lives of creatives, see how they got there and hopefully give us some tips to achieve as much as they have, so Pepper is a great example for our first post!

Obviously, I cant show each and every awesome piece of work Pepper has so be sure to check out all her links at the end to see some more!
1. Obvious first question, and one you're probably sick of answering but how did it all start? Where did your love of illustration come from?

Pepper Raccoon portraitMy mom definitely had something to do with it, and I've always loved drawing animals. I remember we had this old book that showed you how you could make little drawings from rectangles, circles, and curved/straight lines. I loved making a whole farm drawing just using that technique. In high school, I discovered Juxtapoz Magazine, as well as comic artists like Daniel Clowes and Adrian Tomine. I wanted to be just like them, making things that were graphically beautiful, but also really meaningful. I'm still working on that.

As a preface to my answers to some of the other questions, I do moonlight as a fine artist as well as an illustrator (making installations, etc.), but I don't really draw too much distinction between the two practices, it's all part of my portfolio of work.

2. At what point did you feel comfortable sharing and selling your work? Did you ever suffer from imposter syndrome?

I didn't feel comfortable for about five years after art school. I sold some of my collages in art school, but didn't really feel that excited about the work. Once I got out of art school, I was really disenchanted with the "art world" as it was pitched to us as students, and stopped making work altogether for a few years. I definitely was insecure/suffering from imposter syndrome, but also just didn't want to participate in the art community unless it was on my terms (affordable artwork that didn't put commentary and conceptualism above accessibility and humour). So there was this weird paradoxical interplay of personal insecurity and external frustration that took a while to reconcile.

What tipped the boat is a bit hard to pinpoint. I think the rise of pins and patches, which have always been a part of the aesthetic I find most attractive, gave me a really easy outlet to get back into just making things. While pins aren't the end-all-be-all of my work, they've been a great gateway drug to build confidence, gain supporters, and quickly iterate on ideas.

3. What's your favourite piece you've ever created and why?

A piece from art school, which I unfortunately don't have photos of. I was a horrible art student who never took the time to capture my work. ALWAYS TAKE PHOTOS OF YOUR WORK. I created a conical vortex that you could stand inside of, which was constructed out of hundreds of multi-coloured paper feathers that I hand-folded over months, and painted eyes on. This was hung in a darkened room with an hour-long sound piece by Antony DiGennaro (dope guitar player, check him out). You'd walk in, slide under the end of the shape, and stand up inside. A coloured-changing bulb was hidden in the top, and caused all the feathers to appear like they were changing colours and moving in a series of spirals.

This was my favourite work because I spent months creating it and it came out as I had hoped (you never really know how things are going to turn out!). It was an expression of an exceptionally meaningful metaphysical event I experienced in my life, and I thought I did an adequate job of recreating an intangible memory that wasn't based on anything in reality.

Pepper Raccoon Inktober illustrations Jackalope Fiesta Llama Alpaca

4. I loved following your Inktober journey. Did you feel it helped you develop as an illustrator?

Thank you! Inktober this year was really, really helpful. I've spent the past year (prior to October) creating small digital works and getting comfortable with having an art practice again. Inktober was the opportunity to take some of my really old skills (technical ink drawing, life drawing), and my new practice (more colourful!), and mash them together to see if I could still work on paper in traditional formats. I'm excited to be bringing colour into my style of drawing via markers, coloured pencils, and watercolours. I can't wait to see where it goes from here. Inktober was instrumental to getting me excited about creating traditional works again.

Pepper Raccoon pins native bird nerd and cosmic constellations succulent pin5. Do you think you stick out from the crowd of other pin makers? If so, how did you manage it?

My pins are hand-drawn and are always original. Pin making has gotten to be a really oversaturated market, and while it is true that anyone can make a pin, many pin makers simply copy the style of successful designers or create pop-culture designs from their favourite shows/movies/books. That's just not for me. I don't necessarily fault anyone who does that, but I definitely think there's a line between being an artist/illustrator who makes pins and being a pin maker who appropriates the work of others.

I always try to come up with my own ideas, even if it means I make fewer pins and take my time. Of course, I'm influenced by external inputs, but I definitely try to distill my ideas down until they're something that hopefully hasn't been done before. Again, the fact that the market is so oversaturated means that this is pretty hard, sometimes I think I've come up with a super original idea, only to do a search and find out that it already exists!

6. Who creatively are you loving right now? Feel free to pick more than one!

I've become a social media trawler for awesome artists, and I'm really loving a lot of the cool women being featured on the @womenofillustration Instagram account.

Others include Phoebe Wahl and Shing Yin Khor (Sawdust Bear). I'm also really vibing hard on Andy J. Pizza's Creative Pep Talk podcast, it's the ultimate panacea for your creative woes.

7. Finally, if someone was wanting to pursue their creative dream right now, what would you tell them to remember?

Creativity takes massive discipline, but don't worry if you're not a hugely disciplined individual. I get distracted really easily, forget what I'm supposed to be doing, and the trick is to just always make sure you come back to what you're trying to do. You may not work as fast or as fancy as other artists (it doesn't help when you compare yourself to their curated social media pages), but if you keep coming back to it, you will get somewhere with it.

For me, the first step to feeling like I was getting somewhere was just to share my work on social media. Next, it was to try selling a few pieces here and there. Eventually, if you keep at it, you'll build up some confidence (and hopefully some supporters/friends), and it'll become a regular part of your life. It can be a grind. The biggest thing I can say is that if you actually want to be a creative person that takes their work seriously, you have to try. The whole mythology that creativity is a gift and some people have it and some people don' nothing. It isn't really true. Some people do have some innate talent, sure, but at the end of the day, the people who show up and do the work are the ones who get recognition/satisfaction in their work/paid, even in art.

Pepper Raccoon illustrated signature

** I shouldn't have to say this, but just in case we have any keen eyes on this page, all of the artwork belongs to Pepper so please don't take and repost them anywhere without her permission!

If you want to check out more of her awesome work (I do recommend it!) check out her links below: 


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