Several years ago, by chance, I met pastel artist April Rafko (@autumnlaneartistry), whose work is shocking in its depth and complexity. One of her pastel works is an enigmatic portrait of a heron. I have this strange attraction to herons. I see them everywhere and have had weird otherworldly encounters with the elegant bird. Rafko had captured the ethereal essence of the heron with such precision that I couldn’t resist purchasing the piece, and it’s my pleasure to share a recent interview with Rafko about her pastel work since that time and her studio, Autumn Lane Artistry, here at The Crux.
Obviously you work a lot with pastels. Why do you love pastels so much and what other mediums do you like to work in?
I love pastels for the blendability and the control I feel I have with the pastel pencils. I believe that, like many other mediums, pastels are challenging and I enjoy a challenge. I have also worked in colour pencil, acrylic, watercolour and charcoal. After trying many mediums, I find that besides pastels I also enjoy color pencils and watercolor. I recently received a set of Derwent Inktense pencils and can’t wait to try them out. They are a mix of watercolor and color pencil — best of both worlds.
I feel like you really capture the spirit of the animal in your work, where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration in the animals themselves. Before even starting a piece, I find inspiration in my daily life, whether it be something I see or feel. From there I research and find reference photos that convey the feeling or attributes I am trying to portray. I believe the eyes are what make and invoke feelings from a piece.
You seem to focus a lot on nature, why are you so captivated by animals?
Animals have always been a passion of mine. I feel they are mysterious and interesting. They can do many things that we are humans can’t, such as flying, running at crazy speeds, and so much more. When I look at animals I see attributes that I only dream about. They fascinate me. All the researching and looking at reference photos only intensifies my love and passion for animals.
How does art giving meaning to your life?
Art is a way for me to express myself and to get away from all the stresses of daily life. When I work on a piece it is just me and my art. I’m not worrying about the things I still need to get done or the crazy kid fights that have been going on that day. I can put anything I’m feeling that day into my art — it’s my release.
Where do you work on your drawings?
I work right in my living room. I lay out all my pastels, sit in my favourite spot, grab a hot cup of coffee and put on some music.
How do you find the time to create such time-intensive pieces as a stay-at-home-mom?
Naptime! Naptime is my best friend! I don’t currently have a studio or office to lock myself up in when I would like to work, so to keep little fingers at bay naptime is the way to go. Occasionally I can find a few free minutes at night after everyone has gone to bed, but those are few and far between.
I know you’re really into home décor and DIY projects. What’s your favourite type of project to work on and how would you describe your style?
Oh that is hard one, so many to chose! I love variety and trying new things. What I love to do when not working on my art is knit. It’s kid friendly, they allow me to work on that while they play and they don’t touch it. Amazing. However, I’m working on a coffee table/guinea pig cage for my living room and I am finding myself enjoying the woodworking as well. I believe my style is that of the industrial rustic farmhouse. I love wood, metal and neutral colors, with colorful accents, greenery and textures.
What are some things people should pay attention to when choosing a piece of original art?
My only advice is that you need to choose a piece that speaks to you — that invokes an emotion. You need to love your piece. Don’t choose something because it’s popular, or a friend likes it, or it matches the drapes. Choose what you love!