Whanganui artist Rachel Dickison creates intricate drawings in her Aramoho studio

Photo / Bevan Conley

Rachel Dickison's detailed coloured drawings have been earning her commissions since she was 15, and the self-taught artist is now attracting thousands of online followers.

She said her interest in drawing started while she was in primary school.

"As a kid, it was always my quiet little activity," Dickison said.

"I had a really great teacher who recognised that I liked drawing and that I was good at it, and she told me 'keep every drawing you ever do, from as early as you can'.

"Initially I was like 'nah, they're not very good', but it's the best thing anyone ever told me, because I can look back and see how far I've come."

Eventually she made the leap from black and white to colour.

"It started with just grey pencils, but with the evolution of Instagram and online blogs I started seeing other artists creating coloured pencil drawings.

"I immediately thought I should try one too. The first one was shocking, I didn't know what I was doing. It took a couple more times to figure it out."

Dickison said it was after she had completed her first pet portrait that "things really took off".

"That started a new avenue of things for me. I was doing pet portraits for about two years, and it was a great way to earn money and keep honing my craft.

"I've decided to pull back from that a little bit now, so I can focus on my own personal stuff - like Leo the Hipster Lion and my snow bunny, for example."

The lion and the bunny are part of a series of animals with humanistic features.

"It's combining that high realism with something fun and a little bit different that you don't really see very often," Dickison said.

"It's a fun way for me to add something different into my work, but also not have to learn something completely new."

Aside from "dabbling in a design course for a minute", Dickison said she hadn't studied art at a tertiary level.

"It wasn't my avenue, and I made the wise decision not to stick with it the whole way through.

"I guess I've always just observed and then tried to draw things in my own way, even back to when I was young. Whenever I'd get drawing books I'd try and follow the steps, but I would always end up just looking at the final drawing and sketching it instead.

"It might mean things take a bit longer but in the end I usually get there."

Another series features celebrities who Dickison has been drawn to over the years.

"Again, that started when I was young and just drawing for myself. It was often musicians and movie stars that I got my inspiration from," Dickison said.

"I'd watch a movie and become obsessed with it. My outlet was to do an artwork about it, to make it a productive obsession instead of just a crazy one.

"There were so many [actors and musicians] that I wanted to draw, so I decided to combine them all instead of having to just choose one."

Dickison's art has become popular to the point that it's now able to pay the bills.

While she was in total control of her schedule and what she wanted to do, Dickison said being her own boss meant she'd had to figure out all the other aspects of running a business as well.

"You're the artist, but you're also the marketing manager, the scheduler, the accountant and the photographer.

"I'm very happy I don't have to answer to anyone else except myself. That can be tricky though, especially if I haven't been a very good employee."

Being an artist in the age of social media made the job of self-promotion much easier, Dickison said.

"I started my first Facebook page when I was in high school. I'd post my drawings on there and if I got 10 likes I'd be over the moon.

"It's just gradually built over the years, and now my Instagram account is up to around 20,000 followers, which is amazing.

"You just have to put yourself everywhere you can. I have a TikTok account as well, which started as a bit of a joke, but recently I had a video hit over 300,000 views.

"I was running around the house going 'what the hell?'."

A drawing like Leo the Hipster Lion would take around 25 hours, Dickison said.

"Most of them take around 25 to 35, even 40 hours.

"I've always been a perfectionist, which can be difficult sometimes, but it's made me the artist I am because I won't settle for just anything."

To check out Rachel Dickison's work, go to www.instagram.com/rd.artistry

Mike Tweed
Whanganui Chronicle 26/6/21

(*) Last Reviewed: June 28, 2021

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