Hailing from Perth, Western Australia, Rachelle Dusting (@rachelledusting) is an artist whose photorealistic portraits are just as captivating as the personalities she paints.
Two years ago, the Perth artist turned an A3 design of local wildlife into a massive 50 ft mural in her hometown. Titled “Close to Home,” her work celebrates the region’s native footprint and her own childhood upbringing in the city.
We spoke with our feature artist, Rachelle Dusting on creating life-sized portraits, how she steers a particularly challenging artwork and her passion for giving back to fellow artists.
How would you describe yourself?
I’m a huge people person— that’s why I paint portraits! I’m also a very tidy artist, and bit of a perfectionist. But I love adventure and taking risks and I know this has been a big influence in my pursuit to becoming an artist. The people I paint give purpose to my art and my tendency towards perfection keeps me driven and dedicated to the craft.
How did you first get involved in art?
My earliest memory of art as a kid was the thrill of colouring in books— I would thrive off perfecting colours inside the lines, and creating my own patterns to things. As I grew up I dabbled in lots of arts and crafts; making greeting cards and jewellery were big hobbies of mine!
How has your style developed?
I think my style has always been drawn to realism, but I also love expressing my skills in different mediums and forms. Over the years my canvases have changed from being on easels to large scale walls, and I love the variety I can achieve by the same principles of design. My passion will always be in portraits and oil painting but I love getting to experiment outside of those mediums too.
What’s your favourite medium to use?
I am addicted to oil paints! The texture does it for me— it’s so luscious! I feel like I’m sculpting, but with a paintbrush.
What’s the most exciting project you’ve worked on?
I’m currently working on a series of life-sized portraits of 8 catholic saints to be hung in a chapel in Perth. It’s a very humbling experience— and from conception of the brief to the execution of the work I’m amazed at how things have seamlessly come together. It’s a project that completely aligns with my style and my values and each time I sit down at my easel to paint I can’t contain my excitement for the work!
How does it feel exhibiting your work?
It’s a surreal experience. As an artist, on one hand you feel compelled to paint to share stories and voice things that matter. But then hanging artwork for strangers to view and comment is such an unusual and (at times) daunting experience. I have mixed emotions, but I ultimately count it as a privilege to be able to engage in meaningful discussions about the artworks and what conversations they might prompt from my audience.
What type of things do you teach people in your workshops?
I teach the same style of work that I create in the studio— mostly realistic portraiture. So often I am talking to my students about the things that will help them refine their observations skills (ways of seeing). We constantly discuss tone, colour theory, and chat about tools that will help them create a more photorealistic outcome, be it in painting or drawing.
What are the best tips you’ve learned coming into the industry?
Always ask questions! I have had to do a lot of self-research and continually investigate styles of working. There are so many different approaches to oil painting and research is very important, but can also be quite overwhelming. Reaching out to other practicing artists and art peers I’ve found super important part of my growth and development as an artist. It is hard to find one particular resource, so getting to know others that are in your industry to glean from really matters.
How do you steer a difficult project or artwork that isn’t going the way you’ve planned?
There are a few things I do. If I get used to seeing my artwork a certain way, I take a break and turn it away facing the wall for a week or so, to come back with fresh eyes. If I’m on a time crunch, I turn my canvas upside down to see things from a different perspective or angle. I also photograph my work on my iPhone and turn the photo to black and white incase the values in my painting are out. I’ve also seen artists look at their work through a mirror (or in reverse) which often highlights problematic areas that you might not otherwise see the right way up.
What are you excited about for the future?
I’m excited about the next generation of artists to come! I love being able to pay things forward in my teaching and art practice — just as other artists helped me as an emerging artist. There is so much power in creating. The world needs artists now more than ever to be a voice of inspiration, healing and hope, and I’m so excited to part of that collective journey.