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Interview with ChinaTown Artist Rachell Sumpter

Artifact: How did the Chinatown piece come to be? What research or experiences led to the great details in it? Why are the mountains pink? Sumpter: The art directors at Lucky...

Artifact: How did the Chinatown piece come to be? What research or experiences led to the great details in it? Why are the mountains pink?
Sumpter: The art directors at Lucky Peach magazine contacted me, Walter Green and Rachel Khong, and asked if I would like to illustrate a fold out insert for their Chinatown food issue. I went to Vancouver Canada for a food festival that was happening there. It was a very family-centric event with people of all ages attending. Tons of food carts. At the end of the festival I remember going to the top of a parking structure and looking down over the side onto a performance that was happening. A beautiful older woman was onstage on stage singing romantic songs in Mandarin while the sun was setting, it was lovely. I think that is where the colors for the mountains came from, that sunset, her singing.
Artifact: What inspired your distinctive color palette?
Sumpter: The feelings that came from the place.
Artifact: How big is the Chinatown painting in real-life? Do you usually paint big or small?
Sumpter: I like to work actual size so I know what it will look like when reproduced, it was probably around 12" by 40"
Artifact: How long does it take for you to finish a piece like Chinatown?
Sumpter: Two weeks, 9-5
Artifact: We'll be coming out with another painting of yours soon, called Old Friend (pictured below), what's the story behind that artwork?
Sumpter: I made that after living off the grid for awhile, on an island, really isolated. When I moved back to urban life smartphones had happened, twitter, instagram. It felt like I had time traveled. People were always looking at their phones and reconnecting with others from the past through the web of social media. 
Artifact: Who are some of your favorite contemporary artists and why?
Sumpter: Kara Walker, I like how she uses narrative to address issues regarding history and race. Her work is powerful.

Search for ideas supporting the Black Man as a work of Modern Art/Contemporary Painting. A death without end: an appreciation of the Creative Spirit of Lynch Mobs - © Kara Walker 2007

I also like Evah Fan's work, the way she pairs words with images is very clever and smart.

Job Seekers - © Evah Fan

Artifact: Do you have any tricks for tapping into your creative energy?

Sumpter: I think it is different for different people, but I have learned to meditate and also exercise is amazing for my creative output. Get me running and I am so jazzed. Also, sleep.
Artifact: What was the most important art-education experience you had? What was a lesson you learned in Art School that really stuck with you or ended up mattering?
Sumpter: I went to ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena. I loved it and hope that anyone that ever wants to go there is able to go because it was life changing for me. "Most important" was probably walking through the ArtCenter gallery, seeing all the illustration work up on the walls and realizing that illustration was a job that I could do and support myself with. As a female I never had another female artist role model, and though there were not as many then as there are now, meeting and knowing practicing female artists and designers was a huge moment. Some teachers were really into teaching you to be tough and have a thick skin. I think that is good, it caused me to be very objective about my work.
Artifact: What's the best way for people to get ahold of one of your originals, or a print? Do you do notecards?
Sumpter: I hope to reopen my online shop soon. If someone would like to buy an original they can email me directly, however the originals of Old Friend and Chinatown are sold.
Artifact: Are you working on any new projects?
Sumpter: Yes, I am illustrating my first picture book for Cameron Books. I can't give any details at the moment but my hopes are very high for this project!
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