Words: Alex Khatchadourian
Illustrator Rachal Duggan likes to hang on to a lot of her experiences. She'll write them down and revisit them when she's ready to interject them in her unpretentious, and often hilarious, line-based drawings. Each one boasts an underlying story; something that she experienced firsthand or casually observed as an onlooker. Storytelling is really important to the Chicago-based artist who can usually be found drawing anything from visual quips about our incredulous president to portraits of "normal" folks she encounters on the bus. And while the things she does draw from imagination tend to be more light-hearted, all of Duggan's drawings are a way for her to process and deal with everything we go through as humans. Life is so complex, between all of the news, all the dark shit, and all the shit that no one wants to talk about.
We caught up with Duggan who told us all about watching "normal" people do bizarre stuff, drawing hands with long gross nails, stupid trends, and her responsibility as an artist to examine, comment on, and participate in the current social climate.
Your illustrations are hilarious, how the hell do you come up with this stuff?
Haha, well, thank you very much. I spend a lot of my time observing people and that stuff usually ends up in my illustrations. People are so fucking weird, even “normal” mundane people. They are usually the most bizarre. It’s all there if you just watch for it. Booger eating adults, naked dudes on porches, families on unicycles...just gotta pay attention. I also try and keep an active imagination. I make lists of thoughts and ideas and that also ends up on paper. I think drawing is my way to process and deal with everything we go through as humans. Life is so complex, all of the news and dark shit. Drawing has always helped.
If you could trade lives with another woman for a day, who would it be?
Oh man, Rihanna?? I would love to be Rihanna for a day. On a deeper level, I would pick Jane Goodall for her brilliant mind and access to chimpanzees.
What’s the most bizarre custom drawing you’ve been commissioned to do?
I thoroughly enjoy doing custom drawings for people. It’s sort of an intimate thing where I get to learn about inside jokes, relationship dynamics, pet love and loss, etc. The one that comes to mind is where I got to draw this couple on a blanket, butt side up, in a weird rock structure but also nature environment with a moose, rainbow and blimp. I really liked how specific and strange it was.
What are you currently obsessed with drawing?
I'm usually always just trying to keep up with my lists of random ideas and infusing weird things as they come to mind or happen throughout my week. I also stay in-the-know with news, memes, trends and celebrity garbage. I’ve always been obsessed with drawing hands with long gross nails. Hands are always the hardest things to draw and so my goal is to try and make them as ugly and inaccurate as possible.
I love your illustration of the Kombucha Enema. In your opinion, what are some of the stupidest trends that you’ve seen people eating up?
There are so many. Too many? I really like anything that is ‘As Seen On TV’. Energy drinks, juice cleanses, anything on GOOP, fidget spinners and Bieber saggy crotch sweatpants.
Some of these illustrations seem all too real, are the characters, and things they say, in your drawings based on real life experiences?
Yes. I hang on to a lot of experiences. Words hold a lot of weight. Getting things onto paper and out of my head feels good. Storytelling is important to me. It is way easier to draw from life than to think up some elaborate fake story. The things I do draw from imagination tend to be more light-hearted and goofy whereas the real stuff is either gross or offensive or both.
I love all of your fem/resist/nasty woman illustrations and also those regarding the ridiculously misguided sexist comments and rhetoric that men use, oh and also how often you use your work to confront what’s going on politically and socially. Can you speak a bit about the responsibility of an artist to examine, comment on, and participate in their social climate?
I feel very fortunate to express my opinions on things and, for the most part, have people enjoy it. I have always had a strong sense of what I deem as ethical or unethical, moral or unmoral. I am not interested in producing art that is surface level and digestible for all. I’d rather express my opinions than appease the masses. There is so much to comment on and scrutinize - it keeps my work flowing. There have been many moments where I worry about who may see my drawings or if I will get angry comments or DMs, but overall, it’s worth it.
What do you think are some of the easiest ways to show resistance to the current political administration?
I think trying to be as active in the process as possible. It is hard to not be fatigued by the barrage of garbage each new day brings. Voting, calling your reps, calling attention to things you believe are important. I am super inspired by the protest art people make. People making signs with comical drawings and sayings - taking the time to express themselves through poster art. I think we just have to keep at it.
Tell me a little about your portrait series for Women’s History month. What spurred that series? How did you choose the women you decided to draw?
I was wanting to do a series of some sort and it occurred to me that it would be nice to draw a bunch of women. When it came to actually doing it, I couldn’t think of who to draw. I was so disappointed in myself - like here I am, a female, a feminist, and I can’t even come up with a group of important women to draw? It was a mind-fuck. It made me think back to school and how women in history were not talked about - usually an important male’s wife. There were and are SO FEW stories of women in education. Realizing I needed to wake up, I reached out to various females in my life to ask what women they admired. Then from there I did my research and found others I wanted to highlight. It was a surprisingly powerful exercise for me - I was in awe of all of these people I either didn’t know or only knew one thing about and now I have a deeper understanding of.
And finally, have you ever been in a poo-war? did you win?
I am not a poo-war participant! If I have to poo, there is no waiting. I just poo. I love how full of shame people are that when they go to a bathroom (designed for pissing and shitting) they sit in silence because they are too afraid to do what they need to do in front of others. I get a crack out of people who rip ass super loud and groan. I guess those people are truly free.
For more from Rachal Duggan follow her on Instagram: @radillustrates.