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Bubbler Wrap-Up: Rachal Duggan

Rachael Duggan is RAD - literally, those are her initials. Rachal of RADIllustrates was The Bubbler’s artist-in-residence at the Central Library in February, drawing and doodling every nook and cranny of the library.

You can find her at Monroe Street Library this spring, where her illustration workshops continue to bring the joys of doodling to the Madison community.

Bubbler Wrap-Up with Rachal Duggan

Can you introduce yourself a bit for those who may not have had the chance to meet you yet?

I illustrate under RADIllustrates because my initials are RAD. I’m from the Chicago area and lived in Chicago for 12 years before moving to Madison about a year ago. I just really like drawing - it’s as simple as that. I want to be making things. I come from a very creative family. My dad and brother are artists and my mom has an impeccable mind for business. I started studying art history in college and realized I just really like doodling. One day I showed up at Ivan Brunetti’s desk (prolific underground cartoonist who is a professor at Columbia College) and pleaded to be let into his senior level illustration classes. He let me in and the rest is history.

Rachal Duggan

How would you describe yourself as an artist and how would you describe your style? Are there any other art forms that you’re exploring or want to explore?

I think of myself as an illustrator - I love drawing. To me, illustration is all about style and finding your authentic style. I tried to resist it when I was younger thinking I should draw like how someone else does. Once I accepted my style, I realized I was an illustrator. It reminded me of children’s books and cartoonists.

I’m traditional in the sense that I do everything by hand. I’m impatient, so all of my drawings are very quick. Some artists’ work takes days or weeks or months - I’m the opposite. But I’m also interested in taking a step back and seeing what would happen if I did spend more time. It’s always something that I consider.

What inspires you? Where do your ideas come from?

I take inspiration out of everyday life. If I’m on the bus, I’m people watching and picking up on conversations or characters. I also like stupid celebrity gossip and whatever is happening in our culture that we’re all experiencing or sharing. I draw a lot of people - faces, expressions, or people I’ve seen or am thinking about. But I also draw from imagination. I like having a mix so it keeps my work fresh.

Rachal Duggan

Your Bubbler workshops invited people to observe - people, spaces, memories, emotions - as well as gave you the opportunity to observe them. Were there any observations that surprised you or that maybe others were surprised by - things that maybe they never noticed or expected to find?

I would say my memories workshop was really interesting because I had never taught it before. I knew going in that I needed to be open and willing to share if I expected other people to do the same. They needed to feel comfortable in the class.

Throughout teaching it twice, I was really surprised by how curious and open people were. I made sure they knew this was a very personal class and that they didn’t need to share. But it was a really healthy mix of people willing to talk about weird, tough, interesting memories, and other people who were very silent during class. My initial thought was they weren’t enjoying themselves or didn’t want to open up, but I was shocked and thrilled when they came to other workshops, including the second memory workshop the next month.

To have them come back and take another class or the same class was really exciting. It made me a bit more confident. I had three or four people come to every single workshop, back-to-back. And it challenged me to switch up the class a bit so the experience wouldn’t be the same.

What moments stand out to you when you think about your residency at the Central Library?

This experience generally forced me out of my normal routine. I’m definitely a creature of habit. Even drawing on the glass walls - I’m not normally drawing big things and any mistakes I just went with it. It was a fun, new thing for me to do. The constant interaction and having people stop by and say hi and be curious. It’s a nice, open, inviting space to have conversations and inspire general curiosity.

I also thought the age diversity of my classes was really exciting. I didn’t know if my work would only appeal to a certain demographic, but I had people in their 60s as well as teenagers, so it was cool to get a diverse pool.

Is there anything you would change or do differently?

I can honestly say that the entire experience was positive. Anything I needed, I could talk to Carlee or Trent. I guess when I applied, I thought this might be really strict. And I’m the kind of person who has their ducks in a row, so I was really prepared. But they made it so much more inspired rather than saying “you have to do this many workshops or this many events.” And I didn’t really know if my schedule was ambitious. At first it was a lot, but then I got so in the groove.

What role do you feel the Bubbler Artist-in-Residence program has within the community?

I think every library needs this. I’m so on board. It’s crazy how powerful [it is] having a nice open space to be creative, to invite all different creative people to come and learn something or try something new. It’s very accessible, it’s free to the public. I came from Chicago which is a much larger city, and I know Chicago’s public library system doesn’t have this. It just feels like, man, this has to be spread far and wide.

How does the library’s art spaces and the Bubbler as a makerspace differ from the other types of residencies or spaces that you’re familiar with?

This is my first residency, so I don’t have much to compare it to. I have a lot of art friends who have participated in residencies, where you go off into a small space, you churn out work, and it’s a very personal experience. Here it’s more dynamic and inclusive. It doesn’t feel stuffy.

I’ve done gallery shows and things like that with groups. It’s fine, but I don’t necessarily seek it out. My work has a more commercial or online feel, so I’m grateful for an opportunity like this where you have access to community and all walks of life. It’s focused on coming up with your own thing and sharing it with people.

Rachal Duggan

What are you coming away with after your residency?

Trent told me that I am the first illustrator to go through this residency, so I feel very #blessed to have that. I hope this opens the door for other illustrators to feel like they have a place within the art community where they can participate. I think leading up to this, I felt like, “Can I do this? Am I going to be able to pull this off?” And going through it, I feel like this is going to help me in so many ways - both as a person and as a creative person. It’s pushed me out of my comfort zone in the best way possible. I see a lot of the skills that I’ve developed here that I didn’t know I had.

What advice do you have for future artists-in-residence?

I think being very open minded and willing to change. And I’m a good example of that. I’m the type of person who knows what I’m doing and what the expectations are. I feel like, with this experience, you’re better off being as open minded as possible - and, for me, as ambitious as possible. I didn’t go into this knowing we’d make a zine. It took some time and energy, and now we have an exciting product. I’m glad that I had more than less planned because now, looking back, I don’t feel like I missed out. I’m am not thinking, “How could I have done more? Was there an opportunity I didn’t think of?”

What does the future hold for you?

I am always open to opportunities. I say yes a lot. I’ve been burned before, but I always try to go into situations and say yes. I’m open for editorial work, custom illustrations, collaborating on zines, doing pop-up portrait events and more teaching. When I moved here, I didn’t have a place to teach and now that I’ve established myself more, I can do that here. Also, private workshops. I’m totally down to cater different workshops for events like bachelorette parties, birthdays, you name it. The world is my oyster.


Get to know Rachal at one of these upcoming workshops! Events are free to attend but registration may be required.

Draw the Monroe Street Library with Artist-in-Residence Rachal Duggan
Saturday, May 12 from 10:00am-12:00pm - Monroe Street Library

Memories and the Art of Storytelling with Artist-in-Residence Rachal Duggan
Saturday, June 9 from 10:00am-12:00pm - Monroe Street Library

Rad Color Fun: A Coloring Book Workshop with Artist-in-Residence Rachal Duggan
Saturday, June 23 from 10:00am-12:00pm - Monroe Street Library

Pop-Up Portraits with Artist-in-Residence Rachal Duggan
Saturday, July 7 from 10:00am-12:00pm - Monroe Street Library

View the calendar for a complete list of events.