Tuesday, April 19, 2016

An Interview with Featured Artist - Zach Rathbun

I recently sat down with Wichita native Zach Rathbun, a friend of mine for over 10 years. When we first met he was doing a lot of really neat street art sort of characters - and drinking a lot. It's been a minute since we've seen each other. 

He moved to the Pacific Northwest a few years ago, had a stint in Denver, and has only been back in Wichita for the last month - so I offered to share my table with him at Reverie Coffee with the intent on catching up with an old friend and ended up talking art with him.

A: What's up with all the portraiture art you do now? I dig it! It's a lot different than your older work!
Z: Yeah. I mean, I used to watch a lot of Ren and Stimpy, but I realized... I really like looking at pretty girls. Before I'd be super concerned with being creative and I'd draw super weird stuff, like from dreams or whatever. But everyone likes pretty girls; there's this group called GuerillaGirls that said something like 80% of nude paintings are of women. There's a reason for that. If I stare at something for two or three hours it's because it's pretty. With art, you can make it your own special pretty girl and that's my favorite part. Why would you not draw a girl? 

Even girls like looking at girls! I'm not trying to be inclusive, I just don't want to draw pretty men, or someone that's not pretty. 

A: So now that you're back in Wichita, what are your plans for your art?
Z: Well, number one is that I've got a place with space to work, rather than living in like, a little closet with seven people. But, I've got a nice drafting table, and space to make actual things...Without roommates. In Oregon we partied a lot, and you know, I went over over board a few times. Here I can slow down and refocus. Also since I've started doing this portrait stuff, the reception is nice. 

A: How is it different here than in Oregon?
Z: People here are like, "Oh! You are good at drawing." And I'm like, well, I've always been good at drawing, you just didn't understand it before. So it's nice to come back and already have an established community and have people who support what I'm doing now and see when stuff works and when it doesn't. 

A: I think Wichita is easier to have a support system in. It's friendly here and more forgiving.
Z: Yeah, and there's also like a magicality here, where people are like 'woah, you're like a Wizard! How does drawing work?' Whereas in Oregon, it's saturated with artists - everyone does something -and in Wichita they're like, 'you've got a really special gift' and it's like, do you know how long I've been fucking doing this shit? I've worked on it! 

A: It's one of the few things you can work on and get better at!
Z: Yeah, you can't really get better at like, running fast. It's like, 'sorry, you got short legs.' You can't get longer legs! 

A: What do you think about Wichita's art scene since you moved back?
Z: Since I came back, it's like "Oh wow! Everybody's like doing something and how do I get in with this group of people?' But then you realize, like everyone is doing it individually. Which is cool, and it's kind of like what I've always done. I've never been into the whole collective thing. 

A: So you're saying you're not into starting an artist collective with me?
Z: (Laughs) No, I do! I've just always done stuff myself.

A: What do you think that's about? I mean, I've never reached out to anyone either before, but I like the idea of it. I mean, Wichita back in the day had all sorts of little collectives, all like, based on Commerce street with the galleries.
Z: I think it's cool, like if you just have art friends or whatever, that's just how it goes. I've just never had like artist buddies who are my super homies, it's always been my drinkin' buddies are my super homies. When I was 'out there' there were a couple of incidents where my buddies were like, "Yo, you gotta knock that shit off dude." So I've kind of learned like, how to reel it in or whatever. So now I can like, ...Well I haven't peed on anything in a long time. I just don't get shit faced as often. 

A: Do you feel like not being drunk, or not like getting way drunk like you used to has changed your art? Or even the process in which you approach it?
Z: Oh yeah. I used to drink because of anxiety and then would never deal with it and would be too scared to draw because of fear of what people would think or whatever. You know, just excuses, excuses, excuses - but eventually I just kind of got where I've been satisfied with art and life so I just haven't needed that liquid crutch of courage. I freaked out awhile back and came home for awhile. I ended up seeing a therapist. And I feel like, art ends up quieting a lot of things for me, It takes all of the mental energy and puts in a place that's useful - like, instead of worrying about the things I can't change I just worry about things I can change like "oh! That eyeball looks weird, I should change that!" 

A: You worry less when you're in the moment with it. You have a control.
Z: I can control everything that's there, exactly - having that control has been awesome. Art just works better for that. I mean, when you drink it's to ignore the worry, where as when you're working on something - the worry is just not there. It used to be that was too hungover to feel like making stuff, and I'd be drunk and just the anxiety of never being able to make something better than the last thing I made. It was just a cycle. I'm a lot better now. I mean, I still drink, but it's not like it was. I feel better about it. 

A: Well hey! Thanks for sitting down with me and talking about this stuff! I'm glad to see that you're back in town and doing well!
Z: Yeah! I'm glad to be back! It was good seeing you.

You can check out more of Zach's work by following him on instagram @zachrathbun and on flickr. You can also email him at floydeye@gmail.com


  1. Great interview :) Keep it up !

    1. Thanks!! Going to try to make this a weekly or biweekly thing! <3


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