Cartoonist and painter Joanne Raptis talks inspiration, NYC, and criticism
Barnard first-year Joanne Raptis, BC ’16, paints landscapes, cartoons, and reimagined characters such as Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” among other things. She draws on the Columbia and online art community for criticism and as a result has a constantly evolving style. Spec sat down with her as part of our student artist series.
Shakirat Ibitola Oniyangi: How did you get involved in art?
Joanne Raptis: When I was in the 6th grade, my favorite cartoon character was Sonic the Hedgehog, and my cousins and I came up with the idea of drawing comics about him, so it all started with cartooning little comic strips and making our own little characters… so I started expanding into different kinds of cartoon characters and slowly expanded into different kinds of art and painting and more realistic drawings.
For a long time, my dream was to work at Disney Animation Studios, but I decided to go to Barnard instead of an art school because there are other parts of myself I want to develop as well before committing to anything.
SIO: How has Barnard influenced your style?
JR: Before coming to Barnard, I had already branched out to different kinds of painting styles and materials, but now at Barnard I’ve been taking painting classes that work primarily in oil paint and it’s a great chance for me to work with the media because I am too afraid to do it in my dorm room or room [at home] because it gets very messy. So the opportunity to do it in a studio has been wonderful.
SIO: How does art influence the way you view life and your surroundings?
JR: I took a painting class on plein-air painting, so I was outside painting trees and what I saw in the city. And now I’m taking a figure painting class, so I’m focusing on realistic human figures. And that is quite different than cartoon pictures but all the more interesting as well, because it’s more dynamic and you can really explore that way.
So I have focused a lot, coming to Barnard, on observation and drawing and painting from life. I’ve become more observant and have become very visually oriented. I try to keep myself in an artistic frame of mind.
SIO: How has the move to New York affected your art style?
JR: I try to look at things in different perspectives and find beauty in my surroundings, which is sometimes hard because you’re in the city and everything will be gray on some days. But by trying to find the aesthetic in it, I guess, it has helped me cope with living in an urban setting since I am used to more rural and green spaces. I lived in a suburb but I’d go away a lot into the country and the Northeast woods, and that’s where I’d find a lot of inspiration because it’s so peaceful and calm. Coming here has expanded what I find aesthetically beautiful.
SIO: How do you reconcile authenticity with the fact that what appeals to you might not appeal to everyone?
JR: Well, art is a very intrinsic thing, and if you do art it’s usually not to please other people, especially if you’re doing it as a way to make a living. You kind of have to balance that. But for now I’m just doing it because it makes me happy, and I try to see what I find beautiful and hopefully others agree. And I understand that not everyone will, but maybe it encourages others to see other things as beautiful that they had never done before.
Joanne’s art is on rue789.deviantart.com, where she accepts commissions. She was featured in Barnard’s Student Government Association’s fall exhibition, and she plans to illustrate a children’s book sometime this year.
All photos provided by Joanne Raptis.
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