Going Digital

02 Jul 2023

The Creative Mind of CONCEPT RXCH

By Liesel Schmidt

Looking over the shoulder of a teenage Richard Drayton, you would have seen what you might expect to see coming to life on the sketchpad of a creative adolescent: cars, cartoon characters, anime robots and various other images. The images that he drew in his younger years never led to a formal education in fine arts, they did lead to something else—a unique perspective in creating digital art.

Over the past 15 years, Drayton has been alternating between professional artist and hobbyist, all while keeping his hand on the stability of a part-time job of some sort. It was after taking a graphic design course at Trident Tech that he was introduced to the capabilities and versatilities of Adobe software—and things changed from there.

“We were tasked with using Illustrator to create cartoon illustrations of a celebrity of our choosing, and I enjoyed the process so much that I continued to use it in my free time,” he says.

His sustained use of digital platforms led to a freedom that traditional mediums would not allow, incorporating visual imagery as well as audio components into his pieces to create multimedia works.

“I love the process of starting with a blank document and taking it from there,” he says. “On the flipside, as a collage artist of images, as well as sound, I find inspiration in the various media I come across every day. I'm a big believer in manipulation and recycling when it comes to using specific references as source material.”

The evolution of his art also eventually led to a pseudonym that, much like his pieces, is abstract in its meaning.

Beginning in 2011, Drayton began working under the name CONCEPT RXCH, an alias that he feels reflects both his work and his character.

“When people say ‘CONCEPT RXCH,’ the takeaway is that the concepts I work with are ‘rich,’ but I also consider myself a person who is rich with concepts.”

What he creates is, indeed, conceptual. One cannot help but look at one of his pieces and wonder at the commentary he is making. And that, perhaps, is the effect he wishes to have.

“I’m offering no specific message other than to say that we are all walking libraries of media and memories and sensory experiences,” he says. “I think the world supplies us with source material every day that we can combine, break apart and turn into new things. Expression is key. I try not to get so caught up on meaning. Just make the thing.”

While he may prefer a digital canvas over one stretched across a frame, CONCEPT RXCH feels that art is art, regardless of how it comes about. “It all comes from the same place, expressing oneself with the materials and medium of choice,” he says. “A computer, a Wacom tablet, a pen, a paintbrush, whatever you choose. The creation is the most important part.”

That said, there are distinct advantages to his chosen medium. “I think digital art is way more convenient,” says the artist, who offers his work on canvas and as high-quality prints, in addition to other forms of merchandise. “I think you interact with mistakes differently than you would if you were working on a canvas or in a sketchbook. In some regards, I also think it’s less
expensive. However, for the last year or so, I’ve been drawing in sketchbooks again, and it’s been nice to embrace the slow pace in making every single line with my hand. Also, it’s better on my eyes long term. Less screen time.”

Paper, tablet…Regardless of what he’s using, CONCEPT RXCH feels that his greatest challenge stems from his constant need to challenge himself.

“I don’t want to allow myself to get complacent,” he says. “Also, not being too hard on myself is something I do my best to keep in check. Comparison isn’t always productive.”

Naturally, CONCEPT RXCH (@concept_rxch) uses social media to his advantage, marketing his work but also employing it as a “public creative diary.”

“I use my Instagram stories to post random thoughts and mindsets behind creation, as well as songs or images I find interesting,” he said. “By contrast, I just use my Instagram posts for the work itself. Social media allows me to see and connect with other artists more than ever. That’s the cool thing about it.”

Earlier this year, the artist was a featured speaker at the Gibbes Museum of Art, a particular honor that he was excited to receive.

“It was really fun!” he says. “I got the chance to speak on a panel alongside talented artists Carla Gannis and Damian Stamer about digital art versus traditional art, NFTs, the pros and cons of AI—basically things related to exploring artforms that push boundaries in interesting ways. I got to talk about the various processes and mindsets attached to my artistic practices. I found it to be an enlightening and enjoyable experience because it was nice for me to be able to put a face to the name and to the work for people. As a Black artist from Charleston, it was amazing to bring forth a perspective I don't think people get a chance to hear from so much. At the end of the day, as humans, we all just want connection. It's even better when it happens to be centered around something that's both complex and simple, like art.”

Complex and simple. It sums up CONCEPT RXCH’s art in two words, cutting to the quick of what he does.

Much like the collages he creates, there is much to see, much to absorb, in life and in art. That is his message.

CONCEPT RXCH’s work can be purchased directly by emailing conceptrxch@gmail.com. Follow him on Instagram @concept_rxch

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