From Iceland — Comfort & Contrast: Rakel Tomas Finds Peace In Black And White

Comfort & Contrast: Rakel Tomas Finds Peace In Black And White

Published November 30, 2020

Comfort & Contrast: Rakel Tomas Finds Peace In Black And White

Rakel Tomas’ new studio on Grettisgata feels like an extension of her graphic designs, with black framed pictures arranged on stark white walls. “I just really feel comfortable with black and white,” she explains. “I like the contrasts. I find bright, extreme colours kind of irritating. I hate the colour yellow—I don’t know why.”

Rakel plans on using colour as her next step, but she hasn’t got round to it yet. “It’s like a whole other dimension and I’m just not that good at it yet. I need to practise more before I can do an exhibition in colour or something. I do practice with it a little bit in between times though, so it will happen eventually.”

Rakel Tomas

Rakel Tomas. Photo by Art Bicnick.

Expression through body language

Though she claims not to have mastered colour, black and white is clearly a dimension that she has dominated—from the abstract paintings that combine eyes, noses and lips, to her more clearly discernible charcoal sketches of faces and figures.

“It’s kind of a way for me to express emotions,” she says, gesturing at a print of one of her sketches. “I’ve always been very bad with words when it comes to describing how I feel; I’m much more comfortable with body language. I find the body very interesting: it’s fascinating how people communicate with their bodies. I look at photographs and I try to find pictures that reflect the body language of how I’m feeling in that moment, and I mix them together in Photoshop. So I have a very complete sketch in Photoshop before I start drawing.”

Her paintings, however, are more free-flowing. “With those, I start with one eye or something, and then just go where it takes me. I don’t have a plan before I begin, which is kind of refreshing compared to the pencil process.”

Rakel Tomas: making art accessible

Rakel’s work is not limited to sketches and paintings: she also creates and sells books and diaries—her 2021 calendar arrived fresh from the publisher this week—and has even printed one of her designs onto a scarf. “I think it’s a nice way for people who are not yet buying art to get involved in this world around what I’m doing,” she explains. “Especially young people; they might not yet have an apartment to buy art for, so it’s more accessible.”

“I’ve always been very bad with words when it comes to describing how I feel; I’m much more comfortable with body language.”

One of Rakel’s projects, an art book coming out on December 7th, contains all of her pencil drawings from the past three years alongside the stories behind them. “This one has a nice story,” she explains, gesturing to a sketch of a figure being embraced. “First, it was about just wanting to be really close to someone, being really close to them physically but still wanting to get closer. This figure that’s really light—I was going to fill in the shadows on that face, but then the person the piece was about ghosted me, and I didn’t feel like she deserved to be finished. But at the same time it is finished and it’s exactly how it’s supposed to be.”

Her personal favourites are the ‘Water’ drawings she created following time spent in Bali last year. “That collection is kind of my favourite I guess, because the time I spent there I was surfing and diving and in the water a lot which is a comforting thing for me,” she says.

Though some artists might aim to challenge comfort zones, it seems that Rakel’s art actually thrives within them. This idea of comfort is one she keeps coming back to, simplifying the world into black and white and body language. There’s a certain calm in Rakel’s comfort zone—it’s a place that makes sense.

Rakel Tomas

Rakel Tomas. Photo by Art Bicnick.

Check out Rakel Tomas on her website

Note: Due to the effect the Coronavirus is having on tourism in Iceland, it’s become increasingly difficult for the Grapevine to survive. If you enjoy our content and want to help the Grapevine’s journalists do things like eat and pay rent, please consider joining our High Five Club.

You can also check out our shop, loaded with books, apparel and other cool merch, that you can buy and have delivered right to your door.

Support The Reykjavík Grapevine!
Buy subscriptions, t-shirts and more from our shop right here!

Show Me More!