Podcast: Rachal Duggan's universe of doodles

The illustrator and frequent Tone Madison contributor is an artist-in-residence at the Madison Public Library through February.

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If you've looked at Tone Madison any time in the past year, you've probably seen the artwork of Rachal Duggan. Her illustrations are almost always black-and-white line drawings. They’ve appeared in publications including the Chicago Reader, Our Lives Magazine, The Pitchfork Review, and Isthmus. She can often be seen at live events, doing custom live portraits of people's butts and selling such inspired items as her Jon Hamm dong tote.

What I love about Duggan's work is that she can use that really simple approach to encapsulate so much. Sometimes it's playful. Sometimes it's defiant. And sometimes it just is because it is. One of my favorite Duggan works is called "jazzy shrimps," and it just shows a couple of little shrimps in hats, playing bongos and a saxophone. It reflects a style she's developed over the years, bucking her own doubts and a lot of advice.

"I've had a lot of people tell me that I shouldn't do what I do," Duggan says. "Saying, 'You're never gonna get work doing black and white, that you should put color in everything, that you shouldn't draw things that might be offensive to people, have a point of view or a political perspective.'"

Duggan's approach to live drawing, at events including craft fairs and pop-ups, reflects the same mischievous spirit. One of her live-drawing offerings is the "butt portrait"—literally just drawing a quick sketch of an individual or couple's butts. Some people recoil from the intimacy of this, but it's surprisingly popular.

"As soon as I did it, it was kind of a freeing experience, because whatever I drew, I was going to hand to the people and say 'Thank you very much,' and they would walk away," Duggan says. "It's a lot easier to draw butts than to draw faces. Have I seen different kind of butts that I'm like, how do I draw this? Yes!"

Duggan moved to Madison from Chicago a little over a year ago and she's already created a strong presence here. During January and February, she's an artist-in-residence at the Madison Public Library's Bubbler space, located on the first floor of the downtown central library. She's already populated the space with drawings of her own, many of them on the windows of the library, but she's also experimenting with ways to encourage community members to do some doodling of their own, with a series of workshops and open drawing sessions.

I met with Duggan at the Bubbler space to talk about her art and what it's like to go from working at home to running a really interactive residency.

Give the conversation a listen here, or subscribe to the Tone Madison podcast on Apple Podcasts. If you like what you're hearing, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts and consider supporting us financially with a one-time or recurring donation.