Thursday, August 6, 2015

DPW Spotlight Interview: Rachel Thompson

Each week we will spotlight a different DPW artist who will give away one of their best paintings.

To enter to win Rachel's painting, "Blue" go to Daily Paintworks and click on the link at the top of the page announcing their interview.

From Rachel's DPW Gallery Page: 

Creating art is as much an adventure as it is healing. Primarily self-taught, I take each opportunity to paint as a way to appreciate life and not to take myself too seriously. I have had the fortune to transition from painting for fun to painting full time in 2013.

My favorite things: dancing, long talks over coffee, hiking, cooking, laughing and spending time with my loved ones. (click to view bio)

Tell us a bit about how you first started painting. Did you have any stops and starts in your painting career?

Being recognized for my artistic abilities throughout grade school was a pretty common occurrence. However, I knew no artists, personally, and in my particular school community in the deep South, artistic talent was almost seen as a weird growth or mutation - sure, it's fascinating for others to look at, but after that most don't really know what to do with it. So, I let the compliments roll off my shoulders and focused on what I thought really mattered: the three R's, athletics, and trying to convince my brothers to let me join in on their adventures.

However, after school hours, I was able to experiment and play with art supplies to great lengths. I was, more or less, my mother's shadow. She was in charge of the children's ministry at my parent's church. I loved to be with her more than I loved playing on my own, so I stuck close and watched. When I was old enough to help, I did. My mother's trust in my artist abilities at those early ages still astounds me. I remember painting and designing 4'x5' signs. Painting life size lions and designing coloring pages for use in her ministry. This was my first glimpse of how art could be used to benefit others, and it was intoxicating to feel like I could contribute in a significant way.

Blue
(click to view)


Enter to win by clicking on the link at the top of the DPW home page announcing Rachel's interview.

I considered going to an art school after high school, but once again, I persuaded myself that it wasn't a viable option. I was rather good at school, so I didn't abhor the idea of having a more pragmatic career, especially when I congratulated myself on being so "responsible" with my future.

I do not regret my path, or the liberal arts education in English (major), Teaching and Psychology (minors) that I received. The life lessons were invaluable. Besides taking one art class, I didn't touch art for those 4-5 years. Sure, I would gaze fondly at the decorated walls as I walked to class. But, for the majority, I was too busy exercising my other academic and extracurricular muscles. My husband had no idea I had any artistic ability until we were in our second year of marriage. It was a fun surprise.

He was on a challenging military career path, which left me time and resources to work an internship at a local counseling center while applying to grad schools with hopes to become a Marriage and Family Therapist. Finding free time on my hands, I decided to pick up a paint brush and try my hand at recreating some of our wedding photos in oil. I was shocked and pleased at how my eye and skill had developed despite the long absence of creating. Imagine my husbands shock. He didn't even know I could sketch a stick figure. Online, I came across the daily painting movement and decided to try my hand at it for a while to practice my drawing skills, using acrylics for their quick drying capabilities.

Peacock
(click to view)

I shared my daily creations on Facebook and they started selling. After taking a hard look at my life and what I really wanted for myself, my family, and my future, I decided to put grad school on the back burner and keep pursuing the journey art was taking me on. This was in 2012. Since this decision, there have definitely been stops and starts along the way for reasons such as cross country moves, deployments, illnesses, and just plain lapses in discipline. The transition from treating art as a hobby to seeing it as a profession and something I do even when I don't feel inspired, was a difficult challenge. There are always things clamoring for my attention, tempting me to focus on a different responsibility. To be fair, the pendulum has always swung back to art, but the key for me now is to keep it consistent instead of swaying with my inclinations. I have a relationship with art. It is as much a commitment now as it is a passion.

What mediums and genres have you experimented with?  Which ones have "stuck" and which ones have fallen away? 

I have experimented with most traditional mediums. I have been reserved with my experimentation with watercolor and mixed media, probably for the same reason I have an aversion to baking. Yes.  I have a bit of an irrational fear of baking. In my mind, baking resembles chemistry and one small initial error in measurement can wreck the entire "batch".  The errors are hard to undue.  So, I tend to gravitate toward mediums where I have room to make mistakes and plenty of them.  Pastels are another beast. I love how they look and would be very interesting in exploring more but the texture of chalk makes my skin crawl. I have a hard time even listening to someone use it on chalk boards or sidewalks. It's a quirk I don't know how to change.  If I'm being honest, with the exception of pastels, my hesitancy with other mediums probably stems from my ignorance of them. I did enjoy india ink and charcoal. I'm a hand smearer, so I ended up inadvertently ruining most of my charcoal work. When I'm creating art, I have very little situation awareness. I've found a friend in acrylics. It meets my needs and quirks quite nicely for the moment.  So for now, I'm sticking with them.

Gypsy
(click to view)

Which ones are you looking forward to exploring?

I would love to get back into oils. While I enjoy painting from photographs, I am very drawn to plain air. I have not transitioned to the stage of painting what is literally around me in my real life. I can foresee myself wanting to in the future, but for the present, art is a way for me to engage my imagination and appreciate things, places, and elements that I don't have the privilege to interact with on a daily basis. That is not to say that I don't appreciate what is before me, but I would rather interact with my surroundings than document them. However, there are days when I walk by a scenic view or see the most delicious pear growing on tree by the sidewalk and I wish I had my paints and easel with me.

How do you keep art "fresh?" What techniques have helped you avoid burnout and keep your work vibrant and engaging?

When my art has lost its "fresh" factor, I ask myself why. Most days, it's due to lost perspective, and I'm no longer creating for the right reasons. The administrative side of being an artist is much the same as an entrepreneur's. Possessing no natural gifting in this area, I tend to laden my shoulders with hefty amounts of pressure and unrealistic expectations to be "successful". I've had to continually define and redefine what a "successful" artist means to me. Apart from getting my head on straight again, there are three techniques I employ to get me excited and inspired. The first thing I do is make sure that I am exercising, eating right, drinking enough water, and getting enough sleep. The second thing I turn to, if I am at a loss for what to create, is to pick a person in my life, and make something as a gift for them. When I think of other people, dozens of ideas spring to mind of their tastes and perspectives on life. I love using my art to strengthen relationships and bless their life. It fuels me. The third technique I use is to finish unresolved paintings. When there are too many loose end paintings lying around, I'm quickly discouraged. Seeing a completed painting always inspires me to create the next.

Reflected Sails
(click to view)

What does procrastination look like for you?

I wish, with all my might, that I was one of those people who didn't have a problem with procrastination. I'm quite envious of them. Discipline has always been difficult. I could easily sit back and waste my day away sipping on coffee while conversing with a friend. The true culprit of my procrastination, ironically, is planning. I love to plan and organize. I love to think of big picture concepts and then work out all of the outliers. I get caught up in my head, and before you know it, the morning is gone, I'm still in my comfy clothes, and I have nothing to show but a long and detailed Pages document outlining the rest of my life. I've learned to turn off my brain, shut down my emotions, and just paint. No excuses. No thinking. No justifying. Just do it. At the end of the day, I'm always happy when I have painted.

How do you generally arrive at ideas for your paintings?

The simple answer: I paint what I think is fun. I paint what I like to look at. I paint what brings me life.

Along my artistic journey, Morguefile.com, has been one of my go-to friends. I was first introduced to the site at the beginning of my one art course in college, and I've been hooked since. I've made strides to improve my own photography skills since I believe this is the direction I'll explore later with my painting references, but for now, I am painting images that speak to me. I love the challenge each image presents and its potential. I am particularly drawn to animals since they are alien yet relatable. It is a dichotomy that I find fascinating. But I don't limit myself just yet to any particular subject matter.

Thor
(click to view)

What do you feel you are learning about right now as an artist?

What am I NOT trying to learn? I'm currently enrolled  in virtualartacademy.com and taking their online courses. Wow---I highly recommend them to anyone wanting to learn about creating art. They are in-depth, thorough, well constructed, clear, and challenging, but in a good way. I'm learning a lot of the things I missed out on by not attending an art school. It is perfect for my situation.   Specifically, Notan structure (composition of tonal masses) has been something I'm now paying more attention to in my own work. Apart from actual art concepts and techniques, I'm learning social media, marketing, but most importantly, I'm learning discipline. I'm learning to keep my priorities balanced and in the correct order with the hope that I will appreciate where I am, where I came from, and where I am going.

What makes you happy about painting?

Seeing the finished painting is a great moment. Sometimes, I can't fathom how the painting journeyed from start to finish. I only have a vague idea of what I would like the painting to look like at the beginning, and the finished piece is always different to some degree. I appreciate the difference because even though the painting stemmed from me, it also has an identity apart from me. The actual act of creating is also wonderful. The world fades away and all that exists is the paint and creation. Creating helps me grow because it challenges me and brings forth so many different aspects and insights to solve the problems on the canvas before me. I love the intuitive nature of this problem solving process. Is it exhausting? It can be, but it is fulfilling. However, I would have to say that what brings me the most joy is seeing other people appreciate my work and display it in their home. I'm vulnerable in my art. To be able to share my vulnerability in a tangible way and have it play a role in someone else's life brings me the greatest sense of satisfaction.

Tanzanian Runaway
(click to view)


Thanks, Rachel!

© 2015 Sophie Catalina Marine

No comments:

Post a Comment