Artist Interview - Rachel Christopoulos
Who are you and what do you do?
Hey! I’m Rachel and I’m a portrait artist living and painting from Madison, Wisconsin. I believe in keeping things short and sweet, that fun is necessary for a long and happy life, and that art doesn’t have to match the sofa. While painting is the core focus of my art business, I also do coaching and run a creative community called The Creative Bones on the side!
Why do you do what you do?
The answer to this question used to be because I wanted to prove to myself that I could. But now, it’s because I love it. It’s because I know creating is part of who I was made to be and painting and thriving in my creative community is exactly what I’m supposed to be doing right now. Having the ability to capture the human spirit with paint and share a personal look into how I see the world is an incredible blessing and I know I feel grateful every day I get to do it.
What inspires your art?
Like I mentioned above, the human spirit and individuality are some of my biggest inspirations when it comes to painting. Being able to lean more into the abstract side of who we, as humans are and try to capture that through color and brushwork, is the most addicting challenge. I’m just inspired by life and the way we all live it!
How and when did you get into art?
I have that cliché answer of, ‘I’ve always been doing creative things,’ but I feel like I didn’t really get into art until I sat down and committed to a habit of showing up and creating every day back in 2017. I was just married and terrified to share with my husband that I was actually doing something with my paints in the spare bedroom. But eventually, I conquered that fear and shared with him the work I’d been sharing with others. Thanks to social media, I had spent some years scrolling through thriving creatives and finally felt confident in the fact that yes, it was possible to make art and a living and I wasn’t the exception to that.
How has your practice changed over time?
When you get started, most likely your circumstances aren’t ideal. I had a spare bedroom, but I was working with craft paints and things picked up from the thrift store. I was learning how to make good art and that meant making a lot of bad art. While I was growing my roots as an artist, I’m so thankful my current job allowed me to switch my hours so I could come in really early and leave early afternoon. I began getting up really early so I would have the afternoons and evenings to create. I just sat and painted and tried to figure out my style, my inspirations, and my motivations every single day.
Now a handful of years later, I’ve added a kid into the mix and I’m currently working full time on my art. It’s a delicate balance between client work, personal work, and life’s responsibilities! There’s a lot more patience involved, more planning and less spontaneous creation, and more art created for others. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.
What’s your favorite piece of art that you’ve created? Why?
A self-portrait from 2020 titled, “I Have Ideas Too.” This piece was a reminder to myself that I have something to offer, even if I don’t always know what it is.
What’s the best piece of art advice you’ve been given?
Do what you can, where you are, with what you have. I’m not sure who told me that one, but it’s always stuck with me. I think it’s an important reminder to let yourself go at your own pace and that your creativity doesn’t have an expiration date. You won’t miss your chance to be an artist, just do what you can and start where you are, with what you have.
What’s one art tip/technique you can share with us that you find really helpful? (can be any tip or technique, big or small)
You’re not painting an object, you’re painting color. Learning to identify and paint color is what has helped me continuously grow my skill as an artist. I’m not painting a shape, but placing color where I see it and when you get out of your own head and learn to really see all the variations in tint and tone and shade, that’s when your work moves to the next level.
Do you have any secret tips or techniques you use to salvage a piece when you make a mistake?
To not get too attached to what I wanted it to be. Painting is like dancing. I might not know much about dancing, but I do know that the best type of dancing is when the partners stop fighting against who gets to lead and they begin to flow with the music and see where they’re being prompted. Painting is half vision and planning and half intuition. If you think you’ve made a mistake on your painting, instead of trying to go back, work forward. See where it can take you and it might surprise you.
What is your favorite Strathmore paper? Why?
500 Series Ready Cut hot press watercolor paper… hands down. This used to be my favorite paper, back when watercolor was my main medium, but I’ve found it’s really quite amazing at holding acrylic painting. I use it almost exclusively for my color studies now!
What art materials could you not live without?
Paint and something to paint on! I consider myself pretty traditional when it comes to supplies, seeing as how I mostly just use paint, brushes, and canvas.
What types of colors are you drawn to for your art and why?
Vibrant and fun primaries! I love to use a lot of pink, yellows, greens, and teal blues to capture my subjects and play with traditional coloring. I just think cheerful colors make everything more fun and less serious.
Who are your biggest influences (or who were when you started doing art)?
Ashley Longshore, Sarah Stieber, and Henri Matisse are my all-time favorite artists. They all have a way with color, interpreting subjects, and creating pieces that push the boundaries.
What’s the most common art-related question you get from your followers?
How do I find my style or start selling my work!
My answer to both is to make a lot of art and share it. Getting in the habit of creating daily and asking for feedback is what makes us better artists and gets the ball rolling on our dreams.
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