Friday, August 16, 2013

A Day In The Studio Life of... Rachael Bower

I'm excited to share with you Rachael nee Madeline now Bower's studio day.  We have been great friends for so many years and she is always sending me messages of encouragement that seem to find me on my lowest days.  Rachael's work inspires me and I know it will inspire you, too.  You can keep up with her on her blog Found (Here) Studio and Press and buy her goodies in her online shop here.

Take it away, Rachael!

Good morning!  It is 7:30 and we are rolling out of bed on a sunny Sunday in Texas.  Usually I'll begin my days by having a cup of coffee with my husband before he leaves for work at 7, but this is the weekend!  Sundays have always been a favorite of mine in general-pancakes, pasta, and the whole day off.  Who could ask for more?  8 am and I am in the kitchen to put on a pot of coffee.  While it brews, I do a little house-hunting on Zillow while Steven works on small wooden house sculptures for a photo project he is planning. Once I have a cup of coffee in my hand, I go to my studio (our second bedroom) to art around.  It is the biggest art space I've been in so far, with a window to the right of my desk that lets in lots of natural light during the day.  On my work desk is a stack of Andy Warhol special edition soup cans for inspiration and a small framed note my husband (then boyfriend) wrote to encourage me in my studio back in 2009.  In this room, I've managed to fit my press along with 5 sets of wood type, a 36" x 24" light table, 6 foot work table, a huge bookshelf and a whole mess of plastic drawers to corral the odds and ends.  I am definitely an art supply hoarder-I have just about every type of paper you can imagine along with a huge assortment of drawing, painting, printing and collage materials. My studio is the hobby lobby of the West side.  

So I start out with a fun project this morning; the painting studio where I work is running a contest this month to encourage artists to create new paintings for the franchise library.  I decided to make a Dia de los Muertos theme for my entry; the idea is to create something that a lot of people will want to paint, and it has to be taught in a two or three hour class.  I've been busy with lots of classes this month, so even though I haven't been in my own studio too much lately, I still get to paint and be creative*. 

*It's not hard to find time to be in my studio, but it is difficult to resist distractions and other obligations...domestic stuff, job hunting and interviewing (hooray!), petting the cat, working on my syllabus, running errands, managing my blog, website and etsy shop...some days slip away too quick!  I have to make lists, which helps me achieve daily goals- I don't need to be reminded to make art, but crossing off 'make something' feels good.  Steven thinks it's hilarious that I label them as 'Rachael's to do list.'  Every.  Day.  But it is what it is, and that's how I do it.  Plus, one day I won't be around to say, 'hey, that's mine' and perhaps someone will make a book of them and it will get studied in a sociology class or something.

It's now about 10:30, I've finished my contest painting for work and there are pancakes in the kitchen to be had.  After breakfast, I begin my own artwork, having been inspired by my morning perusal of the housing market.  There were no places I could see us living--it's like going to the mall with a paycheck, ready to spend money, and not finding anything that fits.  Disappointing.  So!  The painting that I start brainstorming for is about searching for a place to belong.  I get out my sketchbook to draw birdhouses and guppies swimming around in the sky.  I then do some research on fish online: Guppies will shoal and school, which means they stay together for social reasons, attracted to others that look similar and they'll swim in groups, following the same direction. In my painting, the school of fish floating above the bird house represents a community, and the birds below are still in search of that place to belong.  It feels very dreamy. 

During a job interview last week I was asked if I thought my work was frivolous. I said no, because frivolous would mean that it's not necessary or doesn't matter-I spent a long time making work that was very sad.  After awhile, that became incredibly draining and I wanted to look at my work and feel joy.  Glitter and neon paint might not be the most 'high art' medium, but I'd rather be happy and have fun in the studio than the other way around.  My current artwork is lighthearted and playful-that doesn't mean it's not good or meaningful.  PS I got the job!  I begin teaching an art history course and painting studio this Fall for Northwest Vista College.  It's about this time that my cat comes around to see why I'm not paying attention to her.  She hops up on my lap and relaxes for awhile, purring, as I sketch.   

It's about lunchtime now and I take a quick shower to go with my husband to the grocery.  We pick up supplies for the week along with some sushi for lunch.  After that, it's back to the studio, where I begin transferring my sketchbook images to tracing paper.  I spend a good while on the composition, figuring out placement and balancing the scene.  Once I start to paint, it is a disaster (I was mixing a heavy body paint with some craft paint and it was not working) so I rinse the board I was painting, sand it down and start over.  I had a big, hot mess on my hands that I wasn't sure what to do with, so I just stared at it for a while, frustrated.  To keep myself from destroying my artwork, I go on for some light reading.  Usually around 3 I get a little stir crazy, so I open up Netflix to check out an episode of New Girl.* Finally I get back to my painting and figure out what to do with the image and start again.  I choose contrasting complements...notice the use of Clemson colors in my fish?  T-I-G-E-R-S.  It is a sweet, longing scene and as the day progresses the colors get more vibrant.  Steven came in at one point to check out my progress and told me "Your painting looks like Lisa Frank's binder."  Ultimate compliment.  A glass of wine right about 5 helps the creative process along.   

*I often play the TV in the background while I work; a sitcom ( I love Reba, Golden Girls & Friends) or a sappy romantic comedy that I've seen a hundred times (Sleepless in Seattle, Return to Me).  If I'm not in the mood for that, I'll listen to music (the Smiths, Magnetic Fields & The Beach Boys are studio favorites).  On Spotify, it's almost always a private session because some of my musical tastes are embarrassing and I'll listen to the same terrible song ten times in a row.  Sometimes more. 

 Since it is Pasta Sunday and all, Steven and I decide to make linguine.  We haven't used our pasta maker since before the wedding (has it really been four months?) but the dough comes out perfect.  We have a killer recipe for homemade pasta to which we always add crushed black pepper (our not so secret ingredient).  I spend from 7-9 in the kitchen with Steven, cooking, talking, and enjoying some wine together. 

 Usually, my studio days will end right before dinner, but tonight I was really excited to keep working.  The painting was finally starting to come together the way I envisioned it earlier this morning.  It's about halfway done at this point when I stop to go to bed at 11:30.  A day well spent.  

Rachael documented her studio day a couple of weeks ago so she was able to send us an image of where she is now with the painting. I can't wait to see a finished piece!

Thank you so much, Rachael, for showing us how you spend your days!  Remember, if you want to show a day in your studio get in touch with me! 

Have a great weekend!!


Unknown said...

Love it! Enjoying reading about your day, Rachel! And congrats on the job! Your highlighter colors are amazing...

Rachael Bower said...

Ann, this is so wonderful-I had fun documenting the day for your blog! Thank you for asking me to be a part of this & for being such a great inspiration! xoxo

Dear Hannah-they are Americana neons, I use as glazes over the acrylic. Best 89 cents you'll spend. And congrats on your new venture as well!

Jennifer Snellings said...

Hi Ann! I have so enjoyed reading your "A Day in the Studio Life of" series and look forward to reading more! What a wonderful idea! :) I'm a co-worker of Rachael's and loved the piece you did on her!

Sweet Rachael, I so loved reading about your day in your studio and felt like I was right there, walking along side you! :) You did a beautiful job documenting your life, your art and your loves! I especially loved reading about your relationships, seeing your studio, your sweet kitty and of course your amazing art! Love ya, Girl!! :)