Artist: Rachel Austin
Business: Rachel Austin
Web site: www.rachelannaustin.com
Location: Portland, Oregon
What do you create?
Lots of cute little paintings! My series include: Aerial Farm watercolors, mixed media map paintings, and larger oil series of abstracted hanging lanterns.
Where and when do you do your creative work?
I work out of my apartment in SE Portland. My husband and I live in a beautiful vintage apartment built in 1911 -- I have a studio in the finished attic and an office on the main level. It's on a semi-busy street corner so when I need a break from painting, I can often be found sitting on the porch people watching. I work in the afternoons and some evenings.
Do you have another "day job" or did you leave one to pursue your art?
I work as an administrative assistant for an industrial company. They have paintings of duck hunting on the wall. It's pretty funny, but I like working there. It gets me up and out of the house in the morning and gets my thoughts off of painting for a couple hours. I get off at noon so I have the afternoons and evening to work on my art. It also satisfies my weird love for office work.
Where and what did you study?
I got a BA in Management and Finance at George Fox University in Newberg, Oregon. I also loved art, but didn't realize that was the road I would choose when I was in school.
What inspires you and what motivates you?
Lately I've been trying to capture loneliness in nature -- trees standing independently in a landscape -- in my paintings. I also want people to be happy owning and looking at one of my pieces. Themes of innocence and simplicity often show up.
When did you start doing this?
About three years ago. I was building and selling tables, then was encouraged to try painting. I haven't stopped since.
Do you remember getting into art as a kid?
I've always made things -- when I was 6, I sewed display samples for a little quilt shop my mother worked at. I think to show customers if a six-year-old could do it, then anyone could! I come from a very creative family, I still talk out ideas with them. My dad now builds all my frames for the Map paintings. He came up with the idea of recycling wood pallets and sanding them down to make beautiful little frames. He gave me the first frame for a birthday a year ago -- I loved it so much that I've been putting in orders ever since.
When and why did you decide to start your own business?
I started selling a couple paintings when I worked at an art supply store. That's pretty much where I recieved my education on painting -- I learned so much about supplies. After three years working there I thought I'd better give painting my best shot. I quit and started showing anywhere that would show my paintings. It was a crazy year -- I was hanging two or three shows a month at coffee shops/bars/boutique stores. But it really helped get my name out there.
This last year I decided to slow it down a bit and show one show a month, but it has been a crazy year too. I found I was pregnant at the beginning of the year. It was a surprise and I got a little depressed about it even though my husband and I were happy. Three months into the pregnancy I had a miscarriage and lost the baby. It was devastating to me. I'm still having a rough time and miss that little child. I'm very thankful for having painting as an outlet. I hope the love, hope, isolation, I feel shows up a bit and connects to viewers in my paintings.
What do you love most about creating your work?
I love the feeling of painting the piece and the feeling right after it's done (as long as I like it). It sometimes feels spiritual, like God is painting through me. I also love paint and color. I try, at times, to tone things down, but all my favorite paints seem to still make their way into my work.
What's the most fascinating place you've been?
Cuba! I was very fortunate in college to be able to go to Cuba and do service work. I long to return and visit the friends I made, but for now letters have to do. Very beautiful and secluded.
A book you love:
Right now I'm reading Bleak House by Dickens. I'm a big Dickens and Steinbeck (I love 'East of Eden') fan. I like the classics.
What is the most interesting thing about you?
I faint all the time! Well, only in medical situations. I really, really hate needles.
What achievement are you most proud of?
Making the decision to become a painter and working hard enough to make it happen. I was pretty giddy the months leading up to my first painting show... even though it was in a coffee shop. I hand made show cards and my friends and family all came. It felt quite exciting.
What advice would you give women starting their own business?
"Find what you love, love what you find." Know what you are good at and love, then work really, really hard to make it happen. Ask friends and family what your gifts are -- sometimes that helps. Find a few people that are going to really encourage and support you and stick with them.
What's the biggest challenge you face in your work?
Not burning out - I get pretty stressed out trying to keep up and stay ahead of work. I don't want to get so busy I'm not enjoying it because I love to paint.
What do you love to do in your free time?
Read, hike, hang out with friends, drink lots of coffee, cook.
What are you working on right now?
Map paintings -- I have a little ad showing the map painting in Ready Made magazine, coming out in the next issue. I want to have enough paintings in my stock. Hopefully I'll get a response from the ad, but if not, I won't have to work on that series and can work on some other paintings.
What do you hope to achieve next?
I wrote a children's book called Plugs and Planes and have just submitted it to a couple of publishers. I'm hoping to have it published, but we'll see. It was a fun project.