The year I knew I wanted to be an artist.

My Story.

I grew up in a family of artists. Both of my maternal grandparents were professional artists, and several of my aunts/cousins/great uncles also painted or played with art of some kind on a serious level.

I thought I knew I wanted to be an artist when I was in 4th grade, even wrote it in a “what I want to be when I grow up” project.

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In high school, I spent every spare minute between my art & choir classes and knew that I would major in art when I went to college. 

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My grandpa who was my greatest influence is shown here. I spent many hours listening to his stories of his art therapy patients. They were fascinating. He had exceptional abilities with color and storytelling. We were very close.

In April of 2014, my grandfather passed away. At his funeral, easels displaying his work lined the room. My brother and I promised each other that we would honor him by painting again. I wasn’t ready…yet.

At the time I was a new stay at home mom- trying to figure out my identity. Honestly, I was going thru a deep depression. I didn’t know if I was making an impact. I didn’t know what was up and what was down.

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In the fall, my husband suggested that I pick up my paints again. It had been almost 15 years. So, during my son’s nap times I started working on tiny 6×6 inch oil paintings. 

Around that same time, we walked into a coffee shop in Berlin, MD. and I saw a big sign on the wall that said “Featured Artist”. I asked the woman behind the counter what I would need to do to be featured on that wall. She told me to send her an email with some photos of my work for consideration. At the time, I had only 2 6×6 inch paintings completed. I sent her the email anyways. She responded that she would love to have me as the featured artist….2 months later. 

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The next two months were a whirlwind. I painted 27 pieces to display. After the show, I had 20 pieces left to sell. So, I set up an Etsy shop called “The Nap Time Artist.”

Within 6 months of being on Etsy, I became pregnant with our daughter. Not wanting any chemical smells in our home, I switched over to watercolors after my husband had found some at a yard sale for $3 a few months earlier.

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It was quite a learning curve to learn a new medium but, by this point, I was addicted to painting- and I was faithfully painting at least an hour or 2 every single day- even painting from the driver’s seat of our parked minivan while the kids slept in their car seats in the back.

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Not long after the switch to watercolor, I received a custom painting request from a woman in Michigan. She wanted to know if I could paint saltwater taffy because she was looking for a gift for her husband, and the candies were connected to their dating years.

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I painted her piece and thought that it would be fun to try to paint something local. So, I emailed the most famous saltwater taffy company I could think of and asked them for permission to paint their brand. They agreed, as long as I would make prints of the pieces for their corporate offices.

When I delivered the prints the owner said to me: “what do you think about having your art prints, notecards, and postcards in our retail locations.” I was thrilled but tried not to show it. “That would be great,” I responded. Panicking silently that I would need to figure out how to make prints, notecards, and postcards of my work having never done anything like that before. She suggested that all of the items be branded for a website so that her customers to be able to find my other work.

So, I set up my very first website and googled like crazy to figure out the rest. I also started thinking about how to more appropriately package my art for other shops to display. This began my journey into wholesale, which has led me to be able to have my art in all 50 states and sold by more than 170 shops around the US.

It took someone else, a lot of people, in fact, to believe in me for me to take art seriously. They took a chance on me- so I should be willing to take a chance on myself.

My art business was “official” in 2014 but it wasn’t until last year that I REALLY decided that I wanted to be an artist> no matter what. Since then, I have unapologetically started to show up in my world. Now, I can answer “artist” when someone asks me what I do for a living, and not feel ashamed about it. Now, I can share my art with the world without the constant fear of failure.

You know what changed? The consistent vulnerability of showing up and then hearing from people outside of myself that they were happy that I did.

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Would you like to follow along in this journey and see work in progress pics and hear some funny stories about motherhood? Head over to my Instagram handle and say hello!

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When did you finally decide what to be when you grew up?

A (summer) day in the life of…

My Story.

During the summer, more than ever, our family gets in our minivan for last-minute impromptu road trips. It’s not unusual at all for us to get lost on back country roads and end up 2 states away without even planning on it– to be fair, two states isn’t all that far since we are on the eastern shore of Maryland and everything is within easy access. Still, it’s always fun to see what kind of new adventures we can get ourselves into.

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We’ve stumbled upon bald eagle nesting grounds. Collected antique pottery shards that have washed up onto beaches. Eaten ice cream on the bay at unknown hole-in-the-wall-perfection.

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I think one of my favorite things about living here is the fact that we can go in almost any direction and hit water. Something about the fact that all of it meets at some point, in a variety of ways, makes me smile. I may not know where I am going, but the water sure does. Water is a very common theme in my paintings- it’s particularly challenging to paint because of it’s ever-changing color and shape, and I love a good challenge.

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There are roads near our home that make you feel like you are literally about to drive off of the face of the planet. No other people- no other homes- no other cars: just the birds and the bugs. I love it.

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My good friend Tim once pointed out that the further you drive into the country, the less fingers a person uses to wave “hello”. I like those pointer-finger-only kinds of hellos. You know, the kind that only the locals give to each other.

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My camera is a close friend during those trips.

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I read a quote the other day that really hit me:

“The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.”   Dorthea Lange

When I was in college, I was initially a photography major. There were many times when I used my camera and a whole new world opened up to me. I noticed things in detail that I never would’ve even paid any attention to without that shutter click. Colors were more vibrant. Pattern more visible. Texture more tangible.

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My encouragement for you is to grab your camera. Don’t go somewhere to take pictures. Go somewhere to discover beauty. Enjoy the unexpected. Get lost, and in the process, find out a little bit more about yourself.

Want to see more of what inspires me as an artist? See more photos, read stories and see works in progress on my Instagram: www.instagram.com/rachelalvarezart . Tag me with YOUR new adventure. I’d love to hear about it!