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?

How to stay motivated to paint when life is so busy.

My Story.

A couple of weeks ago, I asked my Instagram followers what they would like for me to write about in upcoming blog posts. I received many questions, and I will do my best to address them in the coming weeks. One question that came up really struck my interest:

“How do you stay motivated to create when life is so busy?”

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This question is something that I have had to personally answer many times. As a full time stay at home mom, and a full-time artist, I can easily fill in all of the little chunks of “free time” that I have with other tasks: house cleaning, business needs (like taxes and social media), grocery shopping, meal planning, and prep, etc. I’m just as busy as anyone else, so I can’t say that I have a magic answer to this, but I do have some personal insight that may be helpful.

Here are 4 things that have helped me to consistently produce art.

  • made a promise to myself and I kept it.
  • made a promise to my followers to keep “showing up”, and I did.
  • wrote it down in a schedule, and seriously limited my time.
  • pretended that I had a boss that would be checking my work each week.

When I first started painting again, four years ago, I made a promise to myself that I would pick up my paints every single day. Most days, that meant painting during my son’s nap times (he was 2 1/2) at the time. However, I do remember a few times when he wouldn’t nap and I had to sketch in a sketchbook while he played in our backyard.

I announced my decision to social media. At the time, I didn’t have many followers at all, but the people who were following me (mostly being family and friends back then), knew that I had spent YEARS day-dreaming about doing art while never actually doing it.  Promising myself to them gave me something extremely helpful in combating artist  “creative block” ….accountability.

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When I was a Starbucks manager, I remember thriving on the high-demand multi-tasking: the oven would be beeping because the cookies were done, the drink orders required many levels of preparation simultaneously, and the milk delivery would almost inevitably arrive when we were at the height of our rush hour. I found that with my art business I really enjoyed having many balls in the air at the same time, however, if I didn’t write down a tentative daily plan, I would waste time doing tasks that were not essential to moving the needle in my business (such as painting). Keeping a schedule has been really important- and I would suggest it, even if you are just trying to create a little more art for yourself every day. Oh! and don’t give yourself TOO much time. You will get overwhelmed and feel defeated- you don’t need any of those feelings doing something so fun. 🙂

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I pretended that I had a boss. This one may sound silly, but I really did help me to make a habit to paint every single day. (you can blame my “type A” perfectionist approach to life on this tip.) When I was working outside of the home, I thrived in the corporate environment because I really enjoyed the challenge of reaching the next level- whatever it was. Pretending that I had someone else critiquing my work at the end of the week was really crucial to my motivation, and many times it was my husband that heard what my goals, challenges, and successes were instead of a scary “real” boss. haha!

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So, there you have it friends- the four things that have helped me to make a habit of painting (or drawing or making something) every day. I hope this helps. Please let me know if you have any tips you would like to share, or if you implement one of these tips and it’s helpful to you.

One thing is for sure, you won’t become an artist until you make art- so, get to making some! (and send me some photos when you’re done 😉 )

Happy painting!

xoxo,

Rachel

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photos by @mandaweaver

My fancy studio is in our bedroom.

My Story.

When I was in art school, I painted in an elaborate studio. We each had our own easels, were able to pretty much come and go as we pleased and had glorious floor-to-ceiling windows with abundant natural light. (You can see me way in the back with the clouds.)34635_144495152233396_416674_n

After graduating, I got tricked into thinking that my art space had to be large. I talked myself out of painting because I didn’t have the best easel or paints or space…the excuses went on and on. I moved into a small apartment and hung the clouds on the wall. 1928704_121444080214_9417_n

Then 15 years later when painting had, sadly, been put on the back burner, I realized that even my sketchbooks were dusty. The small tools that I DID have available to me were not even being used. There was a bigger issue at hand- I didn’t believe in myself.

It took encouragement from my husband for me to finally try my art again.

I started small, painting tiny 6″x6″ pieces. If I couldn’t paint something, I would grab my pencils and draw. I made a promise to myself not to get too wrapped up in WHAT I was doing just THAT I was doing it. Soon enough, I got more comfortable with my tools.

When we first walked into our 1950’s home in Salisbury,Md., we fell in love with the windows. Natural light burst thru them and the entire home felt like a breath of fresh air. We just knew we had to live there. (Here is a photo from when we had just moved in…sadly, none of those plants are still alive. ha!)1172268_10153176224720215_145980376_o

In our new home, I quickly discovered that the best light was in one particular east-facing corner…which happened to be in the master bedroom. I had tried to set up a “fancy” studio in our bonus room, but because it lacks temperature control it just isn’t the best place to store paper and paint. So, for the past 3 years, I have been faithfully painting daily from a small corner in our bedroom- finishing over 200 original pieces of art.

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Why am I writing all of this? Sometimes we talk ourselves out of starting something because we think we don’t have all of the best equipment, the inspirational dedicated workspace or the talent. What we don’t realize is that the only way to become something is to start. We all have to start somewhere.

While I do dream of having a secluded space where I can paint and pack orders, this pretty little corner of our home works just fine for now.

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My encouragement to you is: start. Start doing that thing you’ve always wanted to try but were nervous you would fail doing. Start making promises to yourself and keep them.

You will never regret trying, you’ll only regret the fear that kept you from it.

xoxo,

Rachel (TheNapTimeArtist)

 

What I want when I’m 80 years old.

My Story.

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This is my favorite photo of me and the kids. My son, with his sweet little baby face and my daughter with her two bottom teeth.

I can remember that moment like it happened yesterday, and it was almost 4 years ago. We were in the guest room of our home having a pillow fight and making a “fort” under the down comforter. It was cold outside but we were cozy.

As a full time stay at home mommy artist, I have had many opportunities to play with my kids. Many moments of making a complete fool of myself on purpose just to make them laugh (everyone know that those are the best kinds of giggles to hear).

When I was younger, I never really gave much thought about what was important to me as a life mission. I did my best to be kind, successful and passionate, but I never asked myself the question, “where do I want to be when I’m 80?”

Now that I am in my late thirties, and away from the corporate world, the allure of money and things have started to die down and I am realizing now, more than ever, the importance of relationships. Every day I have the opportunity to love on my little family. Every day with my art, I have the opportunity to help other people love on theirs. That really is an honor.

I think that that realization is what has truly started to form my vision for my own personal and business goals over the last few years. Because, as we all know, not much matters more than the relationships we have and get to enjoy in our life, however long or short it may be.

When I am 80, I want to be known as a faithful loving wife and mom, a good friend, and someone full of forgiveness and grace. I want to exude joy, and help others to do the same. I want to give the people around me a reason to laugh and smile and love life.

In business, I want to do many of the same things. I want to help people to celebrate their relationships, and to give them a moment of joy every day by reminding them of the beautiful world around them- a way to remember where they were when their special memories happened.

It’s been a true joy, the last few years, to work on so many custom art projects that honor anniversaries, marriages, homes, friendships, moments of transition and growth… for that, I am abundantly thankful.

This is my big picture. What is yours?

Have a beautiful day,

Rachel

 

 

 

 

National Folk Festival 2018 in Salisbury, MD.

My Story.

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This year, my hometown of Salisbury, MD was privileged to host the 78th annual National Folk Festival. As one of the 23 selected tri-state artisans for the Festival Marketplace, I had the unique opportunity to showcase my work during this amazing event. And, although the three days presented major weather problems and huge logistical feats for our small town, in my opinion it could not have gone any better than it did.

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According to the festival’s website, “Since it was first presented in St. Louis in 1934, the National has celebrated the roots, richness, and variety of American culture…. Some of the artists presented at the first festival are now legendary and the recordings and other documentation made possible by the National are precious. “Father of the Blues” W.C. Handy’s first performance on a desegregated stage was at the 1938 National. It was also the first to present to the public musical forms such as the blues, Cajun music, polka bands, Tex-Mex conjunto, Peking Opera, and many others.”

7 music stages, placed strategically along our downtown’s streets, gave people the opportunity to come together to hear some really incredible performances covering all genres. There were street performers, good eats and local cultural activities.

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Yesterday, I received a phone call from a reporter at The Daily Times of Salisbury. She wanted to ask me a few questions about my experience as a vendor, and to see if I had any suggestions on how things could be improved for the 2019 & 2020 Folk Festivals. I told her that I could not think of literally one thing that I would’ve changed about the festival itself. In my opinion, Salisbury really rose to the occasion and gave our community (and those beyond) a weekend FULL of memories and fellowship. Perhaps the only minor detail that could be addressed going forward would be to make it more clear that the artisans that were selected were LOCAL to Maryland and the Delmarva Peninsula, and not traveling in with the musicians. I cannot tell you how many people were truly surprised when I mentioned that I live & work just about a mile from the festival grounds.

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Here are some of my favorite moments of my experience at the Festival Marketplace (and, I am sure that I could think of many, many more.)

  • seeing our entire community gathered together on common ground- in spite of cold, rainy conditions.
  • the overwhelming sense of community in the artisan tent amongst the other vendors that were participating. (and getting to meet some artists in person that I have respected for a very, very long time.)
  • having the opportunity to show my children (ages 3&5) each of the other artisan’s work in my tent, and explaining why I respect how they work with their hands.
  • being encouraged in person by people that have been following my work online, and hearing their stories of how they had initially found out about it.
  • spending quality time with my parents and husband as they helped out in the booth.
  • having the opportunity to encourage young artists who are either currently majoring in art at Salisbury University (my alma mater, too) or in high school taking art classes.
  • helping a Nicaraguan artist to learn how to make prints of his work so that he could ship them home to his family.
  • running into almost every person I have ever met in 23 years of living here.
  • hearing people’s unique stories about their travels (after they asked about the U.S watercolor map shown on my booth banner)
  • feeling a deep sense of pride to call Salisbury my hometown.

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So, to sum it all up, The National Folk Festival far exceeded my expectations. And, although it’s almost a year away, I am definitely day-dreaming about my application & art booth for 2019. Please make your plans to be there next year. You will not regret it (even if you need to bring rain boots and a poncho.)

Thank you, Salisbury, for allowing me to participate in my first-ever major art fair. If this is what soggy and windy feels like, I can’t wait for 80 and sunny.

Sincerely,

Rachel Alvarez of Rachel Alvarez Art 

**funny side note, during the weekend I went to get a mint out of my backpack. I opened my altoids tin only to realize that I had accidentally brought my homemade mini watercolor palette instead. ha! #artistproblems

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Photos by local Salisbury photographer, Manda Weaver