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

 

 

 

 

2018 – Year in Review

My Story.

Can you believe that 2018 is already over? I don’t know if it was the unseasonably warm winter weather or the influx of fall activities that made it seem to fly by faster than usual, but here we are at another beautiful year.

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Each year I try my best to take a look back at the projects, commissions and goals that were completed. It’s a fun way to start with a clean slate for the next year, see opportunities for growth and development and get my priorities for life and business in order.

I had 5 major goals in 2018:

  1. to learn to pump the brakes.
  2. to cultivate better friendships, especially with other artists.
  3. to grow the wholesale side of the business.
  4. to paint things that made me uncomfortable and forced me to flex my art muscles.
  5. to be better about book- keeping throughout the year.

All in all, I call 2018 a success according to those measures.

There was a marked difference in my stress levels this year. A conscious decision was made to be less of a “yes” person, and spend more time “in” the business and not “on” the business. So, I planned ahead more and used more automation tools to help with that.  I was also thankful to have more consistent childcare (21 hours per week) which helped life/work balance tremendously, and allowed me to truly enjoy both more than before.

Collaboration was a huge focus in 2018- from partnering with amazing guest bloggers, to working with photographers and wedding planners, it was so refreshing to cultivate new relationships with ultra-talented artists across many outlets. What an inspiration!

Wholesale became a huge focus. After applying and being accepted to wholesale outlets Indie Me, Stockabl and Faire, wholesale took over as the 2nd largest portion of my business, just after retail.

For commissions, I reached out of comfort zone on several occasions this year – moving away from solely painting landscapes and venturing more into portraiture. Digital illustrations became a new adventure as well- something I have wanted to try for quite a few years.

I’m still working on being better about monthly bookkeeping, LOL (!), but at least I am getting to my year in review in December instead of April… #progress?

 

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It’s interesting to me to compare year over and year and see where things have changed and where my energy and time can be best used going forward.

So, here is a side by side for 2017- 2018.

 

Here are a few of the highlights of 2018:

  1. first collaboration with the National Parks Service for Chaco Culture National Historical Park

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2. first digital t-shirt design

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3. first major art fair (National Folk Festival)

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4. The release of mini versions of the 50 state stickers & travel tracker map.

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In the coming year, I have quite a few big dreams and goals. Here are a few of them:

  • Automate more of what can be automated to protect family/friend time
  • Work on more personal projects
  • Develop new product lines
  • Continue to expand wholesale
  • Collaborate with influencers
  • Explore more logo/branding design

Thank you all so much for your constant encouragement and support.  I am forever grateful to have you here along with me in this journey.

Here’s to 2019- a new year for getting past fears, making and meeting goals and opportunities for growth. What are some of your goals & dreams?

Love and Light- Happy New Year!

-Rachel, TheNapTimeArtist

 

 

 

 

 

 

8 tips for battling self doubt as an artist. techniques to increase productivity for artists, makers and creatives by Rachel Alvarez Art

8 tips for battling self doubt as an artist.

My Story.

True story. I am consistently battling self-doubt. As they say, we are all our worst critics, right? Self doubt is what kept me from using my art degree for over 15 years. It took me becoming a SAHM, after a long corporate career, to feel confident enough to try to paint again (mostly because we were going to be relying on one income anyways so, if I failed, it wouldn’t really affect anyone else but me.)

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After 2 years of painting every single day, I have had many opportunities to face my fears head on. It crops up in many ways, but here are some of the effects that self doubt has had on my art if I let it get to the best of me:

  1. Under-charging for my work. I’ve caught myself typing an email response to a custom painting inquiry and instead of putting my true prices and sticking to them, I typed a number- back spaced- and re-typed a lower amount. Or, something has been thrown in for free.
  2. I’ve said no to certain projects just because it wasn’t in my “comfort zone” and I was afraid of failing.
  3. Procrastination happens more often when I am not believing in myself.

8 tips for battling self doubt as an artist. techniques to increase productivity for artists, makers and creatives by Rachel Alvarez Art
During the last year or so, I have been really intentional about acknowledging these feelings and determining their roots. Here are some things that have really helped me to produce when I am not feeling the best about my ability:

  1. Having email templates ready so that I can respond to inquiries in the same manner every time. This takes the emotional ups and downs out of the equation. Doing this has helped me to have even more confidence in my work than if I had accepted commission work at a discounted rate (which leaves me feeling defeated for not allowing myself to get paid what any person should get paid for the amount of hours/effort I am putting in.)
  2. Making the decision to never say “no” (as long as I have time in my schedule to take it on). Last year, I made a personal decision to do my absolute best to take on all painting challenges- even the ones that tempted me to run in the opposite direction. I am a perfectionist by nature, and doing this has helped me to deliver quality pieces of art that are completely outside of my normal subject matter…like a rooster wearing earrings eating chocolate, or a Venus Fly Trap. In the end, I have found that the completion of art that utterly terrifies me actually encourages me to take on an even bigger challenge the next time.
  3. Deciding to produce every single day for an audience (even if there isn’t one). This may sound strange, but if I make a commitment to produce every day in honor of my followers, it helps me get past self doubt. It helps me focus on the process and get away from the hangups that are sometimes associated with it. It helps me to get outside of myself and give me hope that I might make someone smile that day- and that makes getting past that moment of doubt worth every bit of the courage that it takes to paint.
  4. Keep a journal of quotes from happy customers. Self explanatory, I’m sure, but remembering people who have previously trusted me with their vision and memories helps me to know that I am capable of doing it successfully again.
  5. Studying previous personal art and looking for times when technical improvements or better use of materials were developed.
  6. Going outside. There is just something really healing about getting fresh air and then sitting back down in the studio.
  7. Recording the painting process. Last year, I had many moments of self doubt when the image on my watercolor paper was still in the mid-beginning stages. By filming the process, and then speeding it up, I can study how elements like shape, color, contrast and texture develop over time. It helps me to understand the concept of growth in my art. Just like a seed, it takes many other critical steps of development before that seed becomes a flower, blooming out of the dirt.
  8. Never throw away an unfinished piece of art. This decision was born out of this 50 state watercolor project, which took a little more than 5 months to complete. For that project, I had personal deadline- November 1st. With limited time available to paint (literally during the nap times of my kids) I could not afford to fail. If I started something that I wasn’t happy with I set it aside, moved onto something else, and re-visited it on another day. Somehow, I managed to paint 50 consecutive paintings without throwing away a single piece of paper – and I finished the last one on, you guessed it, November 1st.

watercolor United States map - 50 state paintings celebrating America the Beautiful. by Rachel Alvarez

How does your self doubt effect your business? What do you do to combat it?

Let’s get in touch. I would love to hear about your work, and the art that only YOU can do.

-Rachel @rachelalvarezart

PS. Along the way, I have been greatly inspired by other fellow artists and entrepreneurs. Here are some links to some of my favorite speeches and podcasts on this topic.

Recently, I had the privilege of hearing Adam Lerner talk about the risk of failure at Maryland Arts Day in Annapolis. It was very inspirational. He spoke about his Failure Project- which was designed to allow kids the opportunity to fail- while trying. Students were awarded “biggest failure” based on how much of a risk they were willing to take in order to create. This speech is similar to the one I heard last week:

“Hacks to get more done” via Amy Porterfield’s podcast

“Keeping Real on Social Media” via Jenna Kutcher’s podcast

Read my latest blog post here: I didn’t get the art scholarship.

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!