2018 Holiday Gift Guide by Rachel Alvarez Art

My Story.

I don’t know about you, but I always have the hardest time trying to think of gifts for my loved ones. Whether they are young or old, my mind gets swamped with ideas and information and I usually end up settling for a simple, easy to please them….gift card.

That’s why this year I thought it would be fun to help out my art followers with some easy gift ideas so they can cross off some people on their list.

So, here goes!

For the traveler on your list: 

  • this US travel tracker map. Formatted from 50 individual watercolor paintings, you won’t see anything like it! Each weatherproof vinyl decal can be placed individually so that your wanderluster can celebrate the places that they’ve checked off!

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For the coffee lover (or new mom 😉 ) 

  • the brunette version seen below was originally painted on International Women’s Day. You can read the full reason why here. I’m looking forward to expanding this series as time allows. So fun to paint!

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For the long-distance family or friend:

  • tell them you can’t live without them- even across the miles- with this customizable long distance love art print. (also great for wedding and anniversary gifts!)

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For the college student: 

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For the foodie or chef:

  • Help them bring a splash of color to their walls (not just their meals) with these pretty watercolor fruit and herb prints. (Also available as blank notecards.)

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For the vintage lover: 

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For the photographer: 

  • a little something to inspire them to share their gifts with the world: a camera sticker that they can put anywhere.

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For you: 

  • a way to celebrate the places you’ve made memories. All 50 state art prints available in standard, framable sizes- pop them in a frame and make your own beautiful gallery wall!

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For everyone on your list:  

  • gift cards, available in any denomination. Would they want a custom home portrait? Maybe a painting of their beloved pup? The sky is the limit when you let them pick something they will cherish forever.
  • donut notecards…because, who doesn’t love donuts?!

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So, there you go friends! Lots of ideas for everyone on your list.

Be sure to check out the full shop here: www.rachelalvarezart.com (also, you will get a 10% coupon if you sign up for the newsletter!)

Have a wonderful holiday, everyone!

– Rachel

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Tips for properly framing watercolor art.

My Story.

Ove the past year, I have had more and more requests for custom watercolor paintings – whether it is a custom home portrait or a family memory piece, one thing that I always to try to communicate to potential clients is the need to properly frame watercolors. Unlike acrylics and oils, which have their own specific framing/preservation needs, watercolors are painted onto paper. This process allows an image to be painted in a soft & delicate unique way, but extra care must be taken so that the art can be enjoyed, without damage, for many years to come.

Here is a simple infographic with tips on how to frame your custom piece. Doing these 5 things will allow your custom art to be preserved for many years, allowing you to celebrate your memories the way that they should be- in beautiful, vivid color.

If you have any specific questions concerning framing or custom art, feel free to reach out to me thru the contact form on my website here: www.rachelalvarezart.com

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Want to see some of the commissions that I have been working on lately? Check out my Instagram feed for all of my most recent projects here: @rachelalvarezart

Have a beautiful day!

Rachel

2017 Year in Review

My Story.

It’s April 3rd, and I am FINALLY getting around to writing about what happened in 2017. Funny thing is with tax prep, current art projects and LIFE, I just hadn’t made it a priority to sit down and reflect on what had happened, and what I would like to see happen in 2018. So, here we are!

Last year was a big, fun whirlwind. Being a small art business owner has it’s own unique challenges, but coupling that with being a full time stay at home mom makes the days & tasks all kind of run together. I’ve never been all that great at making time for reflection (as seen in this here blog post, ha!), but I am trying to be better about it.

Sometime at the beginning of the last year I read this article: 4 motivations that make artists successful. In the article, it talks about how there are 4 major things that inspire artists to succeed – people can either be motivated by one, or a combination of all of them:

  • financial success
  • social interactions
  • compulsion to create
  • the freedom of the artist lifestyle

After I read the article, I realized that my desire to paint every day is definitely linked to all four, with financial success at the bottom of the list and social interactions at the top, in terms of importance to me.

The one thing that sticks out to me the most about 2017 is all of the social interactions. I was blessed to be able to work on twice as many custom paintings compared to 2016. Each of those pieces offered me an opportunity to really connect with an individual- to see a glimpse into what they hold dear and see as meaningful in their own life. This is my absolute favorite kind of work. There is just something about being trusted with someone’s memories that really makes being an artist rewarding emotionally. Here are some of the custom pieces I painted last year:

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I definitely feel a compulsion to paint (although I really don’t like that word “compulsion” at all.) It’s kind of hard to explain, but it’s almost like I don’t feel the compulsion, but more the absence of something when I don’t make time for art. Last year I made time for it, and that felt really good.

It’s true, there is great freedom in the artist’s lifestyle but, as it’s been said, with great freedom comes great responsibility. Unlike my previous “traditional” jobs, I have no one giving me a morning to-do list, setting up my meetings, or paying my taxes or contributing to my matching 401k. In 2017 it was a big learning curve for me to manage my time wisely but I am SO thankful that it was ME managing MY time. I had the freedom to say “yes” to projects that really meant something to me and “no” to ones that didn’t.

Here are a few of the highlights of 2017:

 

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  • participated in my first art fair, and a very dark photo to prove it. /\
  • successfully potty trained our daughter
  • got accepted to see on Handmade at Amazon
  • all 50 state paintings were formatted into decals:

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  • I made our bed EVERY SINGLE MORNING after watching this >video<
  • I was able to collaborate with The Maryland Citizens for the Arts on a project to help raise arts awareness in our state:

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  • I stopped feeding myself solely with the random food left on my kid’s lunchtime plates – ie. goldfish crackers and cold Mac n’ cheese….
  • 37 unique commissions were completed
  • first commercial rights art project completed
  • used colored pencils for the first time since college (15 years ago):

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  • first newspaper article was written about me concerning balancing being a mom and artist
  • successfully learned all of the songs from Disney’s Frozen and then subsequently performed them during my kid’s bath time every day (pro tip: bathroom echoes make for better concerts, let me tell you…)
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2016/2017 side by side:

Overall, It was a great year with many opportunities for personal growth. There were many “firsts” and even more “what the heck am I doing?!” moments.

So, what are my goals in 2018?

  1. learn to pump the brakes. A perfectionist by nature, I can sometimes try to take on too much at once. I’m learning to be intentional with my time, both as a mother and an artist.
  2. cultivate better friendships, especially with other artists. As much as I love the social interactions that being an artist affords, it can sometimes be a lonely place too. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the best friend someone can have- not because I don’t care- quite the contrary- I am simply not very good at reaching out.
  3. grow the wholesale side of the business. There is something very special about the thought of having my work be a part of someone else’s dream to have a small business. It’s like we are in this together, and I love that.
  4. Paint things that make me uncomfortable and force me to flex my art muscles.
  5. Be better about book- keeping throughout the year so I am not writing my 2018 re-cap in April of next year… (2019, don’t quote me on this one. haha!!)

Well, there you have it. Lots of things happened, and here’s to setting (and reaching) some new goals in 2018.

Thank you so much for following along, everyone.

Your support means the world to me!

See more “real-time” art projects on my Instagram >here<.

Have a beautiful day,

– Rachel

7 things I wish I had known when I was graduating from art school.

My Story.

10 thingsI wish I had known before graduating from art school.-2

I went to a liberal arts college that offered a very advanced level of training in the fine arts. My painting professor was incredibly talented, and certainly still reigns as a huge influence on my art to this day. It’s been 2 years since I made the jump into a legitimate art business, and it’s been a bumpy learning curve to say the least. Although many of the technical skills of art were covered in my core classes, there were still quite a few things that were lacking in my college studies to prepare me for a career in painting. I do not blame my instructors- they were doing the best they could to teach their specialties to a room full of hopeful students. And, as we all are well aware: there are too few hours in a day. But, my hope is that this information may help someone else to be better prepared for the jump into a full time career in the arts.

Here is my take on the 7 things I wish I had known when I was graduating art school:

  1. business
  2. business
  3. business
  4. business
  5. business
  6. business
  7. business

Ok, that took WAY too long to type but you get the idea: BUSINESS!!!!

It’s funny that in art school the main focus is on the technical usage of new supplies, the studying of art history and the making of new work, while there is little to no emphasis on the fact that, once you graduate, you are going to be running a business. I can’t help but think that the lack of teaching in this category is what steers promising artists away from pursuing their dreams. I mean, who wants to graduate from an art curriculum, with all of that hope, just to get busy learning about taxes and inventory right away?

But, seriously, here is the real list of the ten things I wish I had known more about before graduation:

  1. business basics – taxes, inventory, profit margins- all of the boring stuff.
  2. marketing
  3. social media
  4. photography
  5. SEO (search engine optimization) and website design
  6. building a “brand”
  7. time management

Business basics: you are going to need a great CPA. Before selling your art, make sure that you are set up legally in your city & state. It is NOT a wise business decision to try to go “under the radar”. I’ve read many horror stories on this- just trust me on this one.

Marketing: In order to market yourself, you have to know who would be buying what you are painting. How old are they? Are they male or female? What kind of home may they live in? Do they like coffee or chai tea or both? (seriously, you do need to dream up your target market- and, be specific!)

Social media: no one will find you. You must be willing to be seen on a variety of platforms other than your own website…which leads me to my next point:

SEO: before registering my business I had never even heard the term “Search Engine Optimization”. And, to be honest, it’s still an enigma to me. In basic English, SEO is a methodology of strategies, tactics and technique used to increase the amount of visitors to a website by obtaining a high-ranking in search results pages of Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines. My introduction to SEO was thru my etsy shop. Where I had to try to think of specific keywords that my potential customers would type into etsy to find exactly what I was selling. I’m still working on this, and probably always will be. ha!

Photography: If the bulk of your sales will be happening online, then it is CRITICAL that your photography is color accurate and shows size/scale. Think of it this way- when you go into a shop and see a cute shirt- you pick it up, feel the fabric, hold it up to yourself, etc. Obviously, online you cannot do this, so you have to give your customer the most information possible to make their purchase.

Building a brand: This is a big one. If you are selling art, is it peaceful? Is it abstract? What types of emotions do you want to evoke?  Whatever the answer is, that SAME emotion should be mirrored in your logo, images, your bio, etc. If you are an illustrator of silly images and people follow your work to get a good laugh, it probably wouldn’t be best to have serious political banter on your Instagram feed, right? I mean, if I want to laugh I don’t want to be thinking of politics- agree?

Time Management: Oh, man. What a doozie this is. Good thing juggling class schedules and assignments has already helped you a bit here because, you’re going to need it. For me, I try to think of tasks that can be done simultaneously. For instance, one of my goals is to better my Pinterest knowledge. So, when I am painting, I am also listening to podcasts that talk specifically about this topic. Or, if I know that I will need to wait for paint to dry on a commission, I intentionally begin painting 2 pieces at the same time- that way, when one is drying, I can pick the other up and stay in my painting mood.

Ok, folks. That wraps it up. If you are an aspiring artist I hope this helps you know where to focus your energies- but, please do reach out if you have a specific question. If you are already in business, I would love to hear your thoughts. What are doing now that you wish you would’ve known back then?

Have a great week chasing your dreams, everyone!

Want to see some of my work or get in touch? see my website here: www.rachelalvarezart.com

shop small Saturday

My Story.

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Shopping small is a way to support someone’s dream. I know this first hand! By supporting my art, you have allowed me the amazing blessing of staying at home with my two babies. That is what it’s done for me, but don’t just take my word for it.

Here is what some of my fellow artists, makers and dreamers said when I asked them
“why do you love running small business?”

* “It allows my schedule to be totally flexible to adjust to things that come up so I can be there for my family. (ex. field trips, helping out at school, sporting events, etc.) I get to set my schedule!!”
* “My boss is so kind, he feeds and buys me everything I want at the time.”
* “It allows me to stay at home with my 9m old daughter on weekends and pay bills, without the need for a second “full time” job.”
* “It helps me build self confidence and feel a sense of accomplishment.”
* “We can live in the country and I don’t have to go to work in an office.”
* “I have a son with autism, so I can be there for him.”
* “It’s providing a piece of my heart to others. I love hearing back from others of the joy it brings to them ❤️. ”

I am so incredibly thankful for your support of my art. To express it, I am giving all newsletter subscribers on my website a special coupon code to use this Saturday.

Want to receive one? Sign up HERE.

Thanks again for all of your words of encouragement, shares, likes and purchases.

Thank you so much for supporting my dream,

Rachel

www.rachelalvarezart.com

 

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!