Rachel Maes is a self taught artist that has grown her collection of work from small canvas to large murals and art installations. Although mural work is her primary focus, she can still be found painting furniture and decor items from time to time.
Rachel is passionate and full of optimism, her view of life is much like her art: bright, bold and colorful. She is putting her splash of style and color all over the province of Manitoba, Canada where she was born and raised.
Carrie: When did you first realize the importance of art in your life?
Art has always been important to me, even from a young age I have always been very artistic. It wasn’t until 2 years ago that I realized how much I truly depend on my art as a way to express myself and build my confidence. Everything in my daily life can be in pieces but if I rocked my latest painting, I feel great!
Carrie: How would you describe your art?
Bright, bold and Colorful! I like to keep my art light and full of imagination. I want the viewer to have fun while looking at it, so I keep my subject matter cheery and the colors vibrant!
Carrie: What does your workspace look like?
I recently gave my workspace a face lift, it was becoming a bottomless pit of random junk, but now I have one shelf to display random knick knacks that I have painted or found, a wall full of displayed art by some local artists, a vintage dresser unit full of paint, and my easel in the middle (a fancy present from my boyfriend for my birthday!). Behind the easel is a small table full of books, a salt lamp and a wireless speaker. Lately I have been out painting so many murals it almost feels strange being at home in my studio, I have a closet full of my mural supplies and I find that I am spending most of my time loading and unloading that closet, so my studio has been kept very clean lately!
Carrie: Can you describe the evolution of your artistic style? (Have you always made art with this unique vision or what was your turning point into recognizing this style was your authentic “you”?) And since you’ve been here with us before: what shifts have you seen since our last conversation?
Years ago I decided art was my passion and have been working to peruse it full time ever since, as you can imagine, the road is never easy. I am completely self taught so when I started I only painted within my comfort zone; my first set of paintings was actually just a series of single birds painted on small white canvases, I outlined everything with a thick black line and they looked like coloring book pictures. I couldn’t do faces properly so I did a Day of the Dead style, as I found painting a mask easier then the face itself. As I grew confident in my abilities, I pushed myself further outside my comfort zone; I really wanted to learn how to paint pets so I practiced with my dog until I got it, I wanted to create paintings with dimension so I practiced with shading and highlights until I saw my images pop off the page, and when I wanted to learn to paint clouds I watched 100 YouTube videos and after several failed attempts in following them I put down my brushes, turned off the computer and figured out I can only paint clouds when I do it with my fingers.
After a while I noticed my skill set was getting better, but when I looked back and compare my art my style remains the same. I still am still a fan of a black outline but now I can control it better, my use of color hasn’t changed but now I find I can blend better and use it to my advantage, creating the illusion of a shadow with another color instead of a black shadow. I really noticed my style about a year ago, up until that point is was more of an unconscious decision but now I make conscious decisions to remain within the same parameters. For example when I wanted to learn to paint faces, I went for a pop art feeling instead of an exact face, keeping my black lines visible.
I started with small canvas paintings but over time realized I truly love murals. As the size of my art grew so did my understanding of how to properly translate details to a large scale painting. A small painting of a dog for example has tiny linework for fine hairs, but a mural of a dog will have shading work instead, as all that linework would be lost on a large scale piece. I am now more comfortable with murals then I am with smaller canvas work.
Carrie: What are important strategies or choices you make that help support your creative process?
I have this theory that Art is Art, no matter how big or small or fun or boring, I rarely say no to any job that comes my way, even if I feel it might be a stretch for me and my abilities. This has been important for my creative process, it makes me think outside the box and expands my skill set. Another important thing I have learned is never get too comfortable, I am constantly looking for new tools to work with or new ways of doing things, keeping this open mind has allowed me to grow as an artist and hone my abilities.
Carrie: How do you think vulnerability affects artists/creatives?
I think every artist gets the feeling of vulnerability. Everytime I paint something I get a little knot in my stomach before I post it on social media, ‘what if no one likes it, what if people think its poorly done, etc…’ Those feelings might deter an artist from posting or sharing. Social media can be the worst, I’ve had my fair share of verbal attacks from random people regarding my art, but as an artist you can’t be afraid to put yourself out there, I bet for every negative comment there are 100 positives.
Carrie: Can you please share one story of positive outcome from one of your projects?
Once deciding to take on painting as a full time initiative I found I had more time to expand and spread my wings as an artist. I started looking for ways of sharing my art with others in a positive way, so I decided to donate a mural to the local Children’s Hospital. I had no idea the impact this would have on not only the patients but the parents, staff and the surrounding community.
After completion of the mural I’ve had tons of feedback regarding its positive effect on people’s moods and the shift in the general atmosphere of the space. What was once a dreery, sad space now has a bright cheery demeanor.
Carrie: What has been one hurdle you’ve overcome as a creative and how did you navigate that problem?
I decided a while ago that I want to focus on mural work and I found at first that it was a difficult transition, I was running out of wall space and I needed content! So how do you grow your talent as a mural artist if you don’t have anywhere to paint a mural?! Thankfully I was able to start working with a local theatre company doing set changes, that experience taught me a lot but I struggled with expressing my style in those murals, as they all had to match the set. So I got access to some walls in family members and friends homes, and starting doing my thing! I would post my work from there online and slowly I got small jobs in private residences, and now my client base has grown to local and national business.
Carrie: What is one creative resource you can’t live without?
Instagram! I find so much inspiration on there, and the more you look the better it gets. I find new artists every week that blow my mind with creativity, and I’ve watched so many time lapse art videos that have taught me little tricks and tips that have really stepped up my game.
Carrie: Who/what inspires you?
As I get a better understanding of what it takes to be an artist full time I am more and more inspired by all the artist out there that have become a success. Style is one thing but drive is what makes you successful, it’s constantly putting yourself out there. We have some pretty great artist here in Winnipeg and I love the support that the community gives, and what inspires me is that everyone keeps hustling, taking risks and pushing the limits.
Carrie: What does the word artist mean to you?
I said it once and I will say it again, Artist/Art is a lifestyle!
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