Interview: Rae Andrews
Describe the time you first realized that creating was something you absolutely had to do? How old were you? Who or what inspired you at the beginning of your art life? Who or what inspires your art life today?
I was first exposed to art with an aunt (my mother’s sister), who was also a professional artist. My maternal grandfather was a budding oil painter and poet as well.
I believe it was around the age of 5 or 6 when I began drawing in earnest.
At 15 I won an art scholarship at school and I wanted to pursue art as my main vocation.
My mother however wanted me to get a “real job” and hairdressing, and later owning five businesses over the next 20 years, was to be my life. I still painted and sold my works, and even then I never stopped planning my ‘Bohemian Lifestyle.’ However hairdressing did pay the bills, where as selling my art was sporadic to say the least.
At 32 I sold all my salons and went to college for my art degrees thus beginning my career as a fulltime artist. I founded The Northside Art School in my area in the late 1980’s, which grew to 400 students.
Why do you make art?
HUGE question! A love of that escapism in the “doing” of the art I suppose, and the fact that I can do something I truly love is captivating to me.
What are you trying to communicate with your art?
We all see things so differently. A poet will get his/her feelings down in words.
I like to think my rhythm of color and movement, tell my story in my art. I have often used the analogy of reading a book or watching a movie (to my students). Each reader will find different things to spark their attention. And alternatively as the author of that book (or art), we must be willing to go with that. That’s what is so cool about art. Everything is open to interpretation.
What element(s) of your inner spirit is reflected in your art?
That’s a deep question, and I am not sure I can fully answer it but here goes. I guess I will just say the release of a certain energy and peace from within. How’s that?
Is the atmosphere or design layout of your creative space/studio an important element in your creative process—why or why not?
Yes, it is too me. I must feel inspired. Each time I enter my studio I feel the urge to paint or draw. I love being in it. Whether I teach in Europe, Australia, or here in America, I look for things which first inspire me.
After all, if I am enthusiastic about my subject matter and area in which I paint, that joy must surely overflow to my students.
Is there something—a keepsake, an inspirational quotation, a photograph—you keep in your studio for inspiration or motivation?
My favorite quote is “Art is the Elusive Butterfly”.
I have no idea where I read or heard that, (maybe I even made it up) but it has stayed with me since I was very young.
Recently a friend also gave me wall plaque. She knew I only like taking RIGHT TURNS. Yep, it’s a strange confession, but it’s true. Given the choice, I will turn right, not left.
Anyway, this plaque says, “When Nothing Goes Right, Go Left”. I love it and it now hangs in my studio.
What kind of routines or rituals do you incorporate into your creative time? If you have one element or principle of art you enjoy working with the most, please describe it?
I don’t like to formularize my art, it becomes too predictable and that’s an easy trap in which to fall. I try to change my strategies around with my work, with different approaches, and not get myself in a proverbial rut.
I guess I do have some rituals though. I do like to get into my studio early each day, at least for about 3 hours. Even if it’s to read art books, tidy my studio, or just ponder a new strategy, it helps my creative mind.
I will often browse my older works, (a lot unfinished), and see if they can be improved in any way; whether I actually rework them, or begin afresh, really depends on my mood for that day.
Currently, which creative medium do you work in? What, if any, other creative medium would you love to pursue?
I do paint in every medium, although lately it bounces between switching from watercolors to pastels. That would also depend on which subject I plan to try as well.
I get bored with a piece very easily, if it does not come together quickly, I have a hard time going back to it day in and day out.
What is your most important artist tool? How does this tool factor into your art making?
My brain, yep I actually said that didn’t I? I like to think differently to other artists.
Sure, I occasionally go back to realistic and tried-and-true genres at times; however, it never keeps my brain interested. I like the element of surprise—and color and movement are the elements I most use, to achieve this. I am big on design choices as well, and try to get away from the predictable.
I recently had a fellow artist say about my work, “ how on earth did you come up with that composition”? She was referring to a semi-abstracted pastel piece called Ethereal Dance.
I explained that I work from my iPad a lot, using the app Sketch Club, which is an amazing tool for any artist: a lot like Photoshop, just not quite as sophisticated.
It enables me to work in layers, superimposing images over each other to get some very different colors and designs.
I strive to get that confused semi-abstracted imagery, and this tool helps me get ideas for many of my works. So in answer to the above question, my iPad and Sketch Club are both invaluable to me.
How do you keep yourself motivated?
I always try to keep myself motivated with challenges. I try different ways to approach my work, be it abstracting the image, or using wild colors, design approaches, you name it, anything to challenge my senses.
I had a student many years ago in Australia who was a very good little oil painter at the time. She churned out the same kinds of landscape paintings daily, (I like to call them potboilers or money makers), to please her clients.
While this strategy was great for a few years for her, it became repetitive which was something I had warned her of in the past.
I have seen many artists “paint themselves dry” with the same old stuff. Don’t forget to paint for yourself. Yes it’s great if you can sell your work, but don’t lose yourself in the process.
I get fresh input for my art by looking at other artists’ works, gleaning ideas from the way they have approached their images. The Internet is an amazing library of information for artists; we just need to open our eyes to all the possibilities.
That’s not to say we should copy another person’s art. They have their way of painting, while we have ours. However, new input can always guide us in our own artistic journey. That’s why we go to workshops and seminars.
It’s a bit like cooking great grandma’s favorite dish, but using your own “twist in the recipe”. Extra spice, is always fun!
What one piece of advice would you give to an artist just getting started?
You don’t become an engineer overnight. We must study, practice, and make mistakes.
If you want to be good at your craft, be humble, and be ready to have a few disappointments, we all have them—trust me, even with over 45 years of painting, I have had many.
Most of all, PAINT HAPPY and ENJOY THE PROCESS.
If you wish, please share with us any other aspect of your art life—
professionally and/or personally—that hasn’t been answered in the above
My life has been a series of ups (mostly ups) and downs and twists and turns so far.
When I finished with my hairdressing businesses in the 80’s, I then went into teaching art full time and did the college thing.
I traveled to many gorgeous parts of Australia doing workshop and became a guest teacher for the Charles Sturt University in northwest NSW.
It was a very busy time for me. When I met and married my American husband we moved permanently to Maui, Hawaii; my life again changed with owning two art galleries on the island.
My first was a small studio in the marketplace where I also sold other trinkets.
The second was a larger space on the main road where I taught students in the back room, and displayed my own art (as well as 13 other artists) in the front gallery space. It was a great time I will always treasure it.
I moved from Maui to Austin, Texas, in 2002, after some Austin clients I met in my gallery sent me tickets every year for three years to visit.
On the last trip my husband came with me, and we bought a house.
I now teach workshops in my gorgeous studio overlooking Lake Travis; and in the last few years, I began teaching workshops in Europe as well.
I consider this Aussie girl VERY lucky!
For what one thing would you like to be remembered?
Do you know I have often thought of this, asking myself what legacy can I leave others?
Oh sure, I can say, Rae was a cheerful, artistic person, lots of fun….but so are millions of people all over the world!
I think I will leave that up to the folks who know me and my art. Let’s hope it’s a lasting impression though.