Hood River Artist: Rachel Harvey

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Give us a little background info about you.

My background is finance, which I worked in until my daughter, Ella, was born in 2005.  When she was about a year old, I went looking for a hobby and discovered a passion.  The oil painting class I took was meant to be a therapeutic escape, nothing more; I fell in the deep end.  Within two years, I was exhibiting professionally, and have been doing so now for 10 years, right through the birth of my son, Evan, in 2009.  In fact, he attended his first art show at 2 weeks old.

It’s a challenge being a full-time artist and a full-time parent, because I’m passionate about both. I’m a parent first, painter second, but sometimes I forget that! Nevertheless, even though it’s trite to say it, I’m a better mother for being an artist. Studio time keeps me energized and sane.  

How did you get started with your art?

I took a community education oil painting class, just for fun. Then I took it again. Then I told my husband I was switching careers. It’s just been trial and error, a few workshops and miles of canvas since then.

How do you involve your children in your passion for art?

Early on, my children were in the studio with me every day. Since they’ve started school, they’re here less. But they still go to shows and openings with me, and have done a lot of traveling as a result. They suggest scenes I should paint, offer critiques, and are my biggest fans. And like all children, they are artists in their own right. 

What does your work aim to say?

My work is about refuge and security, a groundedness that transcends a place on a map. It invites the viewer into an emotional oasis, through the lens of their own experiences.

Who or what are your biggest influences?

My work is greatly influenced by my children, and conversely, my relationship with them is affected by my art.  They are two little people exploring a big world; I am a big person feeling small in my place in the universe.  Just as they wake up each day to endless possibilities and discovery, I wake up with a renewed sense of the transitory nature of our lives.  The seeming permanence of the world around us highlights how brief our stay is.  Yet in the midst of that feeling of fragility, there is a strong sense of connection and vitality, heightened by the awareness of time passing.  In both my art and with my kids, my goal is to capture that fleeting moment of illumination.

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What current art world trends are you following?

Is there an art world out there? Ha! Between the kid stuff and home stuff and studio stuff, the days just slip by. I can’t find enough time to do all the things I want to. I think it’s why I paint large canvases—I love the deep end. 

What is something you can't live without in your studio?

Coffee and podcasts. I’m currently listening to Happier with Gretchen Rubin and going through the backlist of The Writer and the Critic (spec and sci-fi fiction reviews).

How do you balance motherhood and your work/art?

Art is on my mind all the time, so when I leave the studio, I try to leave my art brain there, too.  I try to be present with my kids in the evenings, to just be Mom.  I’m not always successful—I find myself thinking about what’s on my easel while I’m cooking dinner. 

Why did you join the studio tour?

The tour is a good reason to clean my studio. 

Find Rachel on the Gorge Artists Studio Tour April 20, 21 & 22 from 10:00am-5:00pm.