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.

Hood River Artist: Leah Hedberg

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Give us a little background info about you.

I’m a photographer who is passionate and curious about the natural world here in the Gorge. I do photography and printmaking from a home studio in Hood River, Oregon. My husband and I have a son, age eleven, and a daughter who is nine. I studied photography at Northern Arizona University before moving to Hood River in 2000.

How did you get started with your art?

After some years working as a portrait and wedding photographer, which was an enjoyable art also, I began to see things like I was seeing people, with eccentricities and personalities and lots to say through the camera. This grew into photographing everyday things I found around me. Here in the Hood River Valley, one of the most abundant things is fruit, so this was the subject that led me into looking at the nature of ordinary things through the language of light. What I’d learned from portraiture transferred naturally to this newer work, and my eyes keep wondering about other things and finding new surprises.

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

I try to involve them by sharing what I’m working on, or asking their opinions. But I enjoy also the ways they involve me in their passionate view of the world. Just the other day, my nine-year-old and I were lying on the couch … our heads were upside-down, and she said, “everything looks funny.” I asked her how things are looking, and she said, “Well, the kitchen faucet looks like a goose, the ceiling fan has bats where those things attach, and the coat cabinet is winking, see?” The clarity of vision kids have and the things they say can spark my thinking in a creative direction. I’m always asking my kids if I can post their sketches and writing around my workspace because they inspire me to try and start from a fresh and innocent view of things again every day.

What does your work aim to say?

My work aims to ask questions about the nature of things rather than saying anything in particular. I hope that when people see my work, they feel they could step right into the picture and feel at ease, and have a sense of possibility from what occurs to them.

Who or what are your biggest influences?

The landscape of the Columbia Gorge; my mother, father, and sisters; photographers Dorothea Lange, Alfred Stieglitz, and painter Georgia O’Keeffe; naturalists and writers like Rachel Carson, Wendell Berry, John O’Donohue, and many musicians and poets.

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What current art world trends are you following?

I’m following the information shift that places artists and collectors directly in touch with one another in meaningful ways. I’m also interested in how people and companies honor creative intellectual property, and in people and organizations finding new ways to prioritize intrinsic and artistic value over money.

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

A pair of speakers.

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How do you balance motherhood and your work/art?

One thing I’m learning is that creativity and organization have a mysterious inverse relationship. The better I can organize the routine aspects of life to minimize repetitive decision-making, the more free and creative I can be. So I use a lot of lists and systems to keep headspace available. 

I work from home, which is challenging but also a great privilege. One of my goals the past several years has been to live a more integrated life, working on the skill of switching hats while trying to maintain the centeredness and integrity of motherhood in many endeavors. I’m not always in balance, but I’m learning how motherhood can work hand-in-hand with professional life, because wanting what’s best for my children and desiring good things to unfold (professionally) for the world are congruent ends. The more I’m able to trust that everything I do aims toward a common goal, the more wholesome I feel regardless of what I’m able or unable to accomplish.

Why did you join the studio tour?

I joined because I heard about it from a colleague, and found it to be a great group of professional artists serving the community with a mission I really believed in. The community of artists and visitors together make it so enjoyable. We have 41 talented and hardworking artists participating this year. If you haven’t visited the Gorge Artists Open Studios Tour, I hope you’ll visit a few studios this spring! 

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

Traveling Families: From Oregon To Morocco

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Where did you go and why? 
My husband works remotely as a web marketer. When we travel, we choose to stay in one location for a period of time and try to live as a local as much as possible. My husband still works his 40hr/wk job and I care for the kids and home. We schedule our time during the week to explore as a family and the weekends are full of exploring together!

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For this trip we chose to come back to Essaouira, Morocco. We lived here 3.5 years ago for a month and loved it so we were excited to return! We love Essaouira because it's a small coastal city filled with good food, beautiful art, craft workmanship, and friendly people. It's a very family-friendly area and we plan to stay close to the 90 days that our visa allows.

What is your bus doing while you are away?
We packed up our bus and put it in storage while we are traveling internationally for a few months. It's in a covered garage and being looked after so we can return to it upon our arrival back in the states.

What are some of the biggest differences? 
There are so many differences between Essaouira and Oregon! One of the reasons we chose to come here was to avoid winter weather, so it's a good thing we're enjoying 70 degrees here! Another good difference (for us, at least) is that we're hardly cooking at all! We eat out for 2 meals a day and snack on things at home in between. Back home I was getting so worn out by the food plans, grocery shopping, meal prep, cooking, and cleaning so not having to worry so much about that has been AMAZING. Hopefully I'll be dying to cook and clean again when we return home in a couple months ;)

A challenging difference is definitely the language barrier. We miss our friends and family back home so much and it's hard to make friends here when you can't communicate. Scott and I have started taking French lessons so hopefully that will help!

How is navigating the language? Do a lot of people speak English?
The main languages here are French and a Moroccan variation of Arabic. Our family doesn't know either language, so it's a bit interesting for us. A lot of people speak very basic English so we are definitely able to get by, and we practice French vocabulary and common phrases with our Duolingo app and Google Translate. We look forward to our French lessons!

5. Tell us about the food?

The food here in Morocco is so good! They use so many different spices and have specific blends for different dishes. You also eat bread for every meal, it's really your utensil! There are different kinds of bread for different times of day, but my kids love to disregard what the norm is and just dip everything in honey anyway. Argan oil is native to this area so it is used for dipping bread and it's so delicious! 

A very common dish here is called a tajine. The tajine is an earthenware pot that the food is cooked in. It's function is similar to a crockpot, but it's not electrical as it sits on a gas stove to cook. The tajine makes the flavors of everything really pop and everything is so moist, perfect for scooping up with bread! Some common combinations for a tajine is roast with dried fruits (my favorite!) or chicken with onion, olives, and lemon.

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What is your typical day like?
A typical day for us here in Morocco consists of Scott working in the morning and I take care of the kids. The kids and I like to spend a lot of our time playing in the sand at the beach. We go to an early lunch together at a nearby cafe then either Scott or I goes to our French lesson for an hour (we switch off days). Then it's back to work for Scott and back to the kids for me! Scott finishes work around 5 and we go into the Medina (city center) to have dinner and pick up produce to have at home. After all the walking around the Medina and back home, the kids are ready for bed!

Any recommendations for families that want to visit the area?
For families, we recommend Essaouira over Marrakech--Essaouira is a lot more calm, it's on the beach, and it's smaller and easy to navigate. You'll have essentially the same experiences in either place, but without the hustle and bustle of the tourist capitol of the country. We think the food is better here on the coast too ;)

Start practicing your French! It's definitely possible to get around without knowing French (we've been doing it for a month now), but you'll definitely be in a better position knowing some of the language.

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Follow along with Emily and her family on their youtube channel or Instagram