May 30, 2020

Artist interview – Rachel Gillen, painter


Rachel Gillen


Cincinnati, Ohio, USA


Brief artists statement

My artwork is a reflection of how I feel about my life and the experiences that have shaped it thus far. It is largely about the people who have come in and out of my life, the ones who are still around and the ones who aren’t, and all the memories I’ve made and am still making. I strive for my work to be an honest interpretation of my day-to-day life. I concentrate on my relationships with the people in my life I am closest to, or people who have sparked some sort of strong emotion, whether that be love, hurt, friendship, or confusion. I deconstruct my feelings about my subject then choose images to symbolize my feelings for the person and my experiences that have led me to create the painting. I use multiple images, almost always containing one, if not more, actual photo of the subject, to create the reference for my final piece. These multiple images and layers reflect my feelings and all the gray area that I can never quite put my finger on, and portray my subjects in the most honest and open way that I know how to. I hope for the finished abstract quality of my work to draw in a larger audience and give my work a more universal quality, while the titles provide clues to the content and the very personal meaning behind it. My work is oil on canvas or linen and varies largely in size, depending on, and stemming from my subject. I focus mostly on abstracting from realistic elements I am familiar with, using Photoshop as a tool for formulating my ideas into new, conceptually layered images that will serve as the basic reference for my paintings.

How did you become an artist? Did you always dream of a life in the art-world?

I was assigned an art class in high school, and it turned out I was kind of good at it. I couldn’t see myself doing anything else with my life besides creating, so I went for it.

How has your education helped your career?

My education at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco severely improved my technical ability in painting and drawing. A couple of instructors there forced me to think about WHY I was creating what I was creating, and I think that’s been the most valuable lesson I’ve learned.

Do you work as an artist full-time? Describe your typical day. Do you have a routine?

I TRY to work as an artist full-time. But, I have a part-time job and I teach private painting lessons also.

Print Pieces by Rachel Gillen

What are the other influences on your work?

The main influences on my work are the people I’m surrounded by. My family, my close friends… How my relationships are with these people plays a big role in my work.

What was the last exhibition you visited?

A group show I was in called “A Small Glimpse” at the Redtree Gallery in Cincinnati, Ohio. It was a show of work that was smaller than 5x5x5.

What are your experiences of the ‘art-world’ and the business of art?

I’ve found so far that some galleries are professional, and some aren’t. Some know what they are doing and have good taste and some don’t have a clue. I’m also finding that the more conservative a place is, the harder it is to break into the “art world”.

Do you have any tips or advice you wish you had known earlier in your career?

Location DOES matter for success. I was told that it didn’t, but it does. It’s rough living somewhere that isn’t a big art city.

Do you have a quotation that you keep coming back to and that keep you going? Have you a motto that gets you through?

Kevin Moore once told me that “Knowing you have talent only makes you lazy. The truth is, you have to work twice as hard.”

Do you or would you use assistants to make your work?

No, and no.

Do you use social networks? if so, how and which ones do you find most useful?

I use Facebook, and I think I get some good feedback there. I should probably use social networking more, but the truth is, I just don’t make the time for it.

Which artist should we all look up immediately? What art magazines, blogs or sites should art lovers be looking at?

I recently discovered Juan Francisco Casas work. I find it absolutely amazing!

Thanks to Rachel for her time in answering these questions.

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