Artists! This month I am pleased to bring you an interview with a working artist- Racquel Keller. Racquel and I sat down for a lovely outdoor lunch as we discussed her creative career, and how she discovered herself as a creative artist:
Interview with a Working Artist:
Cindy: Thank you for joining me this month in the Artist Spotlight, Racquel! Please tell us what you currently do creatively?
Racquel: Mixed media and assemblage. Mixed media predominately enjoying assembling and disassembling pre-Rafaelites- a secret society of young male artists founded in London in the early 1800s- I am transforming male gaze stereotypes from the late 1800s to a modern female gaze. It is an overall exploration of my artistic voice and style.
Cindy: Wow! I hadn’t heard of pre-Rafaelites before. This is really cool (looks at some of Racquel’s current pieces- don’t worry! I will share where you can see her work at the end!) Racquel your work is amazing and exciting. What else can you share with us about yourself? Any quirks or tidbits that will help us understand who your are?
Recognizing the Creative Artist Inside
Racquel: I live in a farmette in the DMV. My studio is in a little red barn- I purchased the house for the barn! I like to hike- there are beautiful walking trails I enjoy with my dog close to my home- I am very inspired by nature. A benefit for me of the pandemic was being home more- I fell back in love with my studio and the natural landscape. Oh- and something unusual that is very “me”? I once jumped out of plane because I was afraid of riding rollercoasters. Really! I was afraid of heights so I thought I would just skip to the solution and face my fear head on- what better way than sky diving?!
Cindy: (laughs) Wow, Racquel! That does sound like you! What causes more growth than moving through fears?! Epic. I love the visual of your studio in a little red barn. What an inspiring space! When did you first realize that you had a creative mind and saw that world in a special way?
Creative Personality Traits on Display
Racquel: I have been drawing since I was very young- I became conscious that I didn’t quite think like everyone else around age 11 or 12. I remember at that age during a move finding beauty in a broken faucet- I was always an acclimator and finding beauty all around - I didn’t know this wasn’t the usual way to see the world.
Cindy: This is such a typical creative brain way to see the world. I like the way you said “acclimator”- I also say “intuitive” often- so in touch with your senses and feelings. That’s lovely. What was one of the first creative projects you can remember doing?
Racquel: It was in Kindergarten. Putting my hand in plaster for a handprint project- I remember thinking “this is amazing!” I remember other art projects around that age like painting a heart shaped rock for my Dad for Father’s day- this is when I discovered paint mixing- and that if you mix all the paints together you get gray (laughs) I used all the colors and ended with the natural color of my rock!
Cindy: One of the most amazing things about children! They aren’t afraid to explore and play. It is something we would do well to go back to as creative adults! Tell us something about how you grew up that shaped you in a creative way?
Racquel: Moving around a lot. Creativity and art were my one constant. They kept me even-keeled. They helped me lift myself out of day-to-day and forget about everything for just a little while.
Creative Minds are the Way we Live
Cindy: You were so resilient! Even as a kid, somewhere you knew that being creative was authentic- and by doing that you were coming home to yourself. I love it. These are the things, looking back to our childhood stories, that tell us we have the imperative to create! Creative people are highly intelligent- and that can present itself diversely in the educational system. Tell us about your experience in school?
Racquel: I learned very early on that everything has a system and if you can learn the system you can make it serve you . Answering- "what does this teacher want?”- can serve you well in school. I was also outspoken when a question wasn’t relevant or thought-out. I remember I used a college textbook in high school and realized teachers don’t know everything! Pretty early on I had no problem correcting teachers when they were wrong.
Cindy: There is that creative brain showing up again! Adaptation and intuition- learning the system and implementing it when it serves- not being afraid to reject it when it doesn’t- THAT is the groundwork for innovation. I would love to see more knowledge and nurturing of creative kiddos doing this in the school system. Good for you! What did you want to do professionally? Is that what you ended up doing? What paths have your creative opportunities taken?
Daring to Live Authentically
Racquel: I always wanted to be an artist but I did work in a law firm for 15 years. I realized at a certain point that this was not what I was supposed to be doing and started working with a life coach to transition into working as a full time professional artist. The most important thing I learned was to ask for help. Money was a fear but not as much of an obstacle. You can always go back to a skillset. I have been continually reinventing myself. If you remember you can do that it releases a lot of fear. It is important to remember you are your own most valuable resource.
Cindy: Facts and wisdom, Racquel! So true. I love this. That inner knowledge and follow through is gorgeous. I get a lot of clients showing up because they are at the precipice of this. This is a hard move! I love that you are an artist who took it, survived, and is telling the tale! Amazing. What have been some of your biggest creative fears?
Racquel: (laughs) That I will die with a garage full of art! It keeps me moving forward!
Artists Dealing with Criticism
Cindy: Yes! That is such a motivating fear! It is so forward! And I love that. What was your biggest creative failure?
Racquel: I don’t see things as failures so much as redirections. I have a file that says not “rejected,” but “not yet” for applications that didn’t go through. It has been a small but powerful shift for me to go from “why in the world would they pick me?” to “why in the world wouldn’t they pick me!?” When I am rejected from residencies and stuff, my heart of hearts says “I’m coming for you!”- my success is coming for you!
Cindy: I love this so much. Failures are just redirections- fate, life, or whatever showing you the path that serves! I am relabeling my files, stat. Internal validation is so crucial. Tell us about your first creative success and/or proudest moments
Success in Art
Racquel: I think it is my show at Montgomery College! It was a beautiful experience. It was a realization of a direction that was very satisfying artistically. I made good artistic connections, and it was wonderful to be able to share my interpretation of the theme. I was surprised by my elegance- it gave me a different perspective on my own work and myself. It showed me what I was capable of.
Cindy: Shows are so great for that! The push, the connections, to step back and see yourself in a new way. I saw that show, Racquel, and it WAS all of those things! A great achievement. What are your creative plans for the next year?
Racquel: I have a residency coming up in France at the end of this year, and another in the Bahamas in July in 2022. Overall I want to focus on making my own work, and streamlining the process. I will be spending August in residence in my own studio to help solidify plans for next year. I need to take a break from teaching and giving in art to make plans for myself- making and getting more of my art out into the world.
Cindy: (wistful sigh) Residencies! Congratulations on these, Racquel! I can’t wait to hear more about them during and after! That is good wisdom to balance art outward (teaching) and inward (your own work). Now that you have accomplished so much, what is something you wish you knew, or looking back would tell a younger version of yourself?
Advice for Artists
Racquel: Whatever job you take is going to have difficulties, so you may as well do what you want to do. Put yourself in a place with other creatives. Leaving the law firm and working at the Phillips collection to be with like-minded people was one of the best decisions I made in my art career. Above all, stay focused and consistent. It will pay off!
Cindy: Wise words. It seems like younger you did hear and heed those, somehow! What does it mean to you, to be creative?
Racquel: It’s just life! Accepting yourself and who you are! It might be a little quirky or a little weird- but gosh would I want to be otherwise?! I guess overall I would say- it is settling into yourself.
Cindy: (hands in the air) Yes! Yes. 100% agree. Nature gives you a gift with things on board for your creativity. Know it. Accept it. Live it. Settle into yourself. Love this. If we want to follow your work, how can we see what you are up to and stay connected?
How to Follow this Artist
Racquel: The best way is on Instagram @racquelkellerart. I have a group for other artists- so if you are interested you can join this creative community on Facebook @purefirecreatives. I also interview the artists in the community and have a podcast on Spotify and Apple podcasts called Pure Fire Creatives.
Cindy: Racquel thank you so much for your time today. You are an inspiration to us and such a strength and support and talent in the arts community. We will be following your art career on social media- and everyone- buy her stuff! She is so talented!
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is a Creativity Coach, Creativity Counselor and Professional Artist in Sykesville, Maryland. She provides Online Creativity Counseling in Maryland and Virginia, and Online Creativity Coaching throughout the USA, Canada and the UK.
The information provided in this blog is from my own clinical experiences and training. It is intended to supplement your clinical care. Never make major life changes before consulting with your treatment team. If you are unsure of your safety or wellbeing, do not hesitate to get help immediately.