Rachel Paxton is an experienced American painter who often combines themes of mid-century aesthetics, Americana, kitsch, boomerangs and atomic motifs to create paintings that are brilliantly vivacious while maintaining a somewhat quirky and curious edge. We sat down with Rachel Paxton to talk about her current projects, inspiration, and the start of her artistic career.
When did you know you know you wanted to be an artist?
For as long as I can remember, I knew I wanted to be an artist. I remember being entranced by color while making smudgy drawings with my box of pastels at a very young age. The first time I saw the colors of the autumn leaves growing up in New England, I recall being profoundly inspired.
Can you talk about your artistic influences and other artists you are most inspired by?
An artist who has inspired me is Rex Ray. His mid-century styled abstract paintings have dynamic colors and are beautiful and sublime.
Another artist that I love is Tony Fitzpatrick. He makes quirky, playful mixed media paintings with vintage imagery.
Anselm Kiefer is another great artist that comes to mind. His textures and surfaces have a density and richness that is unparalleled. His work is dark and deals with the essence of life, war, death, and the cosmos. Although my work is very different and attempts to bring joy to life. I admire his truthfulness in depicting the pain of reality and his use of texture.
I’m continually inspired by mid-century design and style. I spend a lot of time on various Facebook groups dedicated to mid-century design where people share fun and interesting images of home decor, architecture, fashion, advertising, culture, and lifestyles from the era.
Do you prefer to work alone or to collaborate with others?
I work exclusively alone. Working on a painting never ceases to captivate me. If I feel lonely, I listen to an audiobook. That said, it would be great to have a studio assistant to help me with the marketing and social media stuff.
Can you tell us about a project you’re currently working on?
I’m excited about my newest series of large neon sign paintings titled “Dot Land”. I’m using a variety of different types of paint and different techniques on a base thick with texture and drips. Using some transparent paint and some opaque matte paint I’m trying to establish a relationship between the polka-dotted backgrounds and the vintage neon signs. I struggle because if I work too long on my neon sign paintings, I start to get pulled to do some abstracts.
Right now, I have a lot of ideas swimming around in my head for abstracts paintings I want to make. In the future, I think I will start to connect the two bodies of work with similar techniques and compositions. I see the abstracts turning more into landscapes and the neon signs turning more into abstracts.
What do you think you would be doing if you weren’t an artist?
I will always make art. I spent a lot of time when I was younger doing ceramics, sewing, and quilt making, which I might like to take up again. I’m working on a sculpture garden at my home comprised of rusty found objects and large pieces of granite. I’m hoping to finish it by incorporating mosaics into it. I hike almost every day.
But if you’re asking about another profession, rather than art or design, I guess I would say, I like to be a dog walker for a very kind person who lives someplace warm and beautiful!
Have you found any other artists on Singulart whose works you admire?
Bob Landstrom. I like his textured surfaces, color pallet, and quirky naive subjects. His work reminds me of Squeak Carnwath’s work and vintage gravel art.
What advice would you give to young artists starting out?
- Establish a few 3-5 hour time slots during each week to be in the studio and don’t let anything get in the way of that time. The most difficult thing for a young artist starting out is to carve out time to be in the studio working.
- Stay true to the quest to find your personal vision, but don’t isolate yourself from the contemporary art world. The galleries, museums, art openings, lectures, and events in your city are where you will find your community of fellow artists.
- Support your fellow artists by attending all the art openings and open studios. Most importantly learn the language of contemporary art, by reading art reviews and keeping abreast of trends in the art world so that you can speak intelligently to other artists, gallery owners, and critics.
- Keeping up with social media by promoting yourself is important, but don’t let it steal your time. Face to face interactions with the art world will pay off better.