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Conversations with Rachael Van Dyke

Today we’d like to introduce you to Rachael Van Dyke. 

Hi Rachael, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstories.
Growing up in a large Italian family where emotions and energy were high, I learned early on to create quickly, to work collaboratively, and to not become too attached to my work. My mother and father encouraged my six siblings and I to be active outdoors and creative indoors, requiring us at the end of the day to clean up and put away everything we worked on. Knowing that my artwork and exploratory creations would be gone by nightfall, I was very quick to design, problem-solve and create. I was supported as a young artist by my parents and my father often sought out artistic work for me to do for his colleagues. At the age of 14 I was making money as a graphic designer creating family reunion t-shirts, logos, and other graphics. Although I was passionate about musical theater, it was clear that my career path should be graphic design. However, after taking an elective class in ceramics, I was hooked on the spontaneity and mystery of the process. I changed majors and found my ceramic work taking on a clean graphic element. After graduation, my husband and I lived in the inner city of Grand Rapids, MI where I ran a free pottery class for neighborhood children. Through this, I realized how much I loved children and saw the power of teaching in affecting the lives of young people. I returned to college for my teacher certification and Master’s in Art Education. It was during this time that I was required to take my first painting class, and well, fell in love with it! For twelve years I enjoyed teaching art and design as well as continuing my pursuit as a fine artist. Over this time my abstract landscape work continued to evolve as I attended international and national residencies and explored a variety of mediums and subject matters. Currently, I paint full-time and am represented by a number of galleries within the US.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle-free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
I am grateful for the support I received from my parents, professors, husband, and gallerists along my artistic journey. It would be untrue to say there were no obstacles, however, they seem so small compared to some artists. Studio space, it seems, has been my greatest obstacle. My husband and I have moved multiple times over the years and currently live between two cities. Jumping back and forth can be frustrating but also stimulating to my work. Up until two years ago, I had no permanent studio space. After living off the grid in a tiny house for four years, it was clear I needed more studio space for large-scale paintings as well as storage. I didn’t realize the creative flow that could occur when space was no longer an issue. I also found the value of being able to leave all my materials out at the end of the day and walking in the next morning ready to begin. I am very thankful for my current studio, though small at only 140 square feet, it provides natural light, easy accessibility, and a focused workplace for me as a full-time artist.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I am an avid traveler as an artist-in-residence and have participated in national and international residencies. These residencies, particularly ones abroad, create boundaries that force me to continually alter my visual language and techniques. Most of these obstacles are related to traveling abroad; adjusting to new studio space constraints, change of temperature, lack or loss of art materials, poor foreign language skills, and shipping limitations. These boundaries also create stimulation for me as an artist as I am forced to understand and come to terms with my creative limitations. Being open to a new color palette or a new visual language to express the land is necessary. I choose to explore the region through walking or bicycling, visiting museums and historic sites, and trying my hand at engaging with local residents. Each body of work is influenced by place and tells a story of the people and land that I have encountered. I love that I have the freedom to create new bodies of work. I am supported by my gallerists who continue to encourage my creative exploration of colors, subject matter, and materials. This spontaneous creation has allowed my artistic work to be playful and continually evolving which is vital in a healthy, life-long artistic practice.

Can you talk to us a bit about happiness and what makes you happy?
Helping and watching others reach their fullest potential in their God-given gifts makes me truly happy. This could also be said for myself, as well as for all creation when we participate and find freedom to express ourselves through our skills, passions, and gifts in whatever form that would be.

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Rachael Van Dyke

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