Rachelle Panagarry has been making art for as long as she can remember. She would sit and doodle in her bedroom for many happy hours when she was a young girl. She loved to make and draw and just create anything. Through school she was always artistic and went on to study Art and Design at college at age 16. Through this "general" art course she discovered the joys of print, paint, sculpture and figure-drawing amongst many other media. She eventually chose a degree in Fashion Design. During the first year of her course she discovered that she was expecting her son so she took a break from her courses to concentrate on being a Mum and raising her son. Her art went on the back burner for the next eight years. It was eight years after having her son that she decided to take on another degree, this time in teaching. This led to a degree in Printmaking with Qualified Teacher Status. She has been teaching for the past 10 years. It was only recently that she has again rediscovered her PASSION for art and just being generally creative and although this has come about through illness, it is a POSITIVE and HAPPY experience.
Welcome Rachelle....I am so happy to have you here to start back up my Friday Feature Artist interviews after taking a week off with my illness. I actually found your blog a while ago and I was pulled in by your art AND your story about dealing with illness through art. I really like to highlight the healing properties of art so let's get started with your interview....
On your blog you mention that you put art on the back burner for 8 years when your son was born, what got you back into art?
It was only really in the last twelve months that I have revisited my art. It was when I became ill with complications from my pacemaker and had to take the time off from work, that it gave me the time to do something. I felt that it was time to do something for myself, to get back in touch with ‘me’, or at least the artist in me. Although it came about through illness, it really was a blessing.
How did you balance doing art and raising children?
This one can be tough at times, I have four children, two teenage step-children, a teenager of my own and a three year old. Now the teenagers have pretty much flown the nest apart from visits in the holidays, it’s just my Little Miss at home now. Fortunately, she LOVES to get creative too. I found that by setting her a little work area next to me, she would sit happily sticking and painting with me. I got her a set of brushes and paints and a journal and she plays along. In a way she has been inspiring, just to watch how she approaches making art without too much thought or worry. I also try to take an ‘art date’ every now and then at the local art gallery, we try and make it into a fun outing for her and at the same time, I get to see the art.
Back in 2000, I was fitted with a pacemaker, totally out of the blue and it was a real shock as I’m sure you can imagine. At the time, I was in the final year of a four year Art/Teaching degree, which sadly I had to take a year out of for the surgery etc. The following year, I got to return to the course and complete the year. It was in this year that I had to design a show for my final assessment. For a while I struggled with what to do but eventually my tutor said that I should try and make it personal to me if I wanted to get the most from it. So that is what I did, my whole degree show and was based on my shock at having the pacemaker. I would say the thing that helped me the most was the journal or sketchbook as we called it. It was here that I poured out my feelings onto the pages in drawings and writing, I was able to free myself of all the stress that I had obviously been carrying for twelve months. It even made some of my tutors break down in tears when they read it. I still say to this day that it healed me.
It was because of this experience ten years ago that I took out my art journal again this time. Art has been my sanctuary really, it’s been somewhere I escaped to, even whilst in the hospital (yes, I did take my paints and journal!).
What other artists have influenced your art and why?
The artist that got me back to thinking that I could maybe do something with my art was Suzi Blu. It was actually one of her YouTube videos about believing in yourself that really fired me up.
Besides Suzi, I really love classical artists like Picasso, Modigliani and Hans Holbien, I put this down to having a very inspirational History of Art teacher in college.I am also inspired very much by traditional African and Indian art and textiles, I joust love the use of color and how they represent the human figure.
I usually start by putting on some music, then I settle down and start. I don’t have a studio yet, I work from our dining table (much to the amusement of my husband). I always start with a background, usually collage made from scraps and leftover bits of paper. Then I work on top of that. I don’t often start with an idea, I just like to ‘go with the flow’ and see what happens. I like to use acrylic and water-color paints, stamps, brayers, anything really. Experimental is my thing and if it doesn’t work, then I paint over it and start again.
Sometimes I do get blocked, when this happens I like to flick through some art books or magazines, or I do something completely different like go for a walk. I find it’s better not to worry about it and just wait until it’s ready to happen again. I find a little doodling helps too.
You are my first "international" Friday Feature Artist!! Do you notice any differences between the art and art blogs between the United Kingdom and the United States?
It’s funny that you should say that, but yes I do. I think the US blogs tend to lead the way with new art techniques, and fun ideas. I put this down to the fact that in the UK there aren’t so many places for art retreats, or art workshops and a lot of our art supplies tend to come from America too. I think the UK bloggers do have a great style though, very unique and usually with very traditional crafts and art. There is a real trend in the UK right now for handmade and crafting in particular, we have even had some tv shows on it – now that’s progress!
Where do you see yourself in 5 years and how will you get yourself there??
In five years time I want to be settled in my new career of being a full-time artist ( I currently work full-time as a school teacher)possibly teaching in workshops in the US. I would like to be making some art every day in my home studio. I’d like to have had a gallery show and be planning for another, and to be selling my art in my Etsy shop and on my blog. I’d love to be published in Somerset Studio (something I’m working on right now) and to be a licensed artist.
How will I get there? Well, I think it has already started, my blog has been a great link with like-minded souls around the world and the feedback has been very positive. I was lucky enough to be published in Suzi Blu’s book just recently. ( a total dream come true) But to really ‘get there’ I’m committing to making art every other day at least, I’m going to continue blogging (even when I have to go back to school) and sharing my art, and most importantly (along with the hard work) I’m going to really BELIEVE that it will all happen.
What do you know to be true?
That I am an artist, it is who I am.
Thank you so much Rachelle for taking the time to answer my questions. I could really relate to your story about how art healed you when you were going through your illness. I know it has been essential to my healing process and I think there are many others out there (possibly reading right now) who feel the same way.
To learn more about Rachelle and see more of her vibrant art work please visit her blog and website:
I'm off to a Mindfulness workshop today...very excited...stay tuned for a blog post about my experience. Have a wonderful weekend everyone!!!