Rachel Radford
In Rachel's art she paints intuitively. Rachel aims to capture


In Rachel’s art, she paints intuitively. Rachel aims to capture the mood the landscape is evoking, the essence that is so often missed in a photo. 

Can you share a brief overview of your creative journey, from when you first started pursuing your creative career to where you are now?

Since childhood I’ve always been in my happiest place when drawing and creating, and at school I also always showed strong skills in maths and technical areas. I went on to study Fine Arts at university, but in hindsight that particular school wasn’t a good match for what I wanted to explore, and I left feeling burnt out and therefore like I wasn’t a “proper artist”. When I discovered web design I felt like this was a match made just for me, as it blended my creative skills with technical areas in front-end coding, and I’ve been on this career path for paid work since the early 2000s. For the past 8 years I have been leading and managing design teams, and I thrive in this space of working with creatives. Despite neglecting my art practice while recovering from burn out, my art has never left me… I found that I need to prioritise a creative practice in parallel to my paid work to keep a healthy balance to my life and mental health. I have continued to draw and paint, and have developed my style and approach which is highly intuitive and gestural. In the past few years I have been consistently exhibiting and selling work, while always learning and exploring new techniques and approaches in ways to express myself.

What inspired you to become an artist, and how did you decide to pursue it as a career?

I can only describe it as part of my core. I feel like art chose me, rather than the other way around. My dad and my grandfather were both artists (who also had full-time work), so I was raised with the awareness that it is a viable and valuable pursuit. My dad encouraged me in my art while I was young by going to drawing sessions and classes together.

How do you balance your creative pursuits with the practical aspects of being an artist, such as marketing, networking, and financial management?

I find it easiest to do this through partner galleries. I am rather quiet online and marketing doesn’t come naturally to me, but can step up to it when need be. I intentionally decouple my art practice from the need to make money by also having other paid work. I find this frees me to draw and paint whatever I need to create.

What is the most rewarding aspect of being a creative person?

Being able to see something, such as an idea or emotion, come to life that I struggle to put words around. Seeing other people connect with my artwork at a meaningful level.

What keeps you motivated and passionate about your craft?

There’s always so much to learn. This craft is a lifelong pursuit. There are new techniques, and always things I am aiming to improve moving forward.

What advice would you give to young artists who are just starting out and considering a creative career?

It is powerful to decouple your creative career from the pressure of making money. By all means, if you can make money from your art without compromising your creative practice then go for it. However for a lot of creatives that puts a lot of unfair pressure on your art. You don’t have to be a poor suffering artist. This topic is covered in Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert – a book that I recommend to anyone in the creative field.

How important is it for artists to find their unique style or voice?

Your style or voice will eventually surface anyway, but (in my opinion) how important it is to be unique depends on what you’re trying to achieve. If you’re looking to be a commercially successful artist then uniqueness probably isn’t that important, as there’s a particular taste in the market that you may have to adapt to meet. However, if making money is a secondary concern for you then you will need to be authentic to your style, and chances are that will end up being unique. You will need to be aware of your style as part of growing and honing your craft, so pay attention to it as it develops.

Can you talk about the role of failure and perseverance in the life of an artist?

Failure is your friend, it is how you learn. It hurts at the time, but by processing it and taking time with it, you can gain learnings and grow. It’s also up to you how you define success and failure. Don’t accept other people’s definitions, set your own. I don’t think any artwork is ever a failure – you can always iterate on it and learn from it, paint over it, recycle it. Just give it time, don’t rush, and you will see a path forward.

How do you navigate the art industry and find opportunities to showcase your work or collaborate with others?

By approaching them, and not being phased if you get a no. By signing up for memberships and by driving my own things like exhibitions at community galleries. I’ve noticed that if you can get into a gallery when it first opens up then you’ve got a higher chance of being accepted. Once it’s established galleries seem to be full with their artists.

What are some common challenges artists face in terms of recognition and financial stability, and how can they be addressed?

By going along to exhibitions others are hosting. Engaging on social media. Memberships at art societies.

Are there any specific resources, workshops, or organisations you would recommend for young artists who want to further develop their skills and knowledge?

Cast your net wide – sign up for various classes or groups and go along to anything you can get your hands on. You will quickly find out what suits you or not.

How do you approach self-criticism and growth as an artist?

I write down my thoughts and aim to treat them objectively. It’s not always easy, but having a degree of separation it helps to be able to observe areas for growth and to be able to learn from failures.

What strategies do you use to continually improve your craft?

Stay curious and follow your nose. Leverage internet rabbit holes to go deep on a topic and learn. Form a trusted group that will give you honest feedback from a fresh perspective. Look to identify areas of improvement and growth – this is an area of constant improvement, so find out what your next step is. Watch Jiro Dreams of Sushi 🙂

Have you ever experienced creative blocks or periods of low inspiration? If so, how did you overcome them?

For sure. I give myself grace. I trust that my inspiration will return, and give things time. I show up anyway and use this time to learn techniques or theories. I bring out creative exercises to prime my brain to be ready for new inspiration – e.g. go for a walk and look for connections between seemingly random things.

Do you believe it’s necessary to have a degree in art to succeed?

No way. Art school does help you develop your thinking. Vocational schools help you develop technical skills. They’re good things. But they are not necessary.

Can you share any memorable experiences or achievements in your artistic career that have had a significant impact on your journey?

I once went on an art tour holiday, which was a trip to a Portuguese fishing village with tuition from a watercolour artist, and the majority of every day was covering a different aspect of drawing & watercolour painting. I hadn’t really explored watercolour before, and it was my first time in Portugal. We met the most wonderful eclectic bunch of people. After a few days of working with the artist, and sharing my story of burnout from art school, she looks through my sketchbook I’d been working in and said “Keep going. Fill this sketchbook. And when it’s full, fill another. Then another. You need to keep doing this.” Those words, and the insistent tone of voice she used, have stayed with me.

Rachel can be found at: www.maemay.co.nz