R is for Rumpus

R is for Rumpus

No, I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth. I have been wrapped up in illustrations and now scans as this book begins to resemble something I could show an agent. Or Child Services if they ever question my mental fitness and keeping skills.  

The great thing about finishing this book in the summer–when the kids are home– is that as I redid drawings and rhymes a few I have been surrounded by inspiration. I’ve chauffeured it, chastised and refereed it, and I have had the chance to write–and draw–exactly what I know best.This project started with a rhyme that was inspired by the ritual all parents undergo-the all nighter.

Two redos, 26 letters, and umpteen rhymes later this picture book for parents has evolved to include not only the adventures inspired by my kids but chaos they created with their cousins.

 My sister and brother-in-law are also appear, and it’s appropriate. My oldest son and their twins are about a year apart, so the four of us grown-ups have also been partners in crime in this venture called parenthood.

Three of the kids in this book are almost driving now, and even though none of us has been on the evening news for any giant parenting fiascoes, my intent was never (and will never be) to write a book on how to parent. My intent was to write a book about how to laugh while you parent because let’s face it, most days you end up facing an opportunity to laugh or cry, and one of those is definitely more fun.

Watercolor Adoption Event

Not exactly a fire sale (it’s way too warm that), I’m preparing for winter.  A winter show that is. And, as I start working on pieces for that, it’s clear that it’s time for a few pieces to find new homes.

This is a no-kill studio so no artwork is ever put to sleep, but these paintings would be much happier hanging on a wall than living in a drawer. If any items float your boat, shoot me an email at rachel@rachelbarlow.com.


You're It, 9" x 12", Matted Original, $60

You’re It, 9″ x 12″, Matted Original, $50

Crocuses, 8

Crocuses, 8″x10″, Original Watercolor, Matted, $30 SOLD

Spring Training, 9x12, Original watercolor, Matted, $50

Spring Training, 9×12, Original watercolor, Matted, $50 – SOLD

The Honor Box, 9x12 Watercolor Original, Matted, $50

The Honor Box, 9×12 Watercolor Original, Matted, $60

Leftovers, 9x12 Original Watercolor Matted, $50

Leftovers, 9×12 Original Watercolor Matted, $60

313 West, 9x12 Original Watercolor Matted and ready to frame, $60

313 West, 9×12 Original Watercolor Matted and ready to frame, $60

Michigan, 9x12 Original watercolor, Matted, $60

Michigan, 9×12 Original watercolor, Matted, $60

Storm on Lake Michigan, 9x12 Original Watercolor, Matted, $60

SOLD – Storm on Lake Michigan, 9×12 Original Watercolor, Matted, $60




Work, Play, Grow

I thought that after a month of playing in the garden as I got ready for the Open House at Bedlam Farm and Full Moon Fiber Arts and then played longer at a workshop on abstract Expressionism, getting back to the drawing board–to the “work” of illustrating my book would seem like, well, work.

Instead, this morning as I picked up a brush to color in one of the last letters, I felt renewed and excited, and it occurred to me that there is some value to playing in the garden at least a little bit every day. so I finished the letter and got out my easel and a package of oil paints that I bought years ago but had never used and began to play. 

I painted the same little green apples and filberts I always paint when I’m trying a new medium knowing it didn’t matter if the painting stunk. Today’s stroll in the garden wasn’t about turning my studio into a painting factory. It was about making it a place to keep growing.

Speak Up

Lake Michigan

The weekend of art at our Landscape into Abstraction class ended with the group going from table to table to view and discuss each other’s work.

At the beginning of the weekend, that discussion would have turned my stomach.  Most of the participants were former art students, and for the first half of the first day, I worried I didn’t really belong in the class.  By the time we began discussing each other’s work, I knew everyone belongs in that class — or at least one like it.

The weekend began with a brief look at abstraction, it’s history, and the places it has taken artists from van Gogh to Rothko.  Then our instructor, painter Marianne Mitchell, then talked a little about her own creative journey through different media and techniques, culminating with a demonstration of her own method.

After a few timed drawing exercises, we went to our tables to experiment with her technique and medium (oil pastels).  I had no idea what I was doing and, after trying a few pieces with the oil pastels and abstract expressionism, tried to implement ‘reckless abandon’ in my usual medium of watercolor.  At first I worried that by introducing landscape elements such as a horizon line, I was doing something I wasn’t supposed to do. I worried what all writers and artist worried – that it wasn’t good, that I should be doing something differently.

Then our teacher, in the tradition of the best creative mentors said something that everyone should hear.  “Be kind to your (creative) self,” she said.  Then she continued, “There is no supposed-to.”  And the phrase was banned for the weekend.  The rest of the weekend we explored techniques and talked about infusing principles of composition with our voice, beginning each piece with what our instructor called ‘Reckless Abandon.’

And that’s when I realized what the class was about.

At first I thought of Reckless Abandon as Reckless Joy, but it isn’t. It’s actually digging deep into your soul and finding that voice you might not ordinarily share.  It’s about just getting it out.  The next phases of the work were about shaping that voice, making it more than noise to really make it heard.

It’s something I’ve been discovering in my writing through my blog over the last few years.  But, even though I’ve reconnected to art in a very meaningful way, I’ve still felt like I wasn’t sure who I was as an artist.  It was in the timed drawing and painting exercises that eliminated planning and judgement that I realized I’m still searching for my visual voice.

That the class was as much about voice as technique came through during our final group discussion.  I noticed that each person’s reckless abandon looked completely different from the rest, and that was exactly as it was supposed to be(that was the only ‘supposed-to’ I let myself say after Saturday afternoon).

There’s this idea in our society that one needs to be a professional to engage in and share one’s creativity, whether it’s a painting or photography or music.  But when anyone, professional painters or plumbers, first chair violinists or kids plucking out a first tune on a keyboard  share their art or contribute to a community play, they are giving the gift of their authentic selves — their voice.  They are connecting us to them and themselves to us in a world that badly needs connection.

It was that gift each of us was giving the other on Sunday.

Dropping Out and Tuning In

Coming Storm

I feel like I’ve been falling all day, on the verge of tears every time I think about Dallas or Minnesota or Baton Rouge Orlando. Nothing seems to be able to drive them completely from my thoughts, and I’m not sure if I want them gone. I don’t want to forget the victims. I do not want to withdraw from the community of other people who want to make the world more peaceful, but this morning all I felt was helpless sorrow.

About 9:30, I turned off my cell phone, disconnected from the world, and went into an art class. The class was Abstract Painting for realist landscape artists. It’s the first I’ve taken since high school, but I felt subdued as I walked in. I needed to switch gears.

As we talked about theory and technique, I felt something coming back to life inside. We went outside for a few semi-guided drawing exercises, and the power of creating began to pull me up, feeding the need to reconnect as well as the idea that positive change is still possible. 

Our last exercise incorporated contour drawing and a few moments of letting go to draw what we were feeling. When I looked down I realized I had drawn anger.  

I knew the anger would remain for some time, but that was okay so long as it only informed and did not halt the reconnecting and contributing to life.