This month, Layla Pacha, got the chance to chat to Rachel Deacon, a professional painter. An alumna from Chelsea College of Art, Rachel has been exhibiting constantly in London since her graduation in 1991, and has seen her work sold worldwide. She recently completed her third show at the Catto Gallery since she debuted in 2012.
What’s your job title and how would you describe your role?
I am a painter, who paints large oils of women on canvas.
What is a typical day for you?
A typical day involves dropping the kids at school, walking my dog, Lincoln, and then I start work immediately in my studio. I usually work on three paintings at one time, so I can pick up from the following day. I work long, straight hours until I have to collect the children from school at 5pm.
What skills/qualifications/experience do you need to do your job?
You can study fine art and painting or you can be self-taught, meaning you just practice yourself. I did a National Diploma in General Art and Design and then a BA Hons in Illustration at Chelsea College of Art. When you finish your studies, the learning continues throughout your career, as long as you practice. I enjoyed the structure of art college and definitely benefited from the tuition and the inspiration of my peers.
How did you get to where you are at the moment?
When I finished college, I exhibited in open exhibitions and group shows. I then started hiring spaces for one day or a week to sell directly to the public. As my popularity grew, I contacted larger, more commercial galleries, and started selling through them. Eventually, the galleries started approaching me directly, to ask if they could sell my work.
What kind of person do you need to do to be successful in your industry?
To be successful in this field you need to have a passion for doing what you do, and not really consider it work. It is helpful to work part time when you start out so you can concentrate on your art. Practice is the other important thing, your work evolves and improves through daily work. It is also important to develop your own style. Work out what you enjoy making and what sells, and stick to your own path. It’s not a good idea to do a bit of everything you like.
Who is your creative inspiration and why?
I love all figurative painters that have a sense of narrative running through their work. My favourites are Paula Rego and Frida Khalo, although I love most modern painting.
What advice would you give a student looking to get work in your field?
If you are looking to work in this field, you have to be aware that usually, it takes years to get where you want to be. Friends I had at art college who studied graphic design or animation started making money years before I did. However, you have the freedom to do your own thing and be your own boss, and potentially have a career where your income will continue to rise right into your old age. This is one field where your age and experience is a positive thing, and your working life will be greatly fulfilling.
Check out some of her work below:
See more of her work on her website