We had the good fortune of connecting with Rachel Brooks and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Rachel, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
The key for me is presence, remaining present in whatever state I am in whether it be in work or in life. When you love what you do, your work IS your life in so many ways and it seeps through into every thought and moment of your day.

I am built up of two very contrasting identities right now. One is of a woman who is lucky enough to be passionate about her job. That woman gets so caught up in a deadline or flow state that she has a hard time stopping for anything, including her personal life and physical well-being. When I get immersed in a project or piece it is hard to drag myself away to sleep, eat, workout, or socialize. But then there is also this equally important identity which is a single mother to a four-year-old daughter. That woman understands the value of being present both physically and mentally for her child and that these early years are a precious commodity.

My daily life is a balance between these opposing identities. Before my daughter, I would work so hard I would burn out, then I’d vacation to rest and come back home just to do it all over again. It was a productive but unhealthy cycle. After becoming a mother, one of the many blessings was that there was someone else involved that had emotional and physical needs that couldn’t be ignored.

So nowadays, as my own boss, I make rules and set boundaries for myself. For example, no cell phone or working during dinner time or breakfast with her. When it’s possible I build my workdays with a 3-hour gap in the afternoon when she gets out of school to connect with her before I put her to bed. Of course, this means that I make other sacrifices like I typically dive back into work for a few hours before I go to sleep myself rather than relaxing on the couch.

Being self-employed is really a full time, around the clock 24/7 job if you let it be so I fight that taking over my life and relationships by making sure that in the time I do allocate for myself and my loved ones (no matter how little or how much), I am really present not just physically but mentally as well. That way there is always quality, even when my quantity balance is off.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I’m a visual artist and muralist working mainly in acrylic on canvas and wood panel painting. Working on canvas and working on walls are completely different beasts and I approach my work as such. My mural work tends to be colorful, bold, and graphic in nature, utilizing clean lines, negative space, text, and large blocks of color. My fine artwork, in contrast, tends to be more muted in tone with much more of a focus on editing down to the most essential information about a subject.

I have always said that I’m a minimalist by heart but a maximalist by nature. My art reflects that. I’m inspired by the opulence of our environments, both natural and constructed and I’ve always been intoxicated by the human form. Each of my pieces demonstrates my attempt to balance my conflicting identities. So much of my work explores various gender roles and social constructs most often as they pertain to women.

My journey here hasn’t been easy. My art practice was my side gig for years while I worked full time at galleries, as a Creative Director for various fashion companies among other random gigs to make ends meet. The moment I felt confident transitioning to a full-time fine art career was a complete leap of faith. The pandemic had just started, I didn’t have childcare and I was freelancing from home with my toddler daughter at my side. I told myself that if I was going to struggle during this time either way, I might as well be fighting for something I really loved. I might as well fight for my dream. So I left all the other jobs and gave myself 1 year to get my art career off the ground. It hasn’t been easy, it ebbs and flows but taking that leap is one of my proudest moments.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I once took a 14 day river rafting camping trip through the Grand Canyon on the Colorado River. On that trip, I met a woman named Toba Tucker. At the time, she was in her seventies and we became friends throughout our two weeks camping next to each other as the only solo female travelers on the trip. Every evening we would help set up camp together. Eventually, I learned she was a wonderfully talented and successful fine arts photographer. Our fireside conversations that week shifted the course of my life and my career forever. She was the one that showed me that in order to be an artist, I had to simply go create art. That there was no better time, and no perfect time to do it. Meeting Toba, her friendship, and taking in her fascinating life story forever changed the course of my life and is the reason I took the leap to work as a full-time visual artist.

Website: www.rachelbrooksartist.com

Instagram: instagram.com/rachelbrooks.artist

Image Credits
Photographer: Tiffany Burke

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