“Colour and Beauty”: A Peek Into the World of Durham Artist Rachel Campbell

Rachel Campbell lives just down the road from our Raleigh office in Durham, where she spends her days painting in her shared studio downtown alongside her furry friend Monty. Originally from New Zealand, Rachel’s spent time in the UK, Canada, and Germany, learning and perfecting her craft.


Just like her work, Rachel’s studio is bursting with color and it’s easy to see why her creations are getting recognized all over the world. Find out her advice for budding artists, what she defines as “love paintings,” and the surprising way she stays inspired.


In the Studio With Rachel Campbell


Surround Yourself: Some of your most popular pieces are paintings the everyday—things people might pass by or overlook. Why do you think those pieces resonate with viewers?

Rachel Campbell: I think there is often a sense of humor lurking in the everyday, and people often bring their own story to a painting. In taking the time to paint about things we see and pass without a second look, a painting draws attention and may alter the way we view objects or places. That can sometimes be refreshing.

Unique Unified Apartment


SY: Tell us a little bit about the art scene in Durham. How is it different than what you experienced in other places you’ve lived as an artist?


RC: Durham is a lot smaller than most places I have lived, and that has some great benefits. Artists tend to know each other and are more aware of what each other is doing. In that, there can be a lot more support and possibilities.


Durham has been changing rapidly in the world of art, its almost hard to keep up now with all that is going on. When I first came that did not ‘seem’ to be that case. As the area has become more creatively vibrant, I feel like its opening the community up as whole to value art more in their world.


Exterior of Rachel’s Shared Studio Space


SY: What advice would you give to someone just starting out in the art world?


RC: Work hard and practice your craft as much as you can. Look for opportunities to become engaged. Don’t wait for the ‘right moment’ to feel ready to show people your work, because mostly that never really comes. You just have to be brave and get out there with your work and see what comes of it. There aren’t any shortcuts, though we all look for them!

In the Studio With Rachel Campbell


SY: Your home is incredibly playful and unique. How would you describe your style at home?


RC: I really have no idea how I would describe my style, much as I don’t really know how to describe my painting style when asked. I think it’s just a reflection of my overly-full and jumbled mind overflowing into my space! I am a person who values fun, colour, and beauty a lot, so maybe that is reflected in the things I gather around me. I don’t really give my home decorating a lot of thought…I’m sure I should!


Home Away From Home


SY: Your collection on Great BIG Canvas includes scenes from your home. How do your surroundings inspire your artwork?


RC: I call them my ‘love paintings’ after a David Hockney quote about his series of dog paintings. Someone criticized them as unimportant, and he responded by saying they are paintings about love. That led me to thinking about the value of celebrating our homes and our animals in a way that’s genuine. Reflecting the comfort and beauty of our surroundings is important.

SY: Tell us about your family—has your creativity rubbed off on them or vice versa?

RC: I have two adult children. I asked my daughter about this question as I was curious what she might say. Neither has chosen a pure art field, though both use a lot of creativity and design in their work.

My daughter said being creative and ‘can do’ about using her creative skills in all kinds of ways, from work to home decorating or creating a piece for a friend, its just in her DNA. She grew up with constant art around her and doing it, so you don’t really have to think hard about being creative, it’s just something you know. So I guess that’s what I have passed along—a ‘can do’ attitude.

My son is in Urban Planning and uses a lot of his creative talents in model making and design. And finally, my husband would add when you live with an artist, there’s always paint on the dog.


In the Studio With Rachel Campbell


SY: What’s been your proudest moment as an artist?

RC: Oh, that’s a tough one. There are many moments of different types of pride. Winning a few awards is always a crowd pleaser, but also when I used to teach my kids’ classes and having them so delighted with what they produce and loving the class so much, that is very rewarding. And very occasionally there’s just that personal pride in a work that came together so well and you just feel inwardly thrilled about. No one else would even know!

So I’m not sure how to answer a question about pride exactly, more ‘rewarding’ is my comfort zone. For instance it was enormously rewarding recently when I was given an award, but then the juror spoke about my work for quite a time and ‘read’ so articulately what I had been trying to do in the piece. That was a real high point!


Plot 6


SY: If you could work on a dream project, what would it be?

RC: A huge exhibit of enormous paintings about people and places that we over look in our society as not important or of value. To be supported and sustained in that work, this would be my dream project!

SY: Other than creating incredible art, what else do you enjoy doing outside the studio?

RC: I love to cook and entertain, watch a HUGE amount of movies, I’m an avid runner, and pilates/yoga junkie. I have managed to travel a lot, which I love, especially visiting family back in New Zealand. Laugh. Be with people who make me laugh. Make people laugh…I sound superficial! Haha.

SY: What’s the biggest challenge you face when starting a new piece? 

RC: Confidence it will work out. Then not rushing the process.


In the Studio With Rachel Campbell


SY: How do you handle those days where you don’t feel inspired or creative?

RC: I really think of painting as my job, so I don’t entertain the idea of not feeling creative..more that I might feel a bit ‘used up’, creatively drained. So then I will use my time to do other business related work on the computer.


And going to see other work, visiting another town or gallery is always inspiring and gets me totally back into the place where I can’t wait to be back in the studio.


Thanks, Rachel! Visit Rachel’s site and shop her entire collection on Great BIG Canvas.