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Life & Work with Rachael Nerney

Today we’d like to introduce you to Rachael Nerney. 

Hi Rachael, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstories with our readers?
I was born and raised north of Boston in a quiet town in New Hampshire. I am the quintessential born-with-a-paintbrush-in-hand story. I’ve always been creative and have been lucky enough to explore that creative passion from a young age. In 2009 I enrolled at the Savannah College of Art in Savannah, GA. That is when my love affair with the south began. I majored in Illustration where I practiced analog and digital techniques and learned the grey areas between fine and commercial art.

After college, I worked as an in-house store artist for Whole Foods Inc. where I expanded upon my graphic design skills, built 3D displays out of foam board, and created large-scale chalkboards and paintings for store decor. This is when I began painting food – what I am currently known for. I was painting fruits and vegetables on black chalkboards with paint markers, and it was so much fun. I loved how different the layers of colors looked up close and from afar. Looking back, I am most grateful that this position taught me project management when it comes to workflow as our to-do list never ended. It also taught me how to work with others as a creative in a non-creative environment which is pretty incredible.

As my chapter with Whole Foods Inc. closed, another started in Charleston, SC where I moved in 2017. It was then that I started working for Sarah Miller Gelber, owner of The Miller Gallery. My path has drastically shifted since she hired me as a sales associate. My role at the gallery has been very organic and has allowed me to learn in-depth the business side of running a fine art gallery while building intimate relationships with the artists we represent. As time has gone on, I have transitioned to become more of a part of the artist’s group within the gallery instead of their representative. It’s been serendipitous in all the best ways. Now I am focusing the majority of my time painting at my home studio, growing my artist business while still helping out at the gallery as needed. But most exciting of all, my artwork has expanded outside and I have installed 4 murals to date!

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
The first struggle for me was the financial risk I took leaving a full-time position for Whole Foods. I started working as a cashier at 15 and continued working my way up at my local grocery store for years. This was the only kind of work I really knew. 25-year-old Rachael was terrified to take the financial leap because I had always had a growing paycheck. Do I keep following the path I am supposed to, or do I dare take the path I want to? So needless to say, I did it. I took a job at minimum wage in an entirely new field to me, which was the art gallery world. Looking back, it was the most pivotal moment in building my most authentic life.

It has been a continuous struggle of sticking to that decision. My creative business has no paved path and only I can get myself further along to see what lies ahead. Over the past few years, I have gained discipline and accountability by saying yes to any opportunity that has interested me and followed through. This has meant missing out on many social opportunities and even enjoyment of holidays. I’ve realized that to me, these are the small sacrifices if it means my work is something I deeply love.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I am a Charleston-based multi-disciplinary artist who loves, admires, and captures the small details of life. My artwork is a source of joy for people, businesses, and communities through color, light, and texture. It reminds people to stop and acknowledge the smaller things, the simpler things, the most important things. I am known for my food-inspired original paintings and art prints. Food has been a consistent source of comfort and inspiration throughout my life.

My background in painting, graphic design, and sign making have all led me to what I am creating today. I specialize in custom paintings for individuals, designing artwork for products, and installing murals. What sets me apart is that I am deeply passionate about the process of creative work. My diverse background in digital and analog skills aid my ability to visualize an end result and break down the steps to physically make it come to fruition. I live by the idea that the journey and process is what we’re here for, not the finish line.

What I am most proud of is the mural work that I have created over this past year. Specifically, the 115 ft mural I created in Mt. Pleasant, SC that is my largest work to date. Painting murals has pushed me leaps and bounds out of my comfort zone and that is exactly what I’ve needed this year. I love seeing people interact with the mural as I create it. It’s such a small moment, but it makes it all worth it. I am eager to spark joy, connection, and curiosity through my mural work and look forward to future projects in Charleston and beyond.

What sort of changes are you expecting over the next 5-10 years?
As work from home is normalized, I think that both fine art and murals will continue to rise in popularity over the next 5-10 years. Our homes are becoming more and more sacred. Art is one of the most personal ways to make a space yours. Outside of our homes, I think that the world needs creative people more than ever. Through art, we have the ability to spread hope, build connection, and strengthen our communities.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Kate Blohm

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