Wave Runner, Watercolor 12x16, Matted to 16x20
Wave Runner, Watercolor 12×16, Matted to 16×20

A few weeks ago an aunt who had been a huge influence in my creative life passed away. Her encouragement was felt even when we didn’t see each other for years.  She and her sister were (and are) not willing to listen to their nieces and daughters downgrade their work or trash their talent, and her words of encouragement are with me every time I pick up a brush.

I found an old black and white picture of her running on the beach where our family has spent the last 80+ summers.  She was so full of joy she looked like she could fly.  Officially I’ve heard that people can’t fly, but my theory is that, instead of keeping the secret of flying all to herself, she shared her joy of life with everyone in her life else so they could soar.

I’m just figuring that out now, and it’s helping me get closer to the secret of flying, of joy and the sharing of it..

$80 Matted Ready to Frame. To purchase the Original, contact me at rachel@rachelbarlow.

Card and Prints of this painting are available here.

Well-behaved Women

Somewhere along the way I picked up an ancient doctrine that well-behaved women don’t brag about their work. 

I’ve seen it play out in various ways my own family–there’s a long-held tradition of apologizing for our cooking before we serve any meal, and I know I do it with my work before sharing it. I will mentally tear it down, quelling any satisfaction with the results that may lead to arrogance or delusion.

There seems to be this fear that being proud of something you’ve done makes you boastful, and by extension, unladylike.

 I don’t know why I still observe this one custom– aside from birthing and breast-feeding two kids I haven’t clung to too many other “lady like” customs. I don’t own a dress that fits, I haul firewood, and I work a full day for a full paycheck.

So tonight, instead of trying to figure out tradition, I just broke with it.

I have a show starting at EquinoxVillage gallery in Manchester, Vermont on Thursday, and the big guy and I have spent the better part of the last two hours matting and framing my efforts for the last few months. The big guy has gone to bed–he has to get up earlier than I do. So I took a little break to lean the fruits of our labor is against the wall of my studio, and, for the first time in my life, I let myself feel proud of the work I’ve done for the last few weeks.

It’s not very lady-like, but is the old saying goes, well behaved women seldom make history, and I’m not sure if they make much art either.

The exhibit opening is at 49 Maple St. in Manchester Vermont and is scheduled for Thursday at 5:30 PM, is a free event and will include music and refreshments. my work will be showing there from the 18th of this month until 17 March.

Happy Accidenting

The thing I love about watercolor is that paper is relatively cheap. that means you can kiss a lot of frogs is in the hope of getting a handsome print. This one is more of a tadpole, but it wasn’t a wasted effort. It’ll be chopped into bookmarks but not before that serves as a study for a much bigger piece it has now inspired.

Postcard from Pompanuck


Saturday & Sunday I went over the mountain to help with and participate in a blog workshop at Pompanuck Farm in Cambridge, NY.

Sunday I got there early to have a little time to paint, but I had been up till 5 in the morning nursing Thing2 through a fever, and I kept nodding off as I sat in the sun-warmed car.  The other members got there just as I was adding the first green wash for the lawn.

I went in thinking I would paint and listen – I always think it helps me concentrate. Instead I had to work to keep focused on the painting, as each member of the group voiced their reasons for wanting a blog, recognized that those reasons were partly about wanting to stand in their truth.

I felt like I found mine over the summer when I took just a travel sketchbook and a pen on vacation. We went to the Palouse in Washington state, and the rhythm of the wind bending the yet-unharvested wheat fields was hypnotic, spurring meditations and frenzied drawing sessions. Drawing, and later painting, was an act that pulled me closer to my truth – that the only work that would ultimately fulfill me is creative work.

It was a truth I began to sense and acknowledge with my decision to illustrate my first blog ‘Picking My Battles’. What began as a spur-of-the-moment strategy to cut the cost of royalty-free photos and the kids’ sleep schedules evolved into a reawakening of an artistic drive I had tried to smother for years.

The revival led to doodles and sketches, scribbles and watercolor cartoons.  The blog became a cartoon, Picking My Battles (it’s have a little vacation as I reorganize my schedule around school and projects) and added another (HOGA), and I began feeling like I was on a multi-line tightrope between painting and cartooning and writing.

Diving into drawing with abandon, I found my truth and something that I had only felt a few times – pure joy.  Interesting that the joy and truth are so closely linked.  Embracing my truth – feeding a need to draw and paint – saw words  re-emerge, supporting the blog’s art the way  art had once played a supporting role for the words.

Joy also let me see the silly situations that had made blogging so fun in the first place, and a few weeks ago I took a flying leap and embarked on an Alphabet book for parents.  As we talked about blogging and truth over the weekend workshop, I realized that each new post and page of my book is proof that there’s room for more than one truth in a life.

My new blog (My Sketchy Life) – with the serious painting and the silly cartoons isn’t a tight rope I walk between two sides of my creative life I need to choose between. It’s a collage of my life and, like my life, it’s a more than a little sketchy.

I went home thinking there’s nothing like a good workshop in a sunny farmhouse living room to open your eyes to the world right in front of you. Wish you’d all been here.

Leave the Cape, Pack the Pretzels

I saw the homework folder neatly tucked in the backpack and decided it was safe to zip the big pocket. The sound of merging metal teeth brought seven-year-old Thing2 flying out of his room and into the living room.

“Wait!” he shrieked. “I left something in there!”

“What is it?” I ducked, trying to avoid his flapping arms.

“It’s going to snow today!” Thing2 unzipped the big pocket an pulled out his red satin cape.

“You’re not taking that?” I scratched my head, not even remembering seeing it a few minutes earlier.

“No.” Thing2 now unfurled the cape on the couch and then extracted his army green third-hand snow pants from the same pocket.

“Of course I don’t need it now.” Realizing I still have a lot to learn about the fashion rituals of the average rainbow-wigged superhero in the country, I popped the lunchbox into the front pocket and zipped entire the pack closed again.

“Well then,” I said, “leave the cape, but pack the cannoli.”


“The pretzels,” I said, “pack the pretzels.”

“Obviously I was taking the pretzels,” he said trotting out his favorite new adult buzzword and demonstrating once again that I have am achieving true wisdom because when it come to the inner working of my youngest child’s mind, I know nothing.


Snowshoes and Sociability

Snow Shoe Blog

A few mornings ago my running path was buried under 18″ of new powder, so I broke out the snowshoes I keep in my trunk during winter. I headed to the park, equipped – as usual – with my ID (in case there’s a rash of muggings in rural Vermont) and my phone.

Running days I use the phone for music and tracking time and distance. Today, however, I’d left my earbuds at home, taking the phone with the sole intention of taking pictures, should the mood hit me.

And it did hit me.

As I trudged from the car across the snowy golf course, the sound of traffic diminshed, and only the roar of the nearby Battenkill serenaded my walk. My legs were soon on fire, but the exhaution became like a drug. I giggled and pushed on, and before I knew it, I’d stomped the word “peace” in the snow in letters big enough to be seen from a plane.

It was the most creative thing I’d done in a week. It was also, with the exception of the daily “don’t-forget-your-lunch” and “how-was your-day-honey” utterances, the only personal encounter I’d had with another human being – however brief it would be when that theoretical plane passed over – all week. I interact with dozens of customers and my corworkers all day in our company’s online chat rooms. I may ‘like’ a status or two on Facebook, but even when I run at a community park, my primary interaction with humanity is through the intermediary of my phone or some other digital device.

The other morning, completely alone in the park, surrounded by snowy mountains and disconnected from digitas, stomping out my piece wasn’t about politics. It was the peace of reconnecting with something real.


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