RedDot Reader Profile | Terry Rafferty

Terry Rafferty is an oil painter living in Georgia who specializes in soft, realistic still lifes with whimsical subject matter. Each of her pieces tells a story through arrangements of small objects. Her style gives life to these objects and makes them feel relatable.  

Terry and I started our interview by discussing her beginnings in oil painting.

Jason: How did you first get interested in creating art?

Terry Rafferty: I took an adult ed class and was hooked on oil painting. I took some online classes and some workshops and practiced on my own. After the adult ed class, I returned to school and got a degree in Visual Art, which focused on art history, not on studio art. At that point, I still couldn’t imagine being a “real artist” and thought I would seek work in a gallery. Ultimately I studied with a great artist and have achieved professional standing.

J: Are you a full-time artist now?

TR: Yes.

J: What other jobs have you held?

TR: I was a Trauma Nurse. I also owned a fine crafts store for several years.

Featherweight | oil on linen panel 12 x 9 $1575

J: Are there other artists in your family?

TR: No. Both of my parents were very creative and had a ‘can do’ attitude – but frowned on the idea of art as a career.

J: Describe your style and subject matter.

TR: My style is traditional realism, and my passion is narrative still lifes that convey something about who we are as humans in relation to each other and the world.  

J: How did you develop your style?

TR: Initially I tried to follow the advice of whoever taught a workshop: thicker paint, more abstract, etc.  It never worked for me;  I wanted a more careful, deliberate method with high-quality materials.   Working on my own only took me so far, and then I was lucky enough to find an artist whose work and methods I loved and who was willing to teach me.   

J: What drew you to your subject matter?

TR: As I experimented with various subjects I quickly recognized that some things bored me while others left me feeling excited and ready to do more.  When I realized that I could tell stories or make observations on contemporary issues in a still life format I turned all my attention to that.

J: What do you feel is unique about your work?

TR: While each piece has an underlying story that exists in my head, I think the work is open enough that each viewer sees the “opening line” and creates his or her own narrative.  People often share what story they see, which is great fun for me.

J: When did you sell your first artwork?

The Pig’s Tale | oil on panel 11 x 14 $1875

TR: Around 2009. It was a piece in the juried “Masterworks of New Mexico” annual show. While I know that both my materials and technique have improved since then, I’m still happy with the concept behind the work – and I believe the strength of the concept was the reason it both won an award and sold.

J: How do you promote and expose your work to potential buyers?

TR: I have a website and participate in juried shows. I was lucky enough to win Best in Show in the Oil Painters of America Eastern Regional Exhibition, 2015. I’m a member of Oil Painters of America and American Women Painters. I use Facebook primarily as a link to other artists but do post my paintings there as well.  My work is in two galleries (Haynes Gallery in Nashville and Susan Powell Fine Art in Madison, CT) and I’m just completing a series of pieces to submit to a third.  

J: What do you feel has been your greatest challenge in selling your work?

TR: Knowing that my personality isn’t well suited to doing art fairs or promoting my own work, and knowing that my time is best spent in the studio, I choose to work with galleries. The challenge has been in finding the right gallery match: one who believes in my work, who communicates well, and who considers the interaction with their artists to be a partnership.  It’s important to me that we work together.

J: What do you feel you’ve been most successful at in your art, and in your art business?

The Weigh In | oil on linen panel 11 x 9 $1500
The Weigh In | oil on linen panel 11 x 9 $1500

TR: In my art, I’ve put my energy into improving my craft, the technical aspects of painting, and in developing the concepts behind the work. In my business I’ve learned to manage the dreaded paperwork, maintaining accurate records. And I’ve learned that being an artist really is two jobs: the making and the marketing.

J: What is your daily routine?

TR: It’s pretty fluid, but most days I get non-art stuff out of the way in the morning: laundry, exercise, errands.  Then I’m free to go to the studio and work uninterrupted till dinner.  I normally leave my supplies out and go back to work for another hour or two.  All that changes on days I wake up early and can’t wait to get into the studio at 6am – or on days that I need a break and do anything but art.

J: How much time do you spend in the studio in an average week?

TR: Approximately 25 hours actually painting, probably another 10 hours on studio activities like creating setups, varnishing, framing, etc, and 2 or 3 hours on paperwork.

J: How much work do you typically produce per month?

TR: Two paintings. The technique is inherently slow – many layers of glazes – but my current goal is to consistently do 3 pieces a month. Because of drying times, I can be working on multiple pieces at the same time, and I find this leads me into doing small series.  Currently, I’m playing with weights and scales in the setups.

Stargazers | oil on panel 12 x 12 Sold (Best in Show/Gold Medal for OPA’s Eastern Regional Exhibition, 2015)
Stargazers | oil on panel 12 x 12 Sold (Best in Show/Gold Medal for OPA’s Eastern
Regional Exhibition, 2015)

J: Who is your favorite artist from art history, and which of their works is your favorite?

TR: What an impossible question!  At the moment, I’ll say Vermeer for his use of light and shadow, his deceptive simplicity, and the sensitive narratives. The National Gallery in Washington DC has a lovely collection of his work and when I was there last fall they had the “Woman In Blue Reading a Letter” on loan from the Rijksmuseum, freshly restored. My favorite in the exhibit though was “Woman Holding a Balance”.  

J: What are your interests outside of your art?

TR: I live part of the year on a boat (yes, with a studio onboard) and love to kayak.  I like to  read, hike, garden, and hang out with my friends.

J: You live in Georgia now, but you’ve lived in a lot of interesting places, haven’t you?

TR: That’s right. I have lived in New Mexico, Montana, Washington, California, and both Europe and the South Pacific.

Terry Rafferty's studio
Terry Rafferty’s studio

J: What are your plans for the future?

TR: I feel so incredibly blessed to be part of this adventure.  The art community has such wonderful and generous people, I can’t imagine a better path. My plans for the future are to continue to develop my work, but also to join in and share what I’ve learned with other students and artists.

J: Thank you, Terry. To find more of Terry’s works, visit terryrafferty.com.

 

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About the Author: Jason Horejs

Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of reddotblog.com, and founder of the Art Business Academy. Jason has helped thousands of artists prepare themselves to more effectively market their work, build relationships with galleries and collectors, and turn their artistic passion into a viable business.

23 Comments

  1. I enjoyed reading this interview. I could really relate to a lot of what Terry had to say, especially the part about the job of being an artist is actually two: the making and the marketing. Keep up the good work Terry!

    1. Thanks Linda! One of the nice things about being interviewed is that it makes you think clearly about what you are doing. I had never sorted out the balance between painting and other activities before.

  2. I love Terry’s unique view on her art, using animals to tell her story. All of her work is well done. It is so good to have insight into artist’s like Terry. She encourages the rest of us. God bless.

    1. So nice of you Lisa, Thanks. I think getting the concepts and starting the work is such fun – but find finishing the work the hardest part. I recently read a series of interviews that asked artists what the hardest part was – I was amazed that so many felt the opposite: that starting was the hard part, and finishing fun. We are such an interesting and diverse group!

  3. Jason, I just want to thank you for this opportunity. As is so often the case, I got more than I gave: getting to see the work of all the artists who commented was a real treat. I love this interview series you’ve decided to do and am looking forward to the next one!

  4. Great interview, and replies too, Terry. Your sense of humor is great, as is your fun paintings. Like you mentioned, being an artist is truly multiple jobs. I used to feel guilty if I wasn’t painting and producing. Now I realize anything art related is part of the job – whether posting on facebook or my blog, updating inventory sheets, priming canvases, framing, along with painting. I too am an artist that loves starting, but not the finishing… my enthusiasm has waned by that point, so I have a lot of almost finished work. Luckily I’m working hard to get through those pieces — even started a series called “Off The Wall” at one point to finish paintings that have been hanging on the wall waiting for completion… Thanks for these interviews Jason!

  5. thank you so much for doing this interview. I am currently trying to figure out the best routine for me so reading so reading about other artists that have found what works for them is always inspiring. I would not say that I have a high interest in traditional realism and yet I find myself looking at your pictures over and over. I love the stories that come to mind. They are wonderful and I am so glad that you are successfully living your dream.

  6. Terry – I read this interview with special interest because I too am a realist painter (different subject matter and medium, but the same attention to detail.) Do you ever feel, as I sometimes do, that you are swimming upstream in a market that still favors abstract art? Regardless, I admire your vision and its whimsy, and can truly appreciate the challenge in turning out 2 – 3 pieces a month. Realism, plus the clarity of your colors and glazes, truly is time consuming. I’ve bookmarked your webs site and will follow your work with interest.

  7. Your paintings are beautiful and reflect a love of animals. Good to see still life and realism are alive and well! Thanks, Jason, for showing us Terry Rafferty’s work.

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