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?
J: What other jobs have you held?
TR: I was a Trauma Nurse. I also owned a fine crafts store for several years.
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?
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?
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.
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.
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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