Rachel Cruse embodies the concept of living a soulful life, with exquisite grace. I first met her two years ago when I moved to Vancouver Island with my daughter. Our children were attending the same school together, and slowly, as I got a sense of her, I discovered she was an artist. And a beautiful, soulful artist.
Rachel’s graceful paintings of beach landscapes and sunsets transcend the stereotypical; they truly do express the luscious beauty present in this island.
She is also an example of a woman who takes on risks and challenges with a calm and quiet giggle – becoming a full-time artist at the same time as having a baby being one of those.
I’m delighted to be able to share her art and some of her story here. Enjoy.
What does it mean to be an artist? And when did you know you were an artist (aka intensely creative person)?
Part of being an artist is to find the answer to that question, it is an intrinsic aspect of the path. The answer each individual artist finds shapes their art and their very being.
For me the answer is that being an artist is about increasing our awareness of beauty. We are surrounded at all times by both ugliness and beauty and in every moment we are making choices about which one to pay attention to, which one to amplify and feed. In my world an artist chooses and helps other to choose beauty.
I have always felt deeply on the inside that I was an artist, it just took me quite a long time to identify my voice. I think it seemed too simple so I overlooked the obvious for quite a few years.
When you consider the words luscious and soulful, what comes to mind? Is there anyone you know who embodies these traits? When do you feel luscious and soulful?
Luscious is not a word I use very often, but I suppose I associate it with succulence, juiciness, and fullness. Soulful is an expressive and deeply meaningful state.
I think we all have moments of feeling we are embodying these things, at least I hope we all do. I feel luscious and soulful when I bring present moment awareness into my everyday pleasures.
Biting into a nectarine, swimming in the river, being absorbed in the creative flow in my studio. Lately it has been a plentitude of those moments taking in the presence of my newborn daughter. Just feeling the softness of her skin and breathing in that incredible new baby smell.
The fullness I experience when I watch her smiling at her Dad as they play at making faces at one another is hard to describe.
What do you love most about your body? And why?
Well being a women it is almost a given that I have suffered from body image issues most of my life.
Now I’m 40 and I have had three children, I look back and think “wow I wish I had loved my younger body more when I had the chance”. But if I don’t learn from that, then I’ll be doing the same thing when I’m 80 and thinking back about the body I have today.
What I love the very most about my body is the very magic that it exists, that it is strong and healthy and that through it I experience so many wonders.
What brings you pleasure? What senses are involved?
I’m very sensory, pleasure is easily found in the simplest of things. Eating ripe fruit straight off the tree, running barefoot in heavy rain, napping in late morning sunshine, a cup of morning tea outside my tent on the beach, my favorite plaid shirt. It is not so much about my use of any of the known 5 senses.
What brings me the most joy is my sense of wonder and contentment that what I have is enough.
If you had to throw a dinner and dance party how would you do it?
I would have to throw a beach bash with about 20- 30 friends out on a beautiful somewhat remote beach. It would be early August, after an afternoon of playing in the ocean we’d eat fresh and light, the days ocean catch, salads, berries and fruit, s’mores of course, and plenty of organic wine.
After we all watched the sunset we would light up the beach with handmade lanterns and a campfire. We would break out the musical instruments and dance a sing into the wee hours, ending the evening with a sleep-out under the stars, listening to the waves.
Where/how do you find your inspiration?
I respond to natural beauty and simplicity, my paintings come from there.
Also I am particularly enamored by the seashore, there is a special magic for me in that exact place where the tide meets the sand, and by the intermingling of water and light. I have way more paintings in my head then I will ever come close to painting.
What does your ideal day look like?
There are many ideal days, and they never look the same. There is however certain elements that are always present in an ideal day.
Including: Spending special moments with my children and my partner, fresh air and time spent outside – lots of it, fresh wholesome food, physical activity, a good session of painting or creating in my studio, a little bit of adventure, a challenge or an obstacle to surmount, smiles hugs, kisses & laughter, a relaxed evening with no Facebook.
What advice would you give to your younger self? How old is she when she needs this advice?
I would tell my younger self that she is far more strong and beautiful then she can imagine. I would tell her to believe in her art and tell her to not let that talent go ignored for so long.
I would tell her to stop waiting for things to happen and to go out there and make things happen instead.
She needs to know these things as early as possible and then to be reminded of them every single day of her life.
What is your most treasured possession? Tell a little story about it.
Well I’ve got some seashells I really like and of course there are many things that I am grateful to have in my home and in my life. Without a doubt though my most treasured possession is my own heart. It is my most trusted advisor even though I often don’t understand its motives.
A few years ago when I was going through several big transitions I used to sit and do what I call intuitive journaling. I would ask a question, then after allowing my brain to go silent I’d start writing freeform from a deeper place. Each word was a surprise I never knew what was coming, yet I was always gobsmacked with the wisdom that surfaced (I really should do this as a regular practice).
One day during one of these spontaneous journaling moments I wrote “ The heart is the voice of God and the ears of man.” These words struck me deeply, I understood more then ever that my heart was so much more then a vital organ in my chest keeping me alive. It was also my direct line to the heart of the Universe.
Inspired resources: please share any heart-moving soul-shaking artistry or experiences that have moved you. What made it so powerful?
A few years back for a period of maybe two years I often experienced waking up out of sleep or meditation with nearly fully formed poetry in my head.
I started keeping a pen and paper near my bed to record them before they slipped away. The first time that this happened I had been meditating and when finished I was bubbling over with the need to start writing.
What I wrote was more then a page long and lacking in all punctuation, just one enormous run on sentence. After reading it a few times I began to realize that it could be a poem so I arranged it into lines and verses and gave it a title ‘The Light’. It was a pivotal experience for me because I also saw it as instructions for living, instructions for me to use and to guide me forward through some very difficult times. Today looking back I am very grateful for that enormous run on sentence.
Who are your favourite artists? And why?
There are so many painters that I find inspiring. I have a life long admiration for Vincent Van Gogh and also for the pre-Raphaelites especially Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
There is an artist and naturalist in California by the name of Sidney Wildesmith, it was when I discovered his work 16 years ago that I first learned about the water soluble oil paints which I have used ever since. His painting ‘The Holy Grail” is one of my very favourites and I have a small print of it hanging in my studio.
Also surely no self respecting BC artist would neglect to name the late Robert Genn as both mentor and inspiration.
Then a few years ago I was up in Cumberland for a music festival when I stumbled across a little studio gallery inhabited by an older woman named Hana Louise Braun. Her paintings hit me like a train, they identified and awakened in me something that I had been searching for in my own art. I spoke with her for a while and bought a few art cards with the idea to look her up some more online. Unfortunately she is not to be found online and her storefront has since closed down. It is as if she vanished.
Is there anything else you’d like us to know about you and your art?
No not that comes to mind. I really feel that my development as a painter is still in its infancy. With each new painting completed I feel I learn so much, I’m very excited to see what I do next.
pps – if you know of any amazing artists I can profile in this series, send me an e-mail with their info – I’m always excited to connect with interesting amazing creatives.