Do you know this hillside, that distant field, this stand of trees? Rachel Harvey is painting a place while capturing on canvas a common quiet and feeling of ease.
“I like the morning light, and the evening light, that atmosphere,” says Rachel, a full-time professional artist whose evocative landscapes hang in galleries, homes and businesses throughout the Pacific Northwest. “My work is a state of mind, where all that chatter recedes. The paintings represent a space rather than a place, an emotional space that is common and universal.”
Combining vivid color and strong composition, Rachel creates large-scale oil paintings that often measure 5 to 6 feet wide or tall. Her landscapes shine with space, and light is a recurring theme as it sweeps a hillside, lingers on water and moves through trees.
“In wide-open spaces, everything radiates outside of you,” Rachel says. “The feeling is big and open, and yet you also feel small. Art gave me the language to express my feelings.”
Rachel was born in 1968 in Portland. Her father was a minister, and the family spent many years in the Midwest, where Rachel found a fondness for open space and wide sky.
The family eventually returned to the Pacific Northwest, and Rachel graduated from Portland State University with a degree in accounting and a minor in economics. She went to work for a leading accounting firm and as a freelance bank auditor.
In 2007, after the birth of her first child, Rachel’s life took a dramatic turn. Stressed by the pressures of motherhood, she found an outlet in an oil painting class. “Every chance I got, I painted,” Rachel says. “I was a sponge, just soaking up everything I could. I realized this is what I wanted to do with my life.” She left her accounting career, embraced art and never looked back.
Within two years, Rachel had art gallery representation and was showing her work at juried festivals across the nation. By 2011, she was working as a full-time artist.
Art is a job, she says, and her second career. “I can’t afford to have this as a hobby,” says Rachel, who is raising a son, 13, and daughter, 17.
Aside from a few classes, Rachel has no formal art training. Yet her paintings reveal the work of an artist skilled in color theory, brush stroke and composition.
Rachel is represented by the Portland Art Museum’s Rental Sales Gallery, a service that provides art for commercial spaces and rental uses. In Hood River, her paintings are often displayed at Art on Oak and the Columbia Center for the Arts.
In the Pacific Northwest, her paintings hang in hospitals, law offices, restaurants, and numerous private homes and collections. She frequently travels the country for gallery shows, art fairs and exhibitions.
Art collectors praise Rachel’s paintings for their color, texture and detail. “She delivers the visualization of wide space even in her small works,” says Amy Spurr, who has Rachel’s paintings hanging in her homes in Portland and Manzanita.
“Her choice of colors and brushstroke detail deliver a beauty and sense of calm. She creates a quiet magic in her pieces.”
Cynthia Nordstrom, who lives in Beavercreek and owns four of Rachel’s paintings, is equally moved.
“More than once I have had the peculiar experience of being outside on a walk or drive and suddenly gotten the feeling that I am walking or driving through a Rachel Harvey landscape,” she says.
In painting, Rachel calls to the past. “My paintings are echoes of childhood, that sense of connection that comes from childhood,” she says. “You see that light on the field and your shoulders relax, you’re in the moment. When I paint, I’m going for that isolated moment of time. You’re right there, right now.”
Rachel’s painting titles are influenced by psalms, songs and poetry. “Love’s Own Crown,” “Wrap Me In Light” and “Anthem of Praise,” for example, suggest the elegance of a visual language that reflects her youth as a minister’s child.
Rachel has lived in the Columbia Gorge for 25 years and now makes her home in Odell, where she has created an art studio in a small house on her property. The space is light and cheery, with front-door views of neighboring fields and hillsides. Her studio is filled with works in progress, canvases waiting for paint, and completed pieces ready to ship, show or sell.
Eager and energized, Rachel has endless landscapes on her mind. “I still feel like I’ve got 50 ideas for every one painting,” she says.