A passion for animals in art

Words by:
Barbara Young
Featured in:
February 2022

Barbara Young finds out how talented Lincolnshire artist Rachel Spencer, who specialises in pet commissions and animal artwork, is sharing her enthusiasm for creative drawing.

Most days will see Rachel Spencer happily tucked away in the light and airy studio which overlooks her leafy garden in the peaceful village of Holton-le-Clay, providing the perfect setting to enhance her creativity.

Here you will find this talented 50-year-old artist, who grew up in Scartho and is married to husband Darren, doing what she loves best: creating bespoke pieces of stunning art with pencil or pastel in hand and her friendly British Blue cat Lottie by her side, providing both inspiration and warm companionship.

Previously, Rachel worked as the North East Lincolnshire mayor’s personal assistant for more than 10 years, before going on to support her husband in his successful business, Jazz Clothing, situated in Abbeygate, the popular open arcade in Grimsby.

However, since making the decision to become a full-time artist three years ago, Rachel has found herself much in demand for commissions, as well as providing private one-to-one tuition and running small group workshops.

Rachel, who works mainly with pastels and pencils, as well as doing abstract work in acrylics, says many of her creative drawings are inspired by what she sees out and about in the surrounding countryside, “whether it’s the friendly robin in the garden or a March hare in the fields”.

Early talent
Her passion for all things art became evident at an early age.

“As soon as I was able to hold a pencil, I was always doodling, and I remember a special school trip to Venice, learning to sketch in ink and being truly inspired by such a magical place, surrounded by friends and teachers with the same interest,” she explains.

“Although I loved drawing from childhood and believe I showed talent, I didn’t follow this path as a career. However, one day in 2018, I decided to take some ‘time out and therapy’ and booked onto a workshop taught by local artist Mick Craven who totally inspired me, and from then on my life changed.

“Mick said he spotted a natural talent and gave me the confidence to start drawing again after many years, so finally my love of animals and art came together!”

Rachel, who says she prides herself in “delivering a personal touch and superb service from beginning to end”, welcomes all types of commission but says pets and animals are her love.

Depending on the piece of art Rachel is working on, drawings can take anywhere from a day to a week to produce.

“The process involved to create a bespoke pet commission is fairly straightforward, whereby I’ll meet with the client and their pet, photograph the pet (or I can work from clear close-up photographs) and then agree on a selection the client feels best represents their animal.

“I’ll then go away to create the drawing and once approved by the client, have the drawing professionally mounted into a bespoke made frame, before gift wrapping and delivering it in person.”

Family support
Rachel says she doesn’t have a typical working day, as each one can vary from hosting a workshop, to sitting in her studio creating the next piece of art or visiting shops where her work is on display and for sale, including Swags & Tails in Waltham, Damselfly in Louth, and 19seventy9 Arts & Crafts and Village Crafts in Scartho.

Rachel also attends schools and charity events, encouraging youngsters to “get creative and believe in themselves”, something which Rachel admits that as a child she didn’t do herself.

She says she feels lucky to have the “amazing support and encouragement” of her family, with husband Darren being at the forefront

“My father, John, is an extremely talented cabinet maker and has made various pieces of furniture for my studio including my first drawing board,” says Rachel. “A few years ago, I sadly lost my older sister, which really affected the whole family and having been a big part in helping to bring up my nieces, I can’t stress enough how drawing is so good for the mind and very therapeutic, which is something I love to pass on to others.”

According to Rachel, whose work is recognised both nationally and internationally, including being commissioned by clients as far afield as India, becoming a full-time artist is a skill from within.

“For me, there are no challenges when drawing, as I feel my self-motivation and love of drawing shine through naturally and every day is different and fulfilling.”

Art for all
Rachel’s workshops and private tuition have become extremely popular and she has also helped one of her pupils gain an art scholarship.

The workshops are held either in Rachel’s studio, or at the Tennis Centre in Louth, where there is a “perfect room next to a café where parents can sit and relax while their children are being taught”.

Rachel, who says she believes it’s important to “have fun getting creative”, teaches pupils of any age and any level, including visiting students at home.

She regularly sits with 80-year-old Maureen Teanby, who suffers from onset dementia and enjoys spending the afternoon drawing together once a week before Rachel cooks supper for Maureen and her husband. “This is very calming and therapeutic for her, which truly makes me happy to see.”

Rachel also produces her own greetings card and calendar designs, and has her own homeware range, including wooden clocks, vegan suede cushions and tea towels.

“Since I started my business, I have attended a couple of events at the Lincolnshire Showground.

However, the pandemic put a stop to a few, but going forward into 2022 I’m feeling positive and hoping to be at various events throughout the country, so there are exciting times ahead!”

At her workshops and tuition sessions, Rachel says she aims for all her pupils to come away having learnt a specific technique, as well as how to go through the three stages of producing an end product, starting with shape, then shade before adding detail to bring it together.

In her teaching, Rachel shines through with her calm nature and reassurance, ensuring her pupils leave having gained both confidence and self-belief.

“Whether you just fancy ‘time out’ or you want to explore your creativity, it’s definitely worth booking in for a workshop as I’m sure there will be a lesson for you!”

For more information find Art by Rachel Spencer on Facebook and Instagram or visit www.art-by-rachel-spencer.com

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