Featured Artist Rebecca "Bec" Rath is inspired by the essence of the land.
Living with her family on a vineyard in Pokolbin, NSW, Australia, Bec draws from her love of the Australian bush and uses it to express its rich history and energetic power.
Working straight from the land 'en plein air,' Rath's work boasts painterly strokes with bold vivid colors that represent the intuitive and authentic freedom of Hunter Valley.
"There is nothing more tranquil, peaceful, and wildly free than being in the Australian bush and painting her splendor," she explains.
Artwork Archive got the chance to chat with Rebecca Rath about her process, career, and path. You can see more of her work on Discovery and learn more about her work below.
Bec Rath working en plein air
Has your work changed over time—do you find yourself understanding your art career through different periods of expression?
Yes, my work has certainly changed over time. We all evolve as people and our art evolves with us.
In our twenties we put on many hats and try to work out who we are as people—my art reflected that too. I tried everything and struggled to find my voice as a painter. Sure, I was passionate and ambitious enough, but I didn’t really know what my work was about, plus I lacked confidence. My thirties were similar, although my confidence started to improve.
Rejection can be challenging as an artist as we wear our art on our sleeves—open to criticism.
It can be cruel for the sensitive, which artists often are. Certain writers have helped me along the way—including and not limited to: Elizabeth Gilbert and her book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. I really recommend it for creatives. Art practice and life experiences are intertwined.
I started to focus on landscape painting and clocking up my brush mileage when I moved to regional Australia. My backyard in the Hunter Valley is often my muse. I started to see results when I made a choice to focus on the landscape. I love the Steve Jobs quote, “Focusing is about saying no."
Once I chose this path, my confidence improved, and I could connect more with people through my art. I now realize that being creative can be a rollercoaster—one minute there are ups, then there are downs—but it’s about persistence and staying in your own lane. Being of service to others and yourself is paramount. My art practice and my life experiences have developed over time together—for which I am grateful.
My work is now full of direction and passion, like myself. My studio work is heavy in impasto paint and demonstrates this passion not only for the landscape but for the act of painting itself. My work has evolved into this technique of thick, heavy paint to evoke a skin-like sensation. This application is intentional; it speaks about humanity’s place within and a part of the environment. I want to push the ideas of paint and create a very visceral, tactile sensation for the viewer. I want the viewer to feel like they want to touch the paint, thus touching the landscape.
The Australian environment isn’t gentle. It isn’t soft. It is passionate and at times harsh with drought and floods. I seek to demonstrate the juxtaposition of paint application and emotional connection with contemporary painting techniques.
Rebecca Rath | 'Capricious Landscape', 2022, 120 x 120 cm
Do you have a favorite or most satisfying part of your process?
My favorite part of the process must be painting in the landscape. I get this nervous, wonderful feeling in my body as I settle myself in to paint a landscape. I love to sit and absorb the energy of the environment. I close my eyes and feel the landscape speak to me. I love feeling the energy of the place I’m painting.
That first nervous, excited thumbnail sketch as I draw in my sketchbook while I connect with the landscape is brilliant. I’m addicted to that initial part of the process. I put my imaginary "painting glasses" on and focus on the colors which vibrate before my eyes—the different textures of foliage and the smell of the seasons in the air. The challenge of a new landscape excites me, especially if I’m doing a commission for a client.
The most satisfying part is giving the work to the client and getting feedback. When they say things to me like, “you have really captured my favorite place," it’s the most humbling and rewarding experience. I know what it's like to love and connect with a landscape so much that it makes you cry with awe.
A special landscape can evoke memories and give you a sense of place in the world.
I hope to capture that feeling for my clients.
What has been the most challenging thing you've overcome as an artist?
My self-doubt. There are so many amazing and talented people out there—now more than ever before with social media. My self-doubt challenges me. I think they call it 'Imposter Syndrome'. I enjoy Brené Brown’s quote, “Stay in your own lane. Comparison kills creativity and joy.” I do my best to practice this advice.
Also, I was diagnosed with the autoimmune skin condition, vitiligo, a few years ago. This meant I couldn’t paint outdoors as my skin would burn. Hard to manage as an 'en plein air' painter. Thankfully, I’m now on the mend. When most health professionals said there was no cure, I found one who helped me. I’m now healing due to my doctor and my often single-minded determination. I’m not scared to paint outside anymore! Winning!
Bec Rath painting en plein air, photo courtesy of the artist
How did you come to find that you thrive off of nature and prefer painting 'en plein air' vs. inside a studio?
I adore painting in the landscape. I thrive off the challenges it creates.
The climate can change, the insects can bite, the Australian terrain can be unforgiving.
I feel nothing amazing is born from a comfort zone, and I embrace painting in these uncertain (and at times challenging) locations I find myself in.
I love having to work in these conditions as you need to work fast and intuitively. I have a well-worn process now which serves me well in challenging environments. This last summer I found myself painting in 40°C+ (104°F) heat in the middle of a saltbush field but loving every minute of it.
Painting in these environments is about being in a complete state of now. You don’t have time to languish about the correct colors or the perfect composition—you need to work fast. This is how my confidence has improved. I don’t have time to be a perfectionist. I’m in a flow state and I love it. Time and space are lost in a sea of color and marks.
I’m like a bowerbird. I collect these studies (both pencil and oil sketches) and take them back to the studio to work from to create a body of work. At times I take larger canvases into the landscape to paint directly, it just depends on climate and time.
Painting 'en plein air' is unique. You can’t capture that intensity by copying a photo. The colors are more vibrant, the vegetation alive, and the energy is immediate. I do take photos, but they are more for resource material rather than copying.
Studio work is also about being in a flow state. I try to carry this feeling into the studio. Music and podcasts play a big role in my process. I do my best to get out of my head and trust the process. I love being in the studio too but there's nothing like sitting in a field of tall grass, feeling the sun on your back, capturing the light on a mountain, and trying to ignore a venomous Red-Belly Black snake that has slid across your path.
I’ve always had a close relationship with nature even as a child. I don’t think there has been a pivotal moment when I decided to admire nature. It has been a constant in my life. Even as a child I found the solitude comforting.
Moving to regional Australia sixteen years ago definitely strengthened my love for nature. Nature gets it right every time– colors, light, tone. It’s a constant source of inspiration and it's forever changing. I’m perpetually in awe and humbled.
Bec Rath in her studio. Photo courtesy of the artist.
What are some tips or advice you would give other 'en plein air' artists?
Everyone has been a beginner. Do your best to learn from all artists. Ask questions, take classes, try on all styles, and get your ‘brush mileage’ up.
Try your best to not paint for a frame! Even have the goal to paint for the trash can.
When you take the pressure off making something perfect and allow yourself to enjoy the process, this is where the magic happens.
Over time you will find your flow, but in the meantime, let yourself make happy "mistakes". When you paint with joy and freedom, your work shows this. Painting is emotion. Let yourself feel the landscape and enjoy the process.
Rebecca Rath | 'Ruben's Creek', 2022, 120 x 120 cm
Why did you decide to use Artwork Archive to inventory and archive your artworks?
I decided to use Artwork Archive about three years ago when I was doing an art business course with Sergio Gomez. Sergio and a fellow painter Lorna Watkins recommended it to me when I asked for an art administration program. I’m very grateful to both of them!
My business was starting to grow and I needed support for tracking work. I can’t recommend it enough to all arts practitioners.
I love Artwork Archive. I use it daily. I’d be lost without it. Since I have used it, my business has improved exponentially. In fact, I now have a business! I don’t think I had one before. A few years ago, I was lucky to sell work in one gallery. Now, I’m in a very fortunate position. I feel Artwork Archive has been instrumental in this progress.
How do you use Artwork Archive on a daily basis?
Artwork Archive tracks all information about my work, including the locations where the works can be found. I can send consignment notes and invoices to clients via the portal. These documents not only show an image of the work but display all the artwork details with costs including commissions and tax. It is very professional and intuitive to use. This makes it easy for a creative person like me who often struggles to balance accounting and do administration.
Plus, I love how it tracks my income. It makes it easier for tax time as I can create reports. It is great for tracking my progress. There is something positive about seeing your improvement on a screen.
I also appreciate the support they give you. If I have a question, it's easy to communicate with them and I receive a reply within the day (I’m in a different part of the world!). The blogs about being an artist are very informative and helpful and I love getting information about upcoming artist opportunities.
It’s like having my very own personal assistant. It helps me keep organized and stay on track. If only it could organize my personal life just as efficiently!
Want to use the system that Rebecca Rath uses to stay organized?
You can get started with Artwork Archive free for 14 days. See how a free trial can help you get organized and run the admin side of your art career with ease. Plus, showcase your artwork, and keep track of your galleries, income, and clients—all from one place.