Vicki Rawlins, the co-owner and artist behind Sister Golden (OH! She’s my mom, too) took me behind the scenes of her Chicago studio, giving us a glimpse of her process in watercolor and acrylic, and answering a few questions that not even I knew the answers to!
It turns out that her first ever source of inspiration was her mom (my grandmother) – a florist, designer and photographer – who raised her and my aunts in an effortlessly modern 1960's ranch in the California Valley. Vicki discovered her passion for drawing and painting early, but before returning to canvas a few years ago, she put her paintbrush and (insanely good) eye for color to work on textiles – creating hand-painted wares and jewelry for some of Chicago’s best specialty boutiques. Her relationships with the city’s design world would later lead to commissioned work as a colorist and muralist for “showcase” home projects and commercial businesses. This is the part of her career that I remember most vividly growing up. My brother’s and my bedroom walls served as blank canvases for her, too.
When she’s not working on large-scale pieces in her studio at Greenleaf Art Center, her materials are sprawled around a space she’s carved out in her condo in Chicago's North Shore Evanston neighborhood, just a few blocks from Lake Michigan. Here she can count on the perfect morning light to fuel her most recent line of vibrant, rich abstracts and landscapes. The watercolors shown below are part of a line created exclusively for Sister Golden, and will be available soon (freak out!) at the sistergolden.com shop!
1) How would you describe your work?
Every painting is the exploration into a moment of time. Some are places I’ve been or roads I’ve traveled, and some are places inside me I’d like to go. I try not to be too “in my head” when painting. This body of work for Sister Golden is about pushing color, and blurring the lines between reality and the abstract.
2) What inspires you?
Waking up in the morning…sounds funny, but it’s true! The early morning light, and anytime of day when shadows are long are most exciting to me.
3) Describe your process – do you have a plan going into each painting, or do you go with the flow? What materials do you use?
I love experimenting with different mediums. Just recently I started working in watercolor and acrylics again. I feel a certain freedom when using them, so most often I don’t plan out my canvas, I just start in and see what happens. With acrylic paint there’s a lot of building up the surface and then breaking it down, painting over and forever redefining the space until that moment when it feels just right.
The way I like to use watercolor paint is a practice in totally letting go and letting the paint do its thing. There can be a push and pull in the process, but I try to follow the paint so as not to disturb the beauty of where it's going.
4) Where and when do you tend to paint most?
I’m a morning person, so after coffee, of course, I start right in. I’ve recently split my painting space up. I work on large oil paintings and acrylics in my studio, not far from my home. But most of the time when using watercolor or pastel, I work in a studio space I’ve carved out in my home.
5) When you’re not painting, what can we find you doing?
When I’m not painting, I’m gardening!
6) Which artists do you admire, or are you inspired by most?
There are so many amazing artists I admire, but the artists that inspire me most are the group of women that I’ve been painting with once a week for the past several years. Their dedication to explore and push themselves in an effort to grow as painters is always awesome to be around.
7) Now, let’s get serious: What’s your favorite Chicago/Evanston coffee shop and how do you like your coffee?
Without a doubt my favorite coffee shop in Evanston is Brothers K! It’s such a mixed crowd of professors, students, shop owners, artists, writers, bloggers and dogs…but what makes it sing are the owners – brothers Brian and John Kim – who fill the shop with awesome energy.
I like my coffee medium roast in a large to-go cup with a splash of half and half and a smidge of organic stevia.
8) Last, but definitely not least, what’s on your painting playlist?
I have to listen to music while painting, so that’s usually the radio set on WXRT, a Chicago station that has had the same DJ’s for 30 years!