A chicken, a dog, and a paintbrush – sounds like the perfect start to an art career.
“It all got started when my dog killed the neighbor’s chicken,” artist Rebecca Proctor shares with a laugh. How could an art career bloom from this you may ask? Well, let’s back up a little and you will begin to see.
Rebecca says it is likely that her mother has caveman drawings on her uterus. She says, “I have drawn since I can remember. All my Christmas gifts were always art, always craft stuff. I drew and drew and drew.” With all of that drawing, painting, and doodling, she began gifting her creations. In fact, she confesses that her art skills even helped her score well in a couple of her high school classes that she struggled in. A painted portrait of Bob Dylan for her math teacher solidified an A.
Rebecca studied art at BYU-Idaho and BYU. After getting married, she and her husband moved to Logan. The art program offered at Utah State did not feel like a good fit for Rebecca so she decided to take a break — a long break. She would not pick up her paintbrushes for eight years while she worked to get her husband through school and began to have children. When Rebecca’s husband finished school, he turned to Rebecca and told her it was her turn to get going. With young kids and little time, Rebecca had a hard time finding the drive and motivation. And that is where the neighbor’s chicken comes in.
When Rebecca’s dog killed the neighbor’s chicken, she knew she had to do something to try and make it right. She remembered how she had gotten herself out of tight situations in the past. People loved her paintings. Rebecca painted the chicken and took the painting, along with money as restitution for their loss, to her neighbor. She told them, “Here’s a chicken my dog can’t touch.” That’s all it took for her to find her artistic drive once again.
From there, Rebecca took a deep dive into painting the masters. She spent a year studying and replicating their work. She learned all about color and value as she worked to re-create their pieces. “There’s so much they can teach you looking at their work,” Rebecca says.
After that, Rebecca moved on to creating original pieces. She found a great mentor in Kathryn Stats, an incredible landscape artist based out of Salt Lake. Rebecca loves learning from her as they paint En plein air, completing pieces from start to finish outdoors. She has been an invaluable critic and teacher.
Rebecca comes from a long line of artists. Her mother, Julie Jeppsen, is a professional artist, and also helps Rebecca perfect her projects. The two often travel together and display their work in some of the same shows. The best art advice her mom instilled in her is that: “It’s not precious. You can always repaint it.” Rebecca says, “When I get into the mentality that it’s [a painting] precious and I just have to make sure it’s perfect, I always mess it up.” Starting with this mentality gives her the freedom to be more adventurous and playful in her work. It leaves room for bright colors and experimentation.
Rebecca’s husband also serves as a great support to her. He has no problem giving it to her straight. When he says, “Becca, how’d you get that color? By mixing mayonnaise and mustard?” she is not offended. She knows his opinions represent what the general public might see or think. Rebecca doesn’t shy away from some good criticism. She explains, “If you can take what they give you [and] swallow a little humble pill, it makes you so much better.”
For three years now Rebecca has been back into the art scene and has been furthering her art career. “I am just constantly trying to find time to paint,” Rebecca shares. She tries to get 20 hours of work in during each week. Her challenge is the same for many of us; balancing family time and work time. Thankfully her husband provides a lot of support and will often take the kids out on the weekend to give her a day to create. She spends a lot of her time painting pieces for upcoming shows; and has a unique resource for obtaining reference photos for her artwork. Rebecca likes to peruse Facebook, looking for photos of dogs or horses that inspire her. When she discovers an image that moves her she will reach out and ask the owner if she can use their photo. Rebecca has had a lot of luck with this unusual approach.
What is it that Rebecca hopes to accomplish through her art? Really it is about bringing people closer to their creator. Rebecca says, “I make art a matter of prayer. What was this dog like? How can I portray it in the best way?” She does this; recognizing the connection that can happen on a spiritual level with people and places or with people and their pets.
Rebecca also uses her gift to help others. Last year when she found out her co-worker’s son was diagnosed with cancer, she knew she wanted to do something to help. She got to work painting a picture of Mount Timpanogos. She started adding horses to the picture, but they just didn’t seem right for this painting. Instead, Rebecca felt inspired to create a fictional stream in the foreground. When her co-worker, Sunni Provost, saw the painting, she was touched because she recognized the stream as one her kids used to play in as young children. Rebecca titled the piece “Wyatt’s Hope” and used Facebook to invite others to buy prints, with all the proceeds going to benefit Wyatt, who has a family of his own and wasn’t able to work due to treatments and his illness. Rebecca was amazed by the response: “I felt like it was a really good cause and I was amazed at this valley. I had clients that bought my art and contributed to the family that didn’t even know the family — such generosity and such kindness. It blew my mind how giving people were.”
Rebecca has some meaningful guidance for other creatives out there: “My advice would be, to be honest with yourself in your creation process. When you’re honest with yourself and you paint or create whatever it is that makes you beyond excited, that’s going to be your best work every time.” Success doesn’t come overnight and Rebecca knows that you have to be persistent, putting the time in. She reminds us all that, “Over time, consistency turns into mastery.”
To see more of Rebecca Proctor’s artwork visit: RebeccaProctorArt.com