Rachel Bradley's Newsletter #1
Thank you so much for being here! I’m beyond excited to be sharing this newsletter with you.
It’s the culmination of a growing sense of nostalgia, a disconnect with the social media model and a very publicly accountable way to create the kind of content I want to consume.
As the internet moves towards micro-content and video formats, I’ve found myself struggling to evolve. I don’t personally consume media that way. I barely got into YouTube, let alone TikTok and Instagram Reels, and trying to keep up is rather a lot further than I can naturally stretch. I finally decided I’d rather stick with the kind of content I enjoy, both making and consuming, and I’m excited to see how that connects me with others who feel the same way.
So, without further ado, here are the new things I made this week:
So many of us artists grapple with the feeling that we have to be original, or that we are not original enough, or that we aren’t good enough or smart enough to be original. But originality can actually really hurt our ability to connect with our audience, and the pursuit of originality for originality’s sake can hinder us more than it helps. Read the article to find out more about an easier and more effective way to strive for originality!
This self-portrait/study was a huge breakthrough for me! Though simple, it was the solution to a struggle I’ve had in my process that had me frustrated, miserable and wasting time through most of the time I spent painting. I recorded the process, so I hope that one day soon I can share more with you about that breakthrough!
I’m a firm believer that much of the progress in our art happens away from the easel, so to speak. These weekly questions/journal prompts/coaching activities are to encourage self-reflection and help you discover some impactful things about yourself, your art and your career.
Look back on your past and think of a time of difficulty that you were able to overcome. What positive changes did that period bring (to your life, to yourself, or to anything significant to you) that would not have happened without that difficulty?
Now reflect on a difficulty you are currently navigating. Imagine the positive changes that might come from this. In what ways might you look back on where you currently are and attribute positive change and growth?
Each week, I share work from other people here! “Resource” is something that will help you in your work, and in “Features” I’ll share artwork being made by people like you who are using my reference images. Be sure to check out their pages and show them some love! If you want to find out how to get your work featured, click here.
This pack has a stunning variety of lighting conditions, all emphasised by the flowing, transluscent fabric and the way her hair catches the sun's glow.
Faestock is one of the reasons I make reference, she's been an inspiration for so many of us. I can’t recommend her work enough!
David Bellivaeu (below):
Sanman Pilgaonkar (below):
Michael Connors (below):
Everything below this point is a part of the premium access newletter. For the rest of April you’ll be able to access it for free but come May 1st, this section will only be available to premium subscribers. Click the button below to make sure you don’t miss out!
Food for Thought
This section is for tidbits I think you might find interesting. A couple of months back, I started a daily habit of learning a brief bit about something new in the hope of developing my story and visual libraries. As someone who’s self-conscious about her struggles with creativity and idea-generation, it’s been an amazing addition to my practice, and I’m hoping that by sharing some of the things I find here, I might be able to help you, too!
If you create something based on anything I share here, I’d love to know! Either reply to this email or tag on me Instagram. And if you have any cool suggestions for what I might share here with others, get in touch! No promises, but I’m always on the hunt for new things to learn, and your suggestion might make it into the newsletter in future :).
Modern whaling is a real problem and something that we are cracking down on globally, but its history is long and fascinating and rife for fantastical/historical inspiration.
The earliest traces of whaling have been found in Korea and date back to 6000BC, and the activity was important to many cultures globally. It only began to dwindle in the 19th century, when the industrial revolution brought more efficient alternative to whale products and the global populations dwindled.
By the 1830s, America was the largest whaling presence in the world. Whale products (such as spermaceti for lamps and baleen for corset boning) were highly sought after and an enormous economy boomed around the industry.
Because the cargo of whaling ships was so valuable, there were many skirmishes at sea. Pirates often targeted these vessels, and during the American Revolution, the British declared that American whaling ships were considered fair game. This conflict led to whaling ships often fitting themselves out as privateers.
Whaling, by Abraham Storck
I love the eerie crossing of classical with modern, producing a dreamlike, psychodelic feel. Innovation is, more often than we tend to think, the result of revisiting old themes in new ways, rather than something entirely novel (something I talk about in my article this week!). This sculpture, and Ferrarini's whole body of work, is a beautiful demonstration of that.
Thought for the Week
James Clear (author of Atomic Habits, perhaps the best self-help book I’ve ever read) shared this as part of his newsletter:
"Powerful combination = Hate being bad at stuff + Willing to look like a beginner.
People who hate being bad at stuff are driven to improve. However, if they are unwilling to look like a beginner from time to time, they will avoid new challenges and struggle to reinvent themselves.
Meanwhile, people who are willing to try new things, but lack a thirst to improve will settle for mediocre results.
It's the willingness to look foolish for a short time—but not for a long time—that leads to jumps in performance."
As someone who falls firmly into the first camp, I absolutely love this. Drive without humility can lead us to abandon things that could have been really good for us, and humility without drive can lead us to stagnation. It’s a difficult balance to achieve, but one that can entirely change the way we learn and grow.
I find it helps me to congratulate myself for the work I’m putting in, not the outcome of that work. I imagine myself in 10 years time, explaining to someone who asked how I got to where I am, that it was the quiet, diligent, unrecognised hours of sitting my butt down and doing the work that made the biggest difference. I want to be the woman who was dedicated and humble enough to push through the frustrations without the need for validation and praise. And when I find myself lamenting that I’m not good enough yet, that I should be further along than I am, I remind myself that it’s these moments of pushing through regardless that will make for the best story in the long-run.
A pretty huge one- this week, I passed my interview to become a citizen of the United States of America!
For those of you who do not know, I am British, and I have been living in the US since 2018. I fell in love with my home and my life here in a way I’d never experienced before, and even now, I still feel flutters of profound joy and excitement to be here, often in the smallest and most random of moments (like waiting in the line at the grocery store or looking at road signs and remembering how different they are from the ones I grew up with).
But for all of that joy, I’ve been living with a quiet specter of fear. Even after being granted a green card, I knew that it wasn’t impossible that I’d have to leave my home and never return. The chance of something going so wrong that I’d be forced to leave was infinitesimally small, but it was still there, and it never let me rest. Like a missing support beam in a building, I had to accept the possibility that it might one day fall down, and my home could fall out from underneath me.
But as a citizen, that fear goes away. I can’t tell you how grateful and delighted I am (and I mean that in a very literal way- I’ve been staring at this sentence for a full 5 minutes and can’t think of the right words, so you’re getting this instead :3). And I’m also incredibly relieved that I’ll never have to sit through another election in which I’m not allowed to vote…!
Aside from that, with the excitement surrounding a new endeavour (this newsletter!) I've been a flurry of activity lately.
I'm an enneagram type 7 (Want to know more about enneagrams? Click here) which means I have a deep love of novelty (and also a somewhat unhealthy aversion to pain), so I'm always happiest when I'm trying new things. It can be tempting as a type 7 to always be looking for new projects and ideas, and one of the things I've been working on very quietly this year is doing the boring, consistent, hard work that is so uncomfortable for me. This newsletter is a result of that- a new endeavour, yes, but one that holds a great deal of public accountability. Thank you for your role in that!
I’ve been having some pretty big thoughts about my creative career lately. Years ago, while I was awaiting my green card and was unable to work in the US, I began writing a novel (for the die-hard fans who’ve been around since the beginning- remember The Sum of Our Deeds? Ava and Iselda?). But it was my first novel and there were lots of problems I was struggling to solve, so when the green card came and I was allowed to work, the novel got pushed aside. I didn’t think I’d ever return to it- I thought it had served its purpose and that, should I ever again yearn to write, I’d start something new. But after a recent bout of lamenting my lack of sticking power, I looked back at the old files, and was shocked to find that not only was I immediately able to solve those problems, but I was excited by those solutions. It was as though the solving of the problems released a blockage, and after 4 years of abandonment, my novel is absolutely thriving.
It’s all going to be completely rewritten, of course, but the foundation is concrete in a way I couldn’t have dared dream of 4 years ago. I’m working on it nearly every day, and I’m forcing myself to stay in the outlining process much longer than I did before. For the same reasons, I’m discouraging myself from sharing too much about it too soon, but when I’m ready, you guys will be the first to hear about it (and I’ll share lots of the behind-the-scenes developments in the premium newsletter).
So yeah… I’m writing a novel! ^_^
And, saving the most exciting stuff for last: my gifts to thank you for being a premium subscriber! Below you’ll find the exclusive discount code for 20% off my Gumroad store along with this week’s reference image (click for full resolution). I also write up study notes to accompany the image. I hope they help you to see things you might have otherwise missed and in turn accelerate your growth!
The code of the week is: “capsicum”
(Isn’t that just a nice sounding word?)
Reference Image of the Week
Full Pack: Velvet Dress
Release Date: November 2020
Image Number: 183
It only felt fitting that I pick an image from my first reference pack for my first newsletter!
That’s it. Those are the notes.
Psych. Honestly though, the drapery alone makes this one an awesome study photo. The fabric is lightweight, a mix of fitted and flowing, and has a wonderful sheen which catches the light and gives us so much information on how fabric falls.
You can learn a lot about the individual creases, which is great, but if you want to push your drapery to the next level, think about how you can simplify and group those creases, too. Try not to get caught up in replicating every little crease and try to see the bigger picture. Where are there large areas of rest? Which are the most important creases? Which are the least important creases? Learning what NOT to paint is a huge part of art study. See how few creases you can paint while still retaining the overall impression.
…aaand it’s a wrap!
I hope you enjoyed this newsletter. Feel free to share this with anyone you think might find it interesting. As a free subscriber, you’ll get one more full newsletter like this before we switch in May to premium subscribers only. If you loved this, I’d be grateful if you considered joining either on Substack or Patreon (the financial support for the time that goes into making this is greatly appreciated.)