Artist Rachel Tighe on learning to take criticism, juggling projects and playing the didgeridoo

Rachel Tighe is a Midlands-based artist that creates colourful paintings that she describes as "playful and naïve". From her growing range of collectable art and rising fame on Instagram, there's no doubt her sense of discipline and direction is strong.

Having developed her practice since graduating, Rachel has "now emerged", already gaining international recognition, with her work being displayed in homes from Switzerland to Dubai, Boston and New York.

With such a unique style and worldwide acclaim, we thought it was about time we grabbed a cuppa with Rachel to find out the secrets behind her success.

You graduated in 2008. What's your journey as an artist been like so far?

My journey has been a rollercoaster of emotions from the start, approaching galleries to trial some of my pieces and having my fingers crossed each time in hope that they sell. I’ve learnt to take criticism, and to realise that rejection isn’t always a negative thing – just takes us on a different path. The most difficult part I found was learning to juggle all aspects of being an artist, which is something I didn’t even think about until I went self-employed.

Has it been difficult getting noticed? How have you made a name for yourself?

I don’t really feel I have made a name for myself just yet, and I’m not as established as I would like to be, but I believe that it will take time and integrity to get there. My gallery representatives have really helped raise my profile by taking a chance on an up-and-coming artist and by giving me solo exhibitions. Also, being a part of some of the largest art fairs here in the UK and overseas in the US has really helped expand my audience.

Describe your style. How has it evolved over the last 10 years?

I would say that my style is playful and naïve. I think over the years it has become more refined and has progressed into an obsession with colour and form, whatever the subject matter. I feel that composition has become more essential and now forms the foundation of my style.

What's your studio like? Is it important to have space away from home?

My studio is surprisingly tidy... I guess it has to be when it’s a small space, but I find that by having an orderly space I can focus and think clearly. I have white walls with colourful paint marks, a skylight, a cupboard full of box sets, and of course many, many plants.

It’s my space to create and to also hide away the pieces and experiments that didn’t quite work out! I think having a studio away from home is good for balance but I also find that it can be lonely at times, a shared space might be something to think about going forward.

We love your Instagram feed. You seem to have a lot of fun with it?

Thank you! I love Instagram, and I can’t believe how long it took me to create an account. I’ve found it to be my own personal gallery that I have curated to show my daily workings and love for colour. It’s become my outlet to express myself when parts of the day can become monotonous, or I have run out of steam and come to a halt. I will turn to Instagram to refresh and look at my surroundings in a new light, to reset the day I guess.

Where have you found the most success in terms of raising your profile?

I think the art fairs have played a role in my success because diverse audiences from all over the UK and further who appreciate art can see it all under one roof. Also, social media platforms such as Instagram gives people a new insight into my work and me as a person, which has definitely raised my profile.

Is there anything that frustrates you about the industry? How would you like to see it changed?

If anything I would say that I’m not a fan or follower of trends and fashions in the art world, but see other artists and galleries using this to their advantage. I don’t let that kind of thing influence my work and don't feel a pressure to change my direction to appeal to the masses. I believe that remaining genuine with your work and output will always feel more rewarding in the long run.

You especially love to paint cities. Do you have a favourite? Why?

It sounds rather cliché but it has to be London and New York. With such variety in structure and shape – they both have diversity and complexity for me to collate and then simplify by creating fluid lines and free-flowing coverings of colour.

Where do you get your inspiration?

My inspiration comes from my surroundings. It used to mainly be from cities, however in the past year or so my direction has changed and I now find a balance between the urban landscape and the natural world. I think this is because my focus has become more about the flow of a painting and the mark making as opposed to the subject matter itself.

Have you ever had any unusual commissions?

No I haven't actually … yet! They have all been quite ‘normal’ and joyous to complete.

What's your favourite gallery and why?

For me, it has to be the Pompidou in Paris. Many people say how ugly its façade is but I find it so unique and distinctive. Yeah, it may need a good clean now, but look beyond that and it’s just so eccentric! Even though it’s a large gallery you don’t feel like it’s too busy inside and the tall ceilings make the viewing very relaxed.

Whose work do you admire?

Okay, so to whittle it down the artists work I admire the most would be Matisse, Rothko and Cy Twombly and for someone contemporary, Jenny Sharaf. Their way with colour and composition is stunning to me.

Tell us something about yourself that might surprise us

I have played the didgeridoo for 15 years (although in more recent years it’s taken a back seat due to my art commitments) and played at several small festivals over the years with my dad playing various other instruments to accompany me.

What's on your reading list?

I’ve recently bought Big Magic as I’ve seen so many artists on social media say how positive it is and what a great read it was. To be honest though, I find reading books a challenge, as I prefer to read blogs and shorter bursts as I take in information easier that way.

What advice have you found to be the most helpful since launching your own business?

I think that most of my advice has come from talking to friends and my partner who have their own businesses and learning from one another. The best advice I would say is that you need to realise that there will be highs and lows, busy and quiet times and to try not to let the latter of those panic you. Learn to take a step back and look at your achievements over the months and years, not by a few days or weeks of a lull.

Finally, what can we expect from you next? Anything we should know about?

Experimentation! I’m currently using some new materials and objects as my canvas and am hoping the outcomes will be Instagram worthy. I’m already excited for their future developments!

See more of Rachel's work at


Get the best of Creative Boom delivered to your inbox weekly