Artist of the Month: Rachel Alvarez

by Dr. Jessie Voigts /
Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture
May 06, 2017 / 0 comments

I'm elated to share the extraordinary art of Rachel Alvarez, a native of Salisbury, Maryland. She received her BFA in Painting and Photography from Salisbury University in 2002. Her original work has been exhibited at a number of local galleries, and her prints, notecards, and decals can be found in shops across the United States. Her work is inspired by her 2 children. Each piece in her collection was completed during their nap times and reflects her family’s love for backcountry drives, beach outings, and hikes in the woods. Her day would not be complete without a new adventure outdoors, even if she only gets there with her paintbrush.

Artist Rachel Alvarez

When you look at Rachel's art, you're transported to a new - or familiar - place. Her watercolors of each state in the USA are marvelous, each one capturing the essence of place. Whether it's Minnesota's North Shore or Michigan's Great Lakes, Maryland's lighthouses or Texas hill country, these beautiful paintings make you long to travel and happy to see where you've been. 

Artist Rachel Alvarez - US Map
Missouri. Painted by Artist Rachel Alvarez
Minnesota. Painted by Artist Rachel Alvarez

Michigan & Arizona, painted by artist Rachel Alvarez

How long have you been an artist? 
I have been painting since high school. A little over 2 years ago I decided, with the loving encouragement of my husband, to pick up my paints again. Although I have enjoyed art my entire life, choosing to be in art clubs instead of sports, I never had the confidence to try to have a real career in the field. So, even after receiving formal education in art and receiving my BFA in painting and photography in college, I settled for retail management - spending most of my days looking for a rare opportunity to use my "creative" side. Some jobs were better than others. In 2015, I started painting again by producing small 6x6 oil paintings during my son's nap times, and opened an Etsy shop called TheNapTimeArtist.
Colorado. Artist Rachel Alvarez

Is your art your full-time career? 
No, but that is my goal. At this time, I am a SAHM (which I love!), but I am preparing for an art career once our kids are in school full-time. 
Hand-painted US Map. Artist Rachel Alvarez
Tennessee. Artist Rachel Alvarez

Where do you work?  
My art studio is in our home. We live on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. 
Maryland. Artist Rachel Alvarez

Do you have favorite places you like to create? 
I love to paint whenever and wherever I can. Usually, I am working in my studio since I am also caring for our two kids, but I have also found great joy painting from the driver's seat of our Honda minivan while the kids are napping in the back. 
Artist Rachel Alvarez painting inside the van while her children nap

What does a typical day look like? Is there a typical day? 
There is no typical day. Usually, my days are busy with play, story time, parks—around 1pm I start painting (when the kids are asleep), and I paint until they wake up. Sometimes I have 1 hour, sometimes I have 3. The afternoon mirrors our morning. On a rare occasion, I will paint at night after everyone is in bed. 
West wind. Artist Rachel Alvarez
west wind
Painting in progress. Artist Rachel Alvarez

What materials do you prefer? 
I used to prefer oils because that is what I had been trained in. One day my husband went to a yard sale. He had seen some paint in large ziplock bags and bought them for $3, not knowing what they were. They were watercolor tubes. The tubes sat in a closet, unused for months, because I was terrified of them.

Then I got pregnant again. Woohoo! Painting with oils was not something that I could continue doing because of all of the chemical smells. So, at the beginning of last year I decided to go out on limb and break out the watercolors. It was really a moment of desperation because I really wanted to continue painting, but couldn't use the oils I was so familiar with. 

For the first few months of this new adventure, I used a small 6 color palette that I had made out of an old Altoids tin and some Gerber baby food lids. I painted from the driver's seat of our minivan while the kids napped in the back. Since that day, sometime last March, I have really grown to love watercolors. They are an exciting challenge full of permanency, and they work well for the limited time that I have. I am still using some of those same yard sale paints. 
Artist Rachel Alvarez

Where/How are you inspired
My inspiration comes from a variety of sources. Mostly, I am inspired by family road trips of our local Maryland landscape, which I have loved since our family moved here when I was in high school. I've also been motivated to paint certain subjects because of my role as a mom. Last year, for instance, I did a group of paintings called the "Toddler Snack" series. Our son, who was 3 at the time, chose what I painted each day. It's safe to say that I had never painted sliced grapes or "ants on a log" before that project.
Maine. Artist Rachel Alvarez

How do you know when your piece is done? 
I don't know if I will ever think a piece is "done." I think I get this quality from my grandfather, also an artist, who was known to remove his work from our living room walls to add more color or an additional tree. 
Washington. Artist Rachel Alvarez

Do you work on one or more pieces at a time? 
Normally, I have 2-3 pieces in the works at any given time.
landscape painting by artist Rachel Alvarez

If you were not a painter, what would you do? 
I would most likely work in advertising or merchandising.
US States decals, painted by artist Rachel Alvarez
State map decals, by artist Rachel Alvarez

How can our readers find and purchase your art? 
My work is available for purchase in my online shops: and on Etsy:
Artist Rachel Alvarez

Would you like to share anything else with us? 
Thank you so much for this opportunity to share my work with you.
No matter where you roam, the place you're loved is home. Artist Rachel Alvarez

More information about Rachel and her artistic process can be found on her blog: or on her website:

Interested in commissioning a special painting? Contact her directly at:
rachelalvarezart[at] or

You can find her on social media at


All photos courtesy and copyright Rachel Alvarez