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My Story

Rachael Grad Artist in Colorful Sami Art Print Leggings and Original Abstract Paintings artwork 

Mommy Mayhem

Motherhood is mayhem. A mom of three and former lawyer, I left practicing law to study painting full-time at the New York Studio School and New York University before transferring to OCAD University. I earned a BFA in Painting and Drawing from OCAD University as the Governor General's Academic Medal and Mrs. W.O. Forsyth Award Winner and am starting an MFA at York University this fall 2022. My practice incorporates digital painting and collage to assist in abstracting my observational drawings and paintings. I combine my experience as a mother, former lawyer, and traveler into my artwork.

Parenting moments are portrayed in my “Mommy Mayhem” abstract expressionist paintings and “Motherhood Hit Me Like a Train” line art using my children’s Thomas the Train toys as paintbrushes. Toys have overtaken my home and artwork and are always in mind and in the way. Rolling a toy train across my art is a not-so subtle metaphor for being a mother artist. To express motherhood in body and gesture, I used a small toy train to paint lines across watercolour paper.

The mark making proved unexpectedly tiring for my arm and back. Ironically, working in this way caused the same physical exhaustion, aches, and pains as those I experienced after childbirth, as a mother to a newborn. I worked in short bursts and took many breaks while creating this painting. Resting alone and respite from one’s own kids is also highly recommended when mothering. 

My painting technique is a reference to, and mocking of, art history movements such as the machismo of the Abstract Expressionist painters. In gestural paintings, I abstract stuffed animals and toys that serve as transitional comfort objects for children as they grow and learn independence from parents. My visual language is informed by abstract expressionism, playful mark making, and the contradiction between my dream of control and order versus the reality of constant pandemonium and mess at home.

Painting and Drawing Process

To begin a new drawing or painting, I start by meditating in my studio, then drawing a compositional sketch with pencil or paint. In my art studio I work on multiple paintings and drawings at once over many sessions.

With drawings I work directly from life, sketching and drawing from observation. I've experimented with different drawing materials but am mostly using pencils (black and color) to draw. Building up then erasing marks is a big part of my drawing process. You can see eraser marks on the paper. 

With paintings I experiment with different applications of color: washes of paint, bold brushstrokes and palette knife across the canvas or panel. Using my children's toys as paintbrushes is another frequently used art technique in my studio and home. My abstract paintings are very colorful and lively. Over time as I apply paint, the image becomes more abstracted. Each artwork has many layers and lots of texture built up over multiple painting sessions.

Rachael Grad Artist Self Portrait while oil painting color art artwork colour

My Background Story

A mom of three and former lawyer, I studied and worked in the US, France, Italy, and Hong Kong before moving back home to Toronto, Canada. I left practicing law to study painting full-time at the New York Studio School and New York University before transferring to OCAD University. Focusing on colourful abstracted representational art, recently my art practice has expanded to incorporate digital painting and collage to assist my observational drawing and painting. I combine my experience as a mother, former lawyer, and traveler into my artwork.  

My artwork has been shown in solo and group shows in Washington, DC, New York City, Venice, Italy, and the Toronto area. I hold degrees from Brandeis University (BA, Honors in Economics & Minor in French Literature), Duke University School of Law (Juris Doctorate), Sciences Po in Paris, France (Diploma, International Relations), and OCAD University (BFA in Painting and Drawing).

To see my Resume/CV with full exhibition list click here. I live and work in Toronto, Canada.

Pregnant Self-Portrait Ink on Paper Pregnant Self Portrait #1, Ink on Paper Drawing, 22″ x 30″, 2012