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Art & Life with Rebecca Noelle

Today we’d like to introduce you to Rebecca Noelle.

Rebecca, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I was an only child, born in the San Bernardino Mountains and raised in my mom’s flower shop. I attended Clare Cherry School from age 2-12, and Clare Cherry’s philosophies of encouraging play and creativity in children had a major impact on me. I studied dance beginning at age two-ballet, tap and jazz, and eventually moved into Irish Dance and then ballroom. By 16, I was working and competing as a ballroom dancer, and by 18, I was touring with the original cast of Burn the Floor. I danced ballroom and Argentine tango over the next few years with Wayne Foster Entertainment and Otero Dance Company, until attending Stella Adler Academy of Acting in Hollywood.

I then switched my focus from purely dance to musical theatre, learning to act and sing and playing many roles in theatre productions and films around Southern California. By the time I was in my mid 20’s and I had given birth to three beautiful daughters, and eventually adopted a dance studio as well, in the small mountain town of Idyllwild. I learned many skills during my years of dance and theatre-costume design and construction, set construction and painting, hair and makeup, direction, choreography, music, marketing-you name it, and it all came in handy while running my dance studio.

I eventually closed my studio and left Idyllwild when I became burned out on dance, and came to San Diego in search of a new life and more opportunity. Not knowing where to go next, I drifted into cosmetology and attended Paul Mitchell the School. I graduated and got my cosmetology license, but my heart wasn’t in it. I drifted into event design, something I have always loved from childhood.

I had worked as a cake maker, a florist, an artist, a caterer and decorator, so it made sense to me, but still my heart wasn’t in it. My mom, who is a lifelong artist in many realms, had begun oil painting again around this time. She saw how lost and frustrated I was, and how burned out I was from years of striving-auditioning, running businesses, doing hair, baking, sewing, raising kids…and she suggested that I take some time off, get some oil paints, and give myself therapeutic painting time.

I had owned oil paints as a teen, and had spent many hours experimenting, mostly with black and white portraits of classic film stars and jazz musicians, but I had not painted in oils for a very long time. When I painted again, something came alive in me, and I knew why the other careers hadn’t been driving me. I knew that I was meant to paint and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t been doing it all those years!

I began again with portraits, abstracts, dreams, visions-whatever moved me, but I was quickly swept up into the world of plein air painting. I attended my first plein air workshop in Borrego Springs in March of 2012, and I have been addicted ever since. I taught art for a few years in San Diego Schools and at the San Diego Rescue Mission and I now spend my time painting outdoors or teaching private painting lessons in San Diego’s most beautiful spots.

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
I am primarily a plein air painter, working mostly in oils. “Plein air” in the literal term means “open air” and refers to painting outdoors, from life. I feel very connected to the land, especially here in California. Our deserts, mountains, beaches, forests, missions, gardens and cities could occupy a painter’s life a million times over, and my interest in capturing the beauty of our surroundings is what sparked my love for plein air.

It is my intention in my work to come closer every day to being able to paint the essence of a moment, in a beautiful place, so that the viewer may smile and feel at peace and yearn to be inside the painting. When a person imagines a loved one walking through my painting on their way to heaven, or remembers the sunny spot under the redwood tree where they got married, when the beauty of a landscape makes them feel something, then I feel I have done my job. I long to come closer to capturing my own dreams and visions in paint, and also to creating large, expressive illustrations.

As an artist, I am very interested in the creative impulse, because for me it is deep-seated and has driven my entire life. Often I do not know how to express myself next, but I know that I am not happy until I do. On a daily basis, you will find me being creative in many ways-drawing, cooking, making music, writing, and always…dreaming. My latest project, The Artist’s Core Podcast, was born from my love of conversing with interesting artists about the creative impulse, and also my love for the life and times of artists throughout history. Our visions and personalities differ, our circumstances differ, but the longing in our gut that keeps us creating remains the same. I look forward to having these conversations with artists I love, and to getting their philosophies and inspirations out into the world.

Do you think conditions are generally improving for artists? What more can cities and communities do to improve conditions for artists?
I think that if we can learn to live simply, stay educated and genuine, learn to laugh at ourselves and work hard, that conditions are wonderful for artists today. There are many ways to make a living as an artist and to be happy and fulfilled even if you never “make it big”.

Many artists want fame and fortune and are creating with that intention, and the world of social media is feeding into that. I was shocked recently to discover that the majority of the San Diego business who had followed me on Instagram (even business right down the street from me) had then turned around and unfollowed me. I took it very personally until someone told me what that this maneuver is standard business practice on modern day social media. It’s called “follow/unfollow” and there are actually articles written about how destructive it is to artists and local business! I make a point to not support people and places who take part in this kind of activity, because I believe that the best way to build a business or community is with authenticity and integrity, even if that means doing it slowly.

I think a lot of the world has lost respect for artists, and we are often expected to work for free or reduced rates. Almost every teaching inquiry I receive comes with a request to lower my rates or throw in free materials. I don’t get to haggle of the prices of art supplies, yet customers feel the need to haggle with me over the price of my artwork. I think artists need to be strong and smart and gain that respect back by supporting each other, building each other up, charging for our time and skill, and building our businesses ethically. I know this is a difficult balance in a very competitive market, but it’s essential that we build things with care and intention. Every artist’s voice is unique and there is room for all of us. Our job is not to compete and compare-it is to keep the channel open.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
Many of my Balboa Park Paintings are on display at Hotel Solamar, on Sixth Ave. in Downtown San Diego. I will have a booth at Artwalk in Little Italy on April 28-29, and at Liberty Station August 11-12. I’ll be competing in the Del Mar Fair Plein Air Contest Thursday June 21st from 10-3, which is a great way to see lots of plein air painters at work. Online support is great too!

Contact Info:


Image Credit:
All photos copyright Rebecca Noelle.

Getting in touch: SDVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

1 Comment

  1. Peggy Frye

    May 1, 2018 at 11:24 pm

    I am so fortunate to have been able to read this article about Rebecca. I am honored to have one of her paintings and now I will value the painting even more. She is sure to herself and her talent.

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