With 2021 now behind us, reviewing my Top Nines

My Art Top 9 of 2021

Photos each have a Photo Number (not ranked in any particular order) for reference within the text of this post


Reviewing my studio’s Top 9 of 2021, there are a few art items that come to the forefront. I can’t look back on 2021 without acknowledging both firstly and secondly, that the deaths of my fathers (my dad and my father-in-law, photos 7 and 9) impacted my personal and art life throughout the year, as I grieved, adjusted, started over, grieved again, adjusted again, and attempted to start over again. You may notice a slight shift coming in my work as I get going again. The one and only painting that I managed to eek out in 2021 was a raw expression of where I was at that point (Photo 8), a canvas of black, dark purple and a tiny flash of white– feeling nothing but darkness and sadness closing in like a cocoon around a tiny flame of hope I held closely, trying to protect it from getting snuffed out. 

There were some high notes at random intervals in 2021. My joint exhibition, “Collective Environments” at Hygienic Art (Photo1) was a great way to get back into the swing of exhibiting again after months off. I was pleasantly surprised and thrilled to receive the 2nd place AWARD at Portsmouth Arts Guild’s “Imagine Water” (photo 5). It was an exhibit I just decided to submit to at the last minute, spontaneously, and then found out a couple days later I won an award in the show! I still love how the Guild gave paper gold crowns to all award winners — it was a fun and playful touch at a time when sometimes art exhibitions can take themselves too seriously.

I was also the juror for Heartspot’s “Light at the End of the Tunnel” exhibition in the spring — which not only was a fabulous exhibit for which to review submissions, demonstrating a very creative range in artistic interpretations, but it held personal significance –as all this year I had been looking and striving for some sort of light at the end of a long and dark tunnel. I think many of us all had, and why this exhibit was particularly resonant for the times. It was an honor to jury it and see how it all came together on the gallery walls (Photo 2). Another highlight for 2021 was exhibiting my artwork in contrast to the walls of my favorite gourmet waffle restaurant, The Burgundian (Photo 3).

As I was about to wrap up the year and write it off as a mediocre art year at best, I flipped a two sided coin, one last good thing and one last not-so good thing for the year. I discovered a leak in my art studio! (Photo 6) This affected a large area of the floor that had become soaked. I had to scramble to move a bunch of furniture, canvases, and supplies that were near or in the waterlogged area — including a number of rolled up old works on paper that were unfortunately ruined. All this just as we were preparing our house to host family for the holidays! I didn’t even post about it on my Instagram because I was just so overwhelmed by trying to dry out and dehumidify everything and take stock of what had to be thrown out. It was really deflating and ill-timed ordeal. 

On the other side of that coin was that I was able to finish off my art year with one last positive thing — one last hail-mary purchase of an original painting to ship in time as a Christmas gift. It was a pleasure and an honor to pack up this painting (Photo 4) and cross my fingers that it would arrive as a surprise to the buyer’s wife as a Christmas gift.


My Top 9 of 2021 – personal

Personally, 2021 while a year of mourning, pain, and transition, was also a year with marked celebration, joy, and personal growth. In 2021, I got to meet my sister’s beautiful new baby girl (Photo 16), my niece with whom I now share a birth month. I got to make giggling memories with my toddler nephew (Photo 18). My husband and I celebrated a full decade of marriage with a spring getaway for our anniversary (Photo 12). “Contractor fatigue” also marked our year, as I managed contractor issues for a few home projects (Photo 15) that our fathers had earlier pointed out needed to be done soon, in that familiar way that fathers do. So we wanted to honor that voice of our fathers by trying to get some of those home projects accomplished.

I celebrated the bountiful harvests of a good garden year (Photo 13), inspired by the garden boxes that my own father had crafted (Photo 10) just months before his cancer diagnosis. In 2021, I found solace in simpler things like gardening and filling up my birdfeeders (Photo 11) so I could watch birds as I sipped tea on the porch in the mornings. 

2021 was a year where I became more aware and protective of my physical and mental health more than ever. I kept a consistent kickboxing habit (Photo 14), working out consistently 3-4 times weekly even in the midst of chaos, helping with improved muscle strength, confidence, and managing increasing stress. Walking in the woods daily helped clear my mind and keep my body moving. 

Fun fact: I tried kayaking for the very first time ever in 2021 — and I loved it! (Photo 17) I want to go kayaking again and get better at it. My social media is now filled with ads for kayaks and kayaking supplies (I’d love to find a nice compact or portable kayak — send suggestions my way if you have any recommendations for one, or any general kayaking tips or favorite locations for kayaking!). 

I couldn’t just finish out 2021 without mentioning the coronavirus (no photo needed). Regardless of your views or stances on all the various aspects of the pandemic, it has definitely impacted the year in a big way, once again. So, just as I was about to wrap up the year, and looking forward to starting the new year with a clean studio, a fresh slate, and renewed energy and hope, I tested positive for covid. The timing couldn’t have been worse, and I definitely despaired a bit on how it was going to impact my physical and mental perspectives entering 2022. So, after resting, recovering, and finishing up required quarantines, I’m finally just starting my version of a New Year’s start to 2022. It’s a delayed start, sure. But I’d rather take delayed starts over never starting. 

My first two paintings of 2022! (photo and artwork by Rachel Brask)

So to start off 2022, I’ve gotten back in the studio, and in my first week back I’ve created not just one, but TWO oil paintings! I’m choosing hope that having a day planner will have meaning again, so I’m using one geared specifically for artists and makers — and I’ve enjoyed writing down goals and projects again. Actually being hopeful for a new year, new paintings, and opportunities feels new again. Like my soul was frozen for awhile, and now I’m just beginning to thaw out again. Thank you for your support, encouragement, and flexibility in following my journey up to 2021, and thank you for sticking with it as we see what 2022 holds!

~ ~ ~

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