Real Women, Living Beautifully: Houston Artist Rylie Caldwell
Mom, wife, artist, and lifelong creative, Rylie, shared her story with me and inspiring is an understatement. I have loved getting to know this fellow Aggie and I'm excited to have her share her story with you!
Hear how Rylie lives beautifully, swoon over her beautiful artwork, and shop her Natalie Wood Designs jewelry here.
What is your story?
"I truly believe that we are all born artists. We are all born with an innate drive to make something and to express our individual creativity. Whether we continue to pursue a life of creativity depends so much upon whether or not our interests and artistic sensibilities are nurtured.
I was lucky enough as a child to have encouragers all around me who allowed me to explore and create. My grandmother was a talented artist and I anxiously looked forward to circling her dining room table and painting together each time we visited her home. She patiently allowed us to destroy her brushes while she instructed us and praised our creations. My parents also gave me a great deal of creative freedom allowing me to paint murals in my bedroom and encouraging me in my artistic endeavors. I can never remember a time in my life when I wasn’t painting or creating.
When it came time to leave home and head to college, I chose to pursue a degree in Architecture at Texas A&M University. The lessons I learned there proved to be invaluable and taught me to be a designer. To think of design in a broader sense and as a whole. To learn about process and space. A highlight of these years was studying abroad for a semester in Italy. To be exposed to this whole new world and so much beauty opened my eyes in a way I could never have imagined. My work is still inspired greatly by these travels and experiences. Upon graduation, I moved to Atlanta and worked in the Architecture field for several years. Even living in a tiny apartment in Atlanta, I was still painting on my little balcony in my free time. It has always been a passion and an escape.
What was the defining moment when you decided to make art a career?
I began pursuing art as my career in 2013 and haven’t looked back. I started by sharing my work with friends and family on social media and it has steadily snowballed ever since. Now, several years later, I have sold artwork all over the World to individual collectors, galleries, corporations, and collaborators. The opportunities that have come my way leave me feeling like the luckiest girl to pursue my passion and have it be well received. It brings me great joy to brighten spaces with my artwork and have my paintings in the background of people’s lives.
Were there any valleys or road blocks that came into your way as you were pursuing your dream?
I can remember in college calling my mom after yet another all nighter in the Architecture studio and lamenting that I wanted to change majors because it was just too hard. I’ll never forget her advice.
“Never quit something just because it’s hard.”
Such a simple response with so much clarity. I repeat this to myself often even now as I learn daily about how to grow my own small business as an artist.
There are numerous things that I have had to learn how to do and do well, on my way to establishing myself as an artist. Honing my craft is merely the beginning. Navigating the worlds of social media, marketing, photography, web design, pricing, networking, shipping, printmaking, and taxes are just a few of the other areas I have had to work through in order to grow my business. Each time I complete a painting it is only the first step in selling a piece of artwork.
One memorable example was the first time I shipped out a very large painting. It took me approximately five trips to the box store, three trips to FedEx and at the end of the day, the painting still looked like it fell off the recycling truck when it shipped out. Afterward, I made it my mission to learn how to build the perfect box so that receiving a painting was a beautiful experience from start to finish.
It is thrilling to feel so empowered in this era that you, as an individual, can learn all of these skills through research. It takes time and persistence but I have enjoyed nurturing the business side of my art career immensely.
What is one piece of advice you would give to a woman who is deciding on taking that leap to follow her dreams?
It is important to me to constantly remain inspired, stay fresh and keep enjoying the process of creating. With each painting I finish, I can reflect upon it and say that I have learned something new. I believe that truly delighting in learning and experimenting is key to any artist or maker’s success. When it starts to feel like work it shows in the work!
How do you live beautifully?
I am particularity inspired by the symbolism and renewal of water. One of my most proud moments as an artist was participating in The 100 Day Project in which I painted a watercolor painting every day for 100 days. Each day I offered the painting up to my followers on social media with the hashtag #100watercolorsforcharitywater. People could simply comment “DONATED” on my post and contribute any amount they wished to Charity Water, an organization digging wells for communities without clean water. At the end of the 100 Days, nearly every painting had been claimed and we had raised enough money for nearly 70 people to have clean water for the rest of their lives. The impact that this will have on these 70 people and the lives of their families is one of my greatest achievement as an artist.
After Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston, like many Houstonians, I wanted to do as much as I could to help my neighbors. I was inspired to paint a piece portraying all of the overwhelming feelings and emotions after the event. I decided to raffle my painting, “Troubled Waters”, off to people who purchased raffle tickets in the form of donations to JJ Watt’s Hurricane relief fund. Tickets were $50 and after only 5 days I had raised almost $13,000 for this one painting in donations. I was completely inspired that I could in any way be a vessel for such positive giving and community participation. It was amazing to me that around 250 individual people were so affected that they took action and decided to donate. I left this experience truly humbled and changed.
I believe that we are obligated to use our talents and gifts to serve and show love to one another. This is what I consider a success and living beautifully!
Where can someone buy your artwork/learn more about you?