by Leah Draffen
IT WAS DURING A SUMMER such as this that Abigail Reller and her daughter, Anna Frances, set out to paint a piece to go above their family sofa. “My husband kept encouraging me to do something I loved while my son was in daycare. So, we got the supplies, and my daughter and I painted together. That first piece started it all once I posted it on social media.”
One family saw her post and had interest in Abigail painting with their sons, which led to a connection with interior designer Kristine Flynn, who loved the idea and offered her office as a place to paint. Abigail reflects, “Both of those women asked ‘what do we need to do to make this happen?’ I’ve learned that I really don’t think it’s possible to start a business on your own. It demands the generosity of others.”
On Saturdays, Abigail would clear out Flynn Designs’ lobby to set up for art sessions.“ I would lay down Visqueen and drop cloths to paint with kids. It was perfect and allowed the idea to become something real.” Her sessions, coined The Grey Collaborative, swiftly outgrew Flynn Designs space which prompted Abigail to find a building on Metairie Road. In September 2019, she opened Abigail Reller Art.
“Once we got the studio, it was able to take on a life of its own. It gave us a space and allowed us to come here with our three kids. They are playing while I’m painting, and my husband is helping me schedule clients and seal or paint sides. Initially, I had to ask myself, ‘Am I actually an artist? Is this what I do now?’” she laughs. A year later in 2020, Abigail resigned from her 9-year career as a religion teacher and took on art full time.
Her experience as a teacher is one of the many reasons why Abigail loves what she does. “It’s so fun. I feel like one of my gifts is a good rapport with children. It’s what made me a teacher and what has allowed this to happen.
“Through teaching I saw that everything has to be black and white for kids. There’s rarely room for grey area in school. But The Grey Collaborative gives them an opportunity to mix colors. There isn’t a right or wrong, and I love it. I think there aren’t enough things like that for kids and they need it. I love that they can do whatever on the canvas—they can’t mess it up. Parents will ask, ‘how are you so calm?’”
In terms of teaching, Abigail gives a nod to her art teachers at Archbishop Chapelle High School. “My art teachers there made me feel like I could actually do things. I didn’t think I could draw, but they taught me how. It’s the only art training I have had.” When Abigail discovered abstract art, she knew that she found her niche. “It didn’t have to be perfect or look a certain way,” Abigail explains.
Greatly inspired by color, Abigail’s goal is to create art that feels good. For commissions, Abigail always asks for pictures of the space from as far back as possible. The same goes for finishing The Grey Collaborative pieces. “I want to get a feel for what your space is like. That is the most helpful part of the process. What does this need to feel like in the end? Does it need to be soothing and calm, or funky and fun? I love when a finished piece is brought into a space and it’s just right. It feels so intentional to hang art on your walls.”
When painting for herself, Abigail sometimes begins by writing words all over the canvas. “I mind dump on the canvas and then paint over it, but it often truly begins with a color palette that I recently used and loved. For me, it constantly goes back to what one wants to be surrounded with—and I want to be surrounded by light, bright and beautiful so that’s what I tend to create. Now, I do also love a dark, funky modern piece, and love seeing wherever that takes me.”
Truthfully, Abigail is still in awe of where art has taken her so far. “The way that it has grown has been amazing and humbling,” she says. “There’s a learning curve and I’m trying to be patient with myself and thankful when other people are patient with me. What I’m realizing, more and more, is that every time my business has moved to another level, it always involves a connectionwith someone else. I’m able to be an entrepreneur but also be there for my family. A lot of people work hard and don’t get to do those things. This is a combined effort, not only of my husband and I working really hard, but also of other people in our lives taking chances on us and helping us. It has been so awesome to see that.”
Summing up, Abigail adds, “To be completely honest, my favorite part of being a full-time artist is that it has served my family in the exact way that we needed at this time in our life. We have three small children, and this gives me flexibility. It’s not less work, but my kids are a part of it all the time, and they’re learning about art and work ethic. For that, I’m most grateful.”
Abigail Reller Art is located at 1623 Metairie Road in Metairie. Learn more at abigailrellerart.com and follow along on Facebook and Instagram @abigailrellerart. 504-491-5675.
Read the story in the digital magazine here: https://issuu.com/jblpublishing/docs/2106web/s/12323221