MLK is born

March 28, 2009

I started my next painting today. Before I even put the markers to canvas I had a feeling that this one would be my favorite. The words are from Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” and “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speeches.











I love it so much right now, but it’s going to change a lot.





Nelson Mandela Painting

March 13, 2009

So this is the newest painting I’m working on. Its subject is Nelson Mandela, the first President of South Africa after apartheid, and that is a quote from the inspiring man himself.

I wanted this painting to evoke the feeling I remember from being in Africa, so it’s going to be a lot different than the other paintings in this series, but it will still have some of the same elements. Something that struck me right away when the idea for this painting came to me was that it needed to be done in bright colors – and lots of them. All of the colors in this painting are also in the South African flag, except orange. But, for me, orange needed to be in this painting if it was going to be about Africa, because I remember the color of the sun there looking so much different than I was used to – more like orange. It’s an intense memory to me, and that’s what Africa was all about – intensity.

Another important difference in this painting is that the layers will be more transparent – more fragile, a fractured reality – existing for you to see what you want to see.

The number sequence with the dots is also going to be a bit different for this piece, but it will be bold, staying true to the rest of this painting and its subject, its story, its history.

Obama Painting

March 5, 2009

I wanted to share some updated pictures of the Obama painting. It’s still a work in progress but it’s getting there.


The different shades of red and blue dots represent the red and blue states melding together as one.

I’ve started the third painting in the series I talked about a few days ago. I thought I’d give you a little behind the scenes tour of my “studio.” Hah. If you can even call it that. I paint in the unfinished basement in a corner by a window well (that has been somewhat drippy with the rain these past few days.) I know it probably sounds dreary, but this way I can turn the music up loud (lately it’s been Melissa Etheridge and Macy Gray) and really get into the painting with no distractions.


This is the Barack Obama painting I’m working on. It’s a commemoration of the historic day he took the oath of office and became the first black President of the United States. While I work, I put a lot of thought into the message I’m trying to send with the chosen topic of my painting. For this one I’ve been thinking about the history of black leaders in America, the struggle for justice and civil rights, and the emotional battle people have internally and collectively when met with injustice and unfairness.


All of the paintings in this series have a lot of steps, many layers. I often wait anxiously for them to dry.  They all share the same basic elements. Some have parts underneath all that paint that I will never share with the world, but with this painting I wanted to give you a glimpse into its guts – its heart and soul.


Those shades of red, white, and blue you see will later be mixed to form the signature dots of this series. As you can see, the bottom layers of this particular painting are done in black, white, and silver acrylic paint. Every piece of my paintings has meaning.

This is the painting before it gets covered up with a special mix of brown acrylic paint. The torn pieces of paper I am using for this painting are the same banana peel paper that is used to create the journals in our shop. It has a really great texture and rugged look to it, so it goes very well with the color of brown you will see below that makes up much of what will be the finished painting’s background base color. I work with a lot of different brushes and leave different strokes of texture in the painting. I think this symbolizes the struggles that people have had to go through to get to this moment in time, and to me it shows just how messy and real life is.

These are some of the details that will be covered up forever in the final painting.

As with my other paintings, it’s enough for me to know that they are there.

This is a very tricky, and fun, process. You don’t want to cover up too much or too little. You want to leave room for the dots, but you also want the inside to shine through. It’s fun to work with thick layers of paint though. It’s even fun to wash the paint off your brushes and feel the soft colorful acrylic as it slips through your fingers.

So this is what the Barack Obama painting looks like in preparation for the dots to be added. There is only one thing I want to mention about applying the dots because I am in the process of doing that for this painting right now and there will be more pictures to come later. I spend a lot of time handpainting every single little dot on my paintings, and they are all significant because they are all moments that led up to the subject of each painting. Since the base layer of paint is so thick, I carefully paint each dot, making them as round as I possibly can while going over the dryed layers of texture. My aim is for the layers underneath to still be seen through the dots, for the viewer to see what has been put into the struggle to get to this moment in history. I always leave the edges of my paintings raw and semi-painted, with portions of blank canvas showing through. It is these imperfections that make the experience of painting these pieces so raw and real.

A Series of Paintings

February 10, 2009

I am in the process of creating a series of very special paintings. These mixed media paintings have political meaning and implied social commentary. This blog entry will give you an inside look on their meaning and process.


Josie & 1,138

The first piece of this series was painted as a gift for Josie and currently hangs on her bedroom wall. It was done in the Human Rights Campaign‘s colors of blue and yellow. The painting has 1,138 small dots on it which symbolize the number of federal rights, protections and benefits guaranteed by marriage in the United States and denied to millions of loving same-sex couples.

Harvey Milk November 27, 1978

Harvey Milk November 27, 1978

The piece I recently finished was inspired by the life of Harvey Milk, and it is for sale in our etsy shop.

Milk was an American politician and the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California, as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. On November 27, 1978, Milk and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated by Dan White. Harvey Milk famously said, “If a bullet should enter my brain, let the bullet destroy every closet door.”

This painting is definitely a conversation starter. You’ll have people wondering from the moment they see it about the meaning behind the very specific number of dots. It has three groups of dots: 11, 27, and 1,978, symbolizing the day Harvey Milk was assassinated.


10% of the proceeds from this sale will be donated to the Human Rights Campaign. HRC is the largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.

“Like art, revolutions come from combining what exists into what has never existed before.” -Gloria Steinem

Harvey Milk November 27, 1978

Harvey Milk November 27, 1978 – Original Mixed Media Painting – 24×36

Original Mixed Media Painting

Medium: Acrylic paint, paper, & black sharpie on canvas

Title: Harvey Milk November 27, 1978

Size: 24″ x 36″

Date: February 2009

Artwork copyright © 2009 Rachel Shattuck

Signed and dated on the back

Gallery style canvas, stapled on the back

Intended to hang unframed with raw edges


Each painting is thick and textured with acrylic paint, hand torn craft paper, and black permanent sharpie marker.

So far there is one more painting planned in this series. Its focus will be the historic moment that Barack Obama became the first black President of the United States of America.