Rachel Eskandari is passionate about a lot of things: Phoenix, plants, painting, the color pink. In fact, the 28-year-old ASU alumna’s long, wavy hair is dyed a bold blend of fuchsia and magenta. In 2014, she blended her myriad passions and started Pink Puddle Studio in Phoenix.
Though she has been painting, selling prints, spearheading workshops and collaborating with other local artists full-time for nearly three years, Eskandari took the circuitous route when it came to pursuing her profession.
Eskandari painted her first portrait, a ballerina, when she was in eighth grade. She took art classes throughout high school. She was particularly fond of ceramics.
“If I didn’t do painting, I would totally do ceramics,” she admits. “What I love about painting and ceramics is actually getting physically into your artwork.”
When it came to college, she knew she wanted to do something with art.
“I always tell people that going to college for art is something I did for myself and never actually thought about what I was going to do with it. I didn’t think too much about it and I didn’t really care what was going to happen,” she says. “A lot of people when they go to college, they think ‘How is this going to affect my future and what I’m going to do with it?’ In all honesty, I was just like ‘I want to do this right now.’”
After obtaining her B.F.A in painting in 2010, Eskandari explored a slew of career paths. She worked at the Phoenix Art Museum as a gallery attendant, studied art therapy in New York and maintained a brief career in the wedding planning business in Scottsdale. While in New York, she also interned for a horticultural therapist.
“That was pretty awesome because I love plants and I’ve always believed that plants are healing,” she says.
Now, instead of growing plants, she paints them. Flowers, saguaros and succulents are common motifs in her work.
“I love to paint really organic things, like nature stuff because it’s so forgiving and you can be more creative in what you make,” she says. “I try to experiment and mix things up, but I definitely feel like I have a style that people can recognize.”
Eskandari says she likes to paint abstractly, but usually includes some form of a figure, usually female. Her two favorite mediums are oil and watercolor. She often uses the wet-on-wet technique, which she says creates a more “washy” aesthetic.
“I try to throw some kind of whimsical element into it…right now I’m mixing a lot of botanicals with figures,” she says. “I’m not a realistic painter whatsoever. I’ve never looked at something and tried to get it exact. I could never do that because that’s not what I like about painting. You kind of interpret what you see through your own eyes.”
Eskandari speaks earnestly about the business and her struggles as an artist. She says it has been both challenging and gratifying.
“What I’ve learned, though, is if you put a cactus on anything in this state, somebody will buy it,” she says with a laugh.
Pink Puddle is currently headquartered at Eskandari’s Phoenix home. Eventually she hopes to open a space that will serve as a studio and storefront.
One of the artist’s favorite aspects of her job is collaborating with other Phoenix creatives. She has been working with Madalyn Nault, who handcrafts purses and accessories out of vintage fabrics, for nearly two years. Nault makes accessories like wallets and clutches and Eskandari adorns them with handpainted flowers and cacti.
“I really believe in collaboration over competition and I think Phoenix is so good about that,” she says.
Another way that Eskandari connects with the community is by regularly hosting watercolor workshops around the Valley. The next one will be held at Urbana Boutique in Phoenix on March 23.
“Anybody who has the tools and is motivated can do exactly what I do,” she says. “Find the people around you that inspire you, who build you up and don’t bring you down. I have a lot of people in my life that are like ‘You can do this,’ and I feel like that affected me a lot. If you have people around you constantly saying, ‘This isn’t gonna work,’ eventually you’re going to believe it.”
Eskandari says she also enjoys making her own schedule, being creative every day and making an impact on others through her art.
“You do things for yourself to make yourself happy but if it can impact somebody else, that’s a huge thing, too,” she says.
Photo credit: Minkmade