Rachel Fogle is the mastermind and creator of ReefWeeds: the eye-catching, UV-reactive reef-inspired art you’ve undoubtedly seen “glowing” at aquarium shows, in YouTube videos, and all over social media this past year.
We love how Rachel’s paintings capture the fluorescence of corals so much that we commissioned her to paint a Favia coral for us last spring to hang in the office here at Marine Depot. A friendship blossomed and now here we are, six months later, offering ReefWeeds art in our online store!
We’re dying to tell you more, but we’ll let Rachel herself tell you about our new partnership!
ReefWeeds makes reef-inspired art. Did reef aquariums inspire your art, or did art inspire you to start a reef aquarium?
Actually, a little of both! The beauty of a coral reef has always been inspiring for me so when I talked my husband into “us” getting a tank, I knew I wanted a saltwater setup. And the us in quotes is there because it was really me, I just justified it by saying it was for both my husband and I! It took me 4 years to talk him into getting his own tank!
Traditional art would get washed out over my tank, so wanting something to enhance the overall asthetic of my tank is what made me think about using UV paints. I wanted something to show off the beauty of a reef by highlighting the fluorescence of coral. And that’s how ReefWeeds was born!
Aquashella was eye-opening because it showed the aquarium-keeping community there are a lot of kindred spirits out there who love aquatic life as much as we do. What other interests or groups do you think we as a community should be looking toward to help grow the industry?
I really think getting involved and interested in both freshwater aquariums and saltwater aquariums helps grow interest and knowledge in general. I started in salt so my knowledge of freshwater is limited. But my reef tank has really led me down the path of seeing how interesting and beautiful a freshwater planted tank can be. I also think interest in both communities helps each one grow by hobbyists seeing the benefits of both. I think Aquashella did this perfectly by showcasing the best of both hobbies.
Using UV reactive paints to make your fish and coral art glow when it’s near a reef aquarium is brilliant! Are you the pioneer when it comes to this sort of thing?
I don’t know if I’m the pioneer by any means as UV paints have been around at least since we saw velvet DayGlo paintings in the 70s so I’m sure others have used them to paint underwater works! But I do like to think the style of showcasing corals and reefs by UV highlighting is unique and something that set the UV reef-inspired art movement in motion. I use a blend of various paints and only use UV to highlight areas of a fish or coral that would naturally fluoresce in nature. My ultimate goal is to make a painting as beautiful under natural light as it is under actinic. This way, the art can be appreciated beyond just being hung over a reef tank. I think that’s what got my art noticed. World Wide Corals was one of my first clients when I started this and they were – and are – very supportive of what I’m doing. They gave me exposure in the very beginning and that was a big part that helped me build my brand.
We’re Facebook friends so I know you paint more than just marine life. What else do you like to paint?
My background is really in more impressionistic, traditional art I’ve always been drawn to painting landscapes and seascapes, as well as still life. AND I absolutely love the depth oil paints can give. I was big into pet portraits a few years ago, but I couldn’t keep up with demand quite honestly! And to me, copying photos exactly isn’t as interesting as putting my own spin on say a marsh scene or a cocktail olive! One of my favorite subjects to paint is clouds. As a matter of fact, I’ve been itching to paint some clouds recently so I might just have to break out the oils!
You’ve discovered this really cool intersection of art and commerce. What advice would you give to young artists and entrepreneurs looking to find their niche?
Stay focused and stay dedicated. And stay unique. I think this rings true beyond just art. Finding your own style or your own unique product sets you apart and lets you grow. I get asked what types of paints I use or if I can share my technique at least a few times every week and my advice is the same: find a style that is all your own. By honing your own style or your own product, you become better at it and dedication shows in the final product. I never mind sharing my style or the products I use, but it’s how people interpret it that makes it their own.
Can you talk about the role social media plays for a small business owner?
Social media is instrumental to the success of any small business right now. Those that embrace it have a better chance at success. I also think realizing the power and reach of social media is very important. You can’t underestimate the reach a simple post will have. Staying consistent to your brand and realizing that what you are posting, whether on your personal page or your business page, has reach and will be used when others are formulating an opinion about you OR your product. Again, it’s about dedication and focus – with consistency mixed in! Social media has been an important part of circulating my art and while there may be days I don’t feel like posting or I don’t feel I have the time, I know it is important so I make sure I stay on top of it. (Note: Be sure to follow ReefWeeds on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter!)
We’re huge fans of your art and display it proudly in our office. Soon we’ll be selling it at Marine Depot! What can you tell us about the paintings and prints we’ll be offering?
I’m so excited to be working with Marine Depot on this custom series! The first set are all acropora and highlight some of the most popular “named” specimens! Walt Disney, Homewrecker, and Red Planet. My goal is to paint coral or fish that will speak to hobbyists that shop at Marine Depot. Each quarter, there will be a new set, with different corals or fish as the subject. Marine Depot will be offering the originals as well as limited edition, hand-highlighted prints on stretched canvas AND limited edition non-UV canvas prints. The price points will vary between the original, the hand-highlighted and non-UV, so hopefully this will allow everyone to have the opportunity to own some ReefWeeds art!
You attend a lot of aquarium shows. Where can people see you next?
Next year, I will be attending the New England Frag Farmer’s Market, Keep On Reefing Expo, Reef-A-Palooza Orlando, New York and Chicago! I am sure we will do a few more, but right now, that’s what I’ve got in the hopper for next year!