Like many of us, Rebecca Zdybel found her passion in an empty nest. An award-winning, gifted artist and teacher, Rebecca spent her early years first working as an R.N. and then raising her family with her husband of 40 years. “After the kids left home, I found first-class instructors in watercolors. I would spend six intensive weeks a year studying with fantastic people.” Her dedication combined with her innate talent brought Rebecca to where she is today – the owner of a successful gallery with commissions on display publicly and by private collectors, a signature member of the S.C. Watermedia Society, teacher of hundreds of happy students and the leader of her popular trips to Italy each year.
“Many of my students come to me in middle life,” said Rebecca as we chatted about her life as an artist and teacher. “That’s what I bring to my students. I didn’t start painting seriously until my 40s – and that brings hope. It’s never too late to pursue your passion and learn something new.” Continuing, she said, “Learning is a real fountain of youth. I feel vibrant and alive when I’m learning. Age is not important in the artistic realm.”
“I was brought up to do what’s practical,” Rebecca remembered. “I was told to study and do what’s going to help you pay the bills, but I knew I had this ‘thing’ in me that needed to be explored.” Rebecca believes creativity allows us to tap into something greater than ourselves. “Sometimes when I’m painting I go into this realm that’s very meditative – I tap into a higher, deeper, spiritual place.”
“Slowing down is very much a part of painting,” Rebecca told me as we continued talking about her love for art. “It really is a wonderful way to spend time, and when you’re finished you have something you created to give someone, or display in your home, or just enjoy for yourself.
Art is about much more than money for Rebecca, and she is very aware of how blessed she is to be able to do what she loves. “My husband is my patron and I am very grateful. Charity is an important part of my mission, developed early on to guide my choices. It’s like a promise to myself.” Her mission is to “share love, spread light, DO ART, and give back” – and she accomplishes the giving back part by donating at least 30% of all sales to charity. “When I have art shows that percentage goes up.”
“It‘s a game I play –you know how it’s said that you can’t out give God? Well it’s true, and He regularly proves the truth of that statement when I hold art shows.” In 2019, Rebecca donated thousands of dollars to a variety of charities, including sponsoring the education of a young girl in the Abacos, a part of the Bahamas that was devastated by Hurricane Dorian, the Australian wildfires and many local causes. “I get so much pleasure out of the idea that, in some small way, my art is making the world a better, kinder, place.”
“This year, due to the quarantine, it will be more painful to give, but I am determined to continue.” The pandemic has also affected Rebecca’s Eat, Paint, Cook trips. “I’ve had to cancel my workshops this year, but I’m hoping to return to Tuscany in the future – always at grape harvest time.” According to Rebecca, fall is the perfect time of year to visit Tuscany. “There are wonderful wine festivals and the colors are gorgeous. We stay in a beautiful monastery bathed in 1,000 years of prayer.” Her trips include both painters and non-painters, and the group cooks beautiful fresh food while creating art. “When my kids were young, my creative art was cooking, and I still love the culinary arts.”
Rebecca is offering a wonderful new tour for 2021, running October 2-9, called Eat, Paint, Love (Venice). The group will visit and paint the centuries-old city of Venice, basking in art that has stood the test of time. There will be gondola trips and tours of outlying areas as well. “And, of course, we’ll have a cooking class,” Rebecca said, excited about this new adventure.
“Painting a place is a wonderful way to never forget the places you visit, you remember the sounds, the smells, the anecdotal things like the weather and the people you met.” Rebecca paused, remembering the beauty and peace she has painted through the years. “I went overseas for a month by myself,” the artist said, explaining where the idea for Eat, Paint, Cook was born. “I even got to spend ten hours in Monet’s garden – and I got locked in! I literally had to figure out how to get out of there. Fortunately, I found another stranded artist – and her husband helped us find a way out!”
“As a result of the pandemic, I’ve had to pivot and develop new techniques to generate income,” Rebecca told me thoughtfully. “I’ve reached out to my collectors with special pricing on commissions, and I’m teaching private watercolor classes via Zoom.” Zoom students have the bonus of having the video recordings available for continued practice. “I hope to resume classes very soon.” Laughing, Rebecca said, “Art classes are the best sunscreen available!” Many of her students are visitors and enjoy taking classes in the middle of the day when the sun is too hot for the beach.
“I’m also hosting free webinars online. My Friday Freebies are informational webinars aimed at emerging artists in the hopes of sharing experiences and advice that I learned the hard way,” Rebecca began. “I wish that sort of thing had been available to me. The Zoom platform has allowed me to connect remotely with students from all over – it’s pretty cool!”
I asked Rebecca about her other projects, and I could feel how excited she is about her latest work. “I’m doing a series of portraits of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I was moved to begin painting him in 2019 on his birthday. Researching Dr. King caused my admiration to grow, and I was inspired to paint him over and over in different ways.” This latest series is quickly becoming a favorite of her collectors and Rebecca continues to be inspired. “I am continually moved by his message. Channeling thoughts of love trumping hate and a longing for justice never gets old.”
Contact Rebecca online at https://rebeccazartist.com or by calling 843-450-2307. Her studio is located near the Galleria Shopping Center at Waterway Village Shopping Center, 9713 N Kings Hwy #207 in Myrtle Beach.