“If something good hasn’t happened yet, it means you aren’t at the end of your painting – know the magic is there waiting for you – know something good happens in the end.” – Arrachme
“Take chances, be bold and take risks. You can’t mess up anything – everything you do is right and will lead to a creative silver lining.”
That’s the advice Arrachme Collins, an internationally recognized contemporary seascape artist known professionally as Arrachme, gives to her students.
The Village of Bonita resident specifically was referring to placing paint on canvas, but she acknowledged those same words also reflect how she chooses to live.
Arrachme (pronounced A-rah-cham-me) anchors her life in love and faith, peppered with periods of discovery that have helped her overcome loss and professional and medical challenges. Those challenges tested her strength, but also helped mold, expand and transform her creative side.
At an early age, Arrachme’s father taught her to reach for the stars.
“He was an incredible entrepreneur,” the 55-year-old said. “He was my biggest influence – I could see from him that anything was possible – I idealized him. When he died I was only 11 years old, and then all I had of him was magical stories.”
The Ohio native always wanted to be an artist, which was difficult for her family to understand. Her mother and two siblings were talented but were more left-brained. “My brother and sister are both engineers,” Arrachme explained. “It was very odd to my family that I was an artist.
“I went to business college and design school, which included art,” she said. “I started my own [interior design] firm [in Florida] and was very successful.”
Later, Arrachme was drawn to Ashville, North Carolina.
“It must have been fate because I met an art master that taught me privately,” she said. “He took me on and furthered my art career.”
In addition to focusing on her art, Arrachme – following in her father’s entrepreneurial footsteps – started another successful business, which she ran for 10 years.
“I was doing art exhibits, selling my work and running a tourism business,” she continued. “My father gave me the tools to have a healthy balance for success. I knew if I was doing what I love, the opportunities would just naturally come.”
Arrachme met her husband and biggest advocate, Peter Collins, in North Carolina. After years of living in Ashville, the couple decided to move to The Villages.
“I was working more than 80 hours a week and Peter was running a foundation,” Arrachme said. “We needed to slow down.”
After moving to The Villages, Arrachme started to promote her artwork more aggressively. She joined several art organizations, was elected president of [The Villages] Visual Arts Association by her peers, chaired four different committees within the art community and began showing her work both locally and regionally.
Then came her biggest break.
“I was introduced to Nina Torres, who owns the Nina Torres Fine Art Gallery in Miami,” Arrachme explained. “She wanted to work with me and began taking me to [events], and later other people started recognizing me. It was then that I began travelling and touring with other artists.”
In the last two years alone, Arrachme has shown her art at international venues including the New York Art Expo, Art Basil Miami Beach and Art Monaco. In addition, she has had articles written about her work in several prestigious art publications and has garnered celebrity endorsements.
“It’s a natural progression for a professional artist to do what I did,” Arrachme said. “You paint, you get recognized, you travel, you get picked up by galleries, you get published and then you get celebrity endorsements.”
Arrachme said it takes a lot of dedication and work to make all those things come to fruition.
“You have to pay for your own travel, spend thousands of hours painting, filling out paperwork, and following through and talking to galleries,” she advised. “And it’s not just doing it once; you have to juggle hundreds of galleries to make it happen. It took me years.”
For many, it might seem like a huge amount of work – and it is – but to Arrachme it’s a labor of love.
“To me, it’s not stressful because I learned well from my father,” she said.“And I love working. I’m successful because I love what I’m doing and the work is the fun part for me. If I didn’t have my work, I’d be a very unhappy person.”
Toward the end of 2014, Arrachme made plans to teach art classes through The Villages Lifelong Learning College. She views the classes as a way to pay it forward and teach others to enjoy what she’s enjoyed for much of her life.
But life doesn’t always unfold in ways that one expects. Throughout 2014, Arrachme was confronted with ongoing personal challenges unrelated to her work that she prefers not to discuss.
Those challenges created a tremendous amount of stress in her life and probably contributed to a major health scare – something she never saw coming. Last December, Arrachme was rushed to the hospital after experiencing stroke symptoms. “I was without the use of my right side – it was just gone and I was experiencing slurred speech,” she said. “They gave me tests and on the fourth day I appeared to be recovering when I had another episode.”
Arrachme said although she was very aware of what was going on around her it was like she was frozen in time – paralyzed. “I was in my body but unable to move,” she explained. “At that moment I was released of the pressure situation that created the stroke. At that moment, it didn’t matter – nothing mattered.”
Based on comments made by medical personnel, she wasn’t sure she would survive the night. With Peter by her side, they talked about their future together – if indeed there would be one.
Arrachme said her art was like a living, breathing thing to her. If she survived, she knew she had to continue with her art and she still wanted – no needed – to fulfill her commitment to teach art classes.
“I did want to teach the art classes because it meant the world to me,” she said. “I wanted to share what I knew and what I’ve learned through this whole journey of exhibiting. But here I was signed up to teach these classes and get away from the stressful [challenges] I was experiencing and then I had the stroke.
“I was starting the classes in four weeks. I didn’t know if I’d have my speech or right side back by then, but I knew I had to teach those classes regardless because that was what would bring me joy. I had to get better.”
And so she did.
Four weeks later, Arrachme stood in front of her full class of 19 students and began teaching her art.
“Now I’m on my fourth class,” she said with well-deserved pride ringing in her voice. “And we have a waiting list. I am so full of joy.
“Even though I could make more money selling just one painting than what I could make in one year of teaching classes, I get more joy teaching in the college,” Arrachme admitted. “The reason is because I’m surrounded by loving, kind and giving people. They are so supportive of one another and of me. They are nurturing. I’m giving out love and information and they’re giving back love and kindness.”
Arrachme said she has learned so many lessons from her students – lessons that she and others can apply in their own lives.
“I see a student getting used to a whole new experience – and not being afraid,” Arrachme said. “Of stepping into something that’s not familiar – much like in life, when we step into something new but we still feel safe.
“I’m safe in that [classroom],” she said. “And it’s enough.”
When asked what’s next on her agenda, Arrachme said she now can pick and choose which art events she wants to attend and will continue to go to some of them. She also wants to continue teaching art classes, and of course, will continue to paint.
Arrachme said she couldn’t do what she does without the love and support of Peter.“Ever since I’ve been in the hospital, Peter won’t let me go by myself to the classes,” she said. “He gives up his lunch date with his Sparky Strummers group to help me. He rushes home so he can pack up my art supplies and gets me to the classes on time. Thank you, Peter.”