I had the pleasure of speaking with artist and former NFL offensive lineman Will Rackley, whose unique career trajectory will resonate with anyone exploring different avenues of their creativity. The ability to support oneself through a talent is an admirable goal. For most of us, finding that one thing we’re good enough at and that we honestly believe we could do forever is a daunting task. Enter Will. He found two things. His love of the game of football took him to the NFL and now he’s looking to excel in the studio as an artist.
Describe, briefly, your football life. When did you start playing football and when did you stop?
I started playing football at about 5 yrs old. I stopped playing from 8th grade to 10th grade because I was always a running back, but the coach wanted me to play Oline (because I was getting fat lol). I ironically picked it back up my junior year of high school and played Oline until I had to retire due to a series of concussions in 2015, with the Baltimore Ravens.
What were the main takeaways you had from being a professional athlete, playing at the absolute highest level of your sport/craft in the NFL?
That its a full time year around Job. You have to be at your absolute best all the time because the teams are always looking to replace you. It taught me how to take my focus and work ethic to another level.
What kinds of traits did you develop through football that help you today?
I would say being able to work smart and hard even though you don’t necessarily feel up to it or see the fruits of your labor right away.
When did you begin developing a desire to start painting?
I’ve always been intrigued by painting, but have always been more of a drawer. I didn’t start actually painting until 2015.
At what point did you put paint to canvas and when did you realize you were good?
I started in July 2015, I didn’t realize that I had any real potential until the end of that year when I started painting portraits where the likeness of the painting started to look like the subject matter.
What’s your creative process?
It depends on if I am creating something for myself or doing something that is commissioned. If it is commissioned then I take whatever the patron wants done and try to find ways to make it one of a kind by putting my own personal spin on it. If i am creating something for myself, I tend to just draw on any outside inspiration that I run into and try to incorporate something unique into it. My goal is to try and paint something someone has never seen.
How did you go about beginning to sell the work you were doing?
It came about with me just painting things for myself and posting them online and then people just started asking me to paint things for them.
What parallels can you draw from football and art?
There’s a level of hard work, focus, and perseverance that you have to have with both to be successful.
What are the main differences between the offensive line and putting in work in your studio?
Besides the obvious physical aspect, painting is much more of a relaxed and peaceful way of getting out any aggression or just getting away from everyday stresses.
Do you feel more fulfilled now than you did playing football?
I do, but I think that has more to do with me being a husband and father now instead of just an artist/athlete.
Who inspires you?
I think my brothers inspire me the most because they both continually chase their goals in music and film.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to begin selling art (or pursuing something creative)?
I would say to just get started and understand that you’ll likely get frustrated, but that only helps you learn what things work and don’t work for your creative process.
How do you go about deciding what to work on and for who?
At this point, the commissioned pieces are first come first serve, or based on any timing deadline.
What are your goals for the future in your career?
My main focus is to continue raising my skill level and creating pieces that people treasure.