Day Job/Night Job: She Sold Her Auto Body Shop to Become an Artist

Bianca Rauser sold her shop to step away from the crazy life of collision repair and pursue her passion for making art.

In the world of collision repair, there are a ton of multi-talented people doing other things when they’re not repairing vehicles.

I would bet the average customer does not realize the tech, painter or estimator working on their car is a musician, artist, actor, writer, movie director---even the owner of a champion Frisbee dog! I have enjoyed interviewing these mega-talented individuals since I started this column in 2008 when I wrote a story about Chris Mashburn, a body tech, and his beloved Frisbee dog, Mindy.

This story is about Bianca Rauser, who stepped away from the world of collision repair and sold her shop to enjoy life and pursue her art. A major tragedy in her life caused Rauser to fast track her journey, and part of that includes creating art that has quickly become a significant part of her retirement plan.

How did you get into the collision repair industry?

I was working for an insurance company, and had to interact with body shops a lot. I was getting tired of the Evil Empire when a shop owner offered me a job. I took it, and I absolutely loved my position. He taught me how to be an estimator and I loved everything about it.

What were the most satisfying and challenging parts of your role in the industry?

There are people out there who aren’t crazy about women working in this industry. It has gotten better, but it still exists. When I could make customers happy after going through the stressful situation of an accident---I loved that part. It has also been rewarding getting to know and interact with some of the most knowledgeable people in the industry.

What are the biggest obstacles for the industry moving forward?

Lack of education! As cars are ever-changing with legions of new technology, it is imperative to constantly train to keep up with correct procedures. I hated the fact that I had to fight with the insurance companies so that we could make safe, OE repairs. I could see that quality wasn’t always a priority and it began to become an issue. When people's safety is involved, quality is not negotiable, in my opinion.

How did you get into creating art? Please describe your process.

Art became an outlet for my anger and sorrow after my brother was murdered in a random act of violence. I was talking to him on the phone one day, and he told me that he was going to the store to buy bird seed. Somebody walked up to my brother and punched him and he fell and fractured his skull. He went into a coma, and three and a half weeks later, he was gone. The murderer got 18 years---seven years suspended---but he has been messing up in prison, so it looks like he will be in there for a long time. My brother was a retired doctor and I think about him every single day.

Bianca Rauser is selling her pieces both through major galleries in Arkansas and nationally.

I mainly create abstracts in acrylic, and will paint on any surface I find interesting. I choose colors based on my mood that day. Rarely using brushes, I opt for non-traditional methods of application such as bubble wrap, cookie cutters, funnels, plastic grocery bags, water bottles, blow torches, marbles, etc. I even used a cat toy the other day to create an interesting texture.

Where do you create the art?

My studio is in a climate-controlled three-car garage that has exactly enough room for zero cars due to all of my artwork and supplies.

How long does it take to create a piece?

From start to finish, approximately three weeks. I have several art projects going on simultaneously all the time. I am always looking for new and exciting things to create, and that’s why I am doing things like tables, coaster sets, and people see to like my clocks as well.

I worked as a cake decorator for 20 years before I got into collision, so I am comfortable using the left side of my brain. It’s so therapeutic---it is amazing. I also do commissions on occasion, usually images on large canvases. If the art is going to be hanging on a wall in a shop, I will sometimes do the image in the company’s colors to tie it in to the whole look.

Have you had success selling your art through galleries, to friends and/or online?

All of the above! My first sales were from me just posting some of my work on my personal Facebook. I am currently in two local galleries---Akib’art and Hidden Talent, both in Fort Smith, AR---and have good experiences at artisan markets. I have a few pieces on my Facebook page, B the Art. Every time I make a sale, it’s so satisfying and fulfilling, it’s like presenting a beautifully repaired vehicle to a customer on a Friday.

Rauser’s art is hanging in body shops throughout the country and gaining top reviews for its use of color and shapes.

Why did you retire from the body shop life?

I had a talented young buyer whom I felt comfortable with taking over what I built. My decision to sell was based upon my frustration with the unethical practices of insurance companies. My original plan was 10 years, but then the murder of my brother altered my perspective and I decided to hand it off to some really great people, and it’s turned out to be a great decision.

What else are you doing during your retirement?

Traveling, cooking, fishing and spending quality time with friends. And of course, making art and hopefully selling art.

What mediums do you use and are you thinking of using new things to create art?

Mainly I use acrylic on canvas, but I am getting into alcohol inks and pottery as well. I am open-minded to try all sorts of items and products to create a spectacular---or not!---piece of art. I have discovered that art is certainly subjective, and some of my favorite pieces are of little interest to people, while other articles I don’t care for seem to be popular. It “pays” to have a wide variety of exhibits.

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