Nan Rae is fond of saying that like all mothers, hers was quick to pronounce her daughter an artist. She’s not quite sure if she was precocious but certainly prolific as painting after painting were done and usually tossed aside as she moved on to the next. One teacher retrieved this out of the trash and it received a National Scholastic Award.
Nan Rae Art that won the National Scholastic Award
After that there was no turning back as Nan Rae was labeled an “artist” by everyone. Summers spent at Interlochen’s National Music Camp then under the direction of the beloved Joseph Maddy cemented her path. Surrounded by musicians, dance majors and visual artists one only had to breath in the atmosphere to be inspired.
At the time, her thinking was that all major art was Western in style and scope as she cranked out works such as these at Chicago’s Art Institute.
And so the journey continued, doing portrait work along with traditional painting and welcoming any commission that came her way. “I suppose I could say my life changed the day I walked into Monet’s home in Giverny” she said. There, in the foyer was the most amazing collection of Japanese woodblock prints and something clicked. It had always been a factoid in the back of her mind that the Impressionists, Post Impressionists and all subsequent artists were enamored of Eastern art but it had no meaning until that day… a true aahaaaaa moment! When she returned to the States there was a microbiologist of all things conducting workshops in Chinese Brush painting and as it was so close to her home she immediately signed up.
Nan Rae goes further, “I suppose you think I was an immediate success being an “artist” but it was just the opposite as I arrogantly thought “Hey, I can do that.” Oh my goodness, I was utterly clueless and flogged about for almost a year wondering why I was continuing to torture myself. Then one day another eureka moment when I thought ‘Why not just paint’. Rather the Malcolm Gladwell idea of needing to put in 10,000 hours to reach a state of proficiency. And so I relaxed and hate to say it, but the rest really is history.”
Nan Rae ventured out into the world with her work testing the markets reaction to this new medium at the Pasadena Showcase House, a yearly event that has vendors in the back of the estates selling their wares for a full month. She was astonished at the amount of work sold and there she was, back again as when a young artist just cranking them out. The next year Nan Rae was asked to do a poster for the event and she was thrilled to discover the world of multiples. This is something that many in “Fine Art” look down upon as being commercial but Nan Rae loved the idea of so many people encountering her work. Of course this led to many licensing agreements and no doubt you’ve seen her images on greeting cards both in the States and throughout Europe. Nan Rae views it as little miniature Nan Rae paintings as she continually hears people say they are framing them!
Pasadena Showcase House 1996 Poster
Mary Guggenheim sees Nan Art in Paris, Grand Palis
After being asked to exhibit at the Grand Palais in Paris Nan Rae felt she was ready to venture forth to an Art Expo experience where you put up your ‘gallery’ for four or so days and buyers from all over the world pick and choose. At the time, Cibachrome prints were in vogue and all of the original work was enlarged into large and quite bold statement pieces. Because this was quite a new and fresh idea potential buyers would walk past then spin around to give the work a second look. Keep in mind that most of the exhibitors were large galleries again from around the world. Here’s a peek at what the area looked like.
At Art Expo
After that there was a two year exhibition at all three of the California governor’s offices, L.A. Sacramento and San Francisco and prospective collectors were brought to the Los Angeles office. The exhibit then traveled to Woodbury University for another two years and where again collectors were able to view it.
With Maureen Regan, Collector
In front of the Nan Rae Gallery at Woodbury University with its former President Dr. Kenneth Nielsen
During this time Nan Rae had been teaching and to date she feels privileged to have taught well over 4,000 people this wonderful art form. Along the way, Watson-Guptill (a subsidiary of Random House) approached her to do a book for them describing this art form and then author’s requested her work to illustrate their books. Normally this would be considered “commercial” and not “fine art” but she never “illustrated” for any work, but rather allowed the use of original paintings to enhance the written words. The project dearest to her heart is and will always be SUMA THE ELEPHANT a tale written as a child’s story but in actuality is a metaphor for inactivity because of the ‘strings’ one thinks are binding them. When Gary Shoup, the author, first approached she said no but a year later after much coaxing told him to forward the manuscript. Nan Rae loves saying “Just like in the movie, he had me at…’One day, deep in the jungle…’” Shoup had gone to another artist who did art work that was literal, monkeys and elephants and such and later said that what he wanted was to have art work that would evoke the feelings in the book. It has touched countless lives and is currently being used in classrooms and for people with abuse or self esteem issues.
Nan Rae’s Ch’i of the Brush translated in French and Spanish
Books illustrated by Nan Rae
Filming a PBS show
Nan Rae Art used for NY Phil 2008 logo
Everyone has a journey that is unique to them and it’s best followed by listening to the promptings of our heart. For me this involves saying yes to everything that presents itself and fortunately that ‘everything’ has always turned out to be something wonderful. Perhaps not visibly wonderful at the beginning but always becoming something amazing.
Of course this does require more faith in life than in following a predictable course but again, this seems to work for me. An early example of this would be when Ralph Tepedino contacted me years ago and asked if I would like to do the California Gift Show. Honestly, I didn’t even know what the Gift Show was but in my usually naive manner I said a resounding “YES”. At that time I was to share a 10 X 10 foot space with two other artists, one who sold her photographic images on greeting cards and the other a gal in England who pressed flowers and placed them on pillows, in frames and all manner of products. There I was with one small wall to display my line of greeting cards. If I cut to the chase I will tell you that within three years we were not only doing the Gift Show having three booths featuring only Nan Rae cards but the New York Stationary Show. From these two venues Trader Joe’s found me along with Ling Design in England and so many wonderful gift stores and museums that there isn’t room or time to name them. All serendipity!
Every licensing contract has come to me just that way. Every commission, including the New York Philharmonic asking permission to use my artwork for their historic trip to Korea and China. I am always as amazed by this as you must be reading these stories but again, it’s my journey and it’s what works for me. A friend once told me she suits up and shows up and perhaps that is the key. We have to work hard and be fully prepared when opportunities present themselves and then be brave enough to say a resounding yes!
Here is what critic’s reviews have said:
“The work of artist Nan Rae reflects her power of creative concept. Asian in technique, her work is profoundly Impressionistic. Her deft, rapid Oriental brush strokes capture the viewer in a wonderous sweep of pure, free and energized freedom yet clearly contemporary, clean in form and candidly robust, often exhilarating.
Art connoisseurs have often commented they feel as if they are entering the painting and becoming subjectively involved in it.”
“Not surprisingly, this best selling artist’s paintings and prints hang not only in the most prestigious homes in Southern California but also in private and corporate collections in the USA, in Canada and Europe.”
Nan Rae has published her artwork as greeting cards for about the past eighteen years. Distribution and sales have grown nicely and the number of images is now approaching 500. Her large paintings are scanned and sized for the cards. Because her work is open, light and impressionistic, the results are stunning and well received.
Nan’s art is now being used for Greeting Cards and a wide variety of upscale stationery products produced by Ling Design for England, Ireland, Europe, Scandinavia and Australia, along with being one of the artists licensed to Trader Joe’s greeting cards. Nan Rae was honored to have her art selected for the logo for the historic 2008 NY Philharmonic trip to China and North Korea.
A Special Note from Nan
My heartfelt thanks for the time you have taken to visit my website.
My hope is that what you see here will inspire you on your journey!