We had the good fortune of connecting with Nan Rae and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Nan, what do you love most about your work?
I wonder if it’s possible to be truly happy without a sense one is fulfilling their purpose. For me, my greatest joy as an artist has been teaching, especially when a student will look at me intently and say ‘It’s not about the art… is it?’ Being able to give people the ability to express themselves in a new way opens them up to a fuller, richer life. Now that we’ve all been sent to our rooms with the chance to contemplate our life’s journey, I can no longer hold classes at the Huntington Botanical Gardens or in my studio. Online live classes organically came into being and in fact are an even greater teaching tool as students can more closely observe my brushstrokes and even replay the lessons. What I now hear is ‘Thank you for these two hours that helped me shut out the world.’ With the urging of my publisher, Benjamin Darling at Laughing Elephant Books, I wrote a book that condensed my life’s lessons into twenty-four ‘What If’s’ that became the title of the book…’What If…We have the power to change our lives’ with each ‘What If’ accompanied by my artwork. I’ve been amazed at the timing of the book and the response to it as people are finding it to be perfect as they are confronted with this pandemic. Many are using it to meditate and sending so much love back to me that I am overwhelmed.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I don’t know if I’d say that my career has been easy, the word miraculous would probably be more accurate. Years ago I heard Ray Bradbury say he never went looking for a job, that they all came to him and that notion clicked. If that could work for him…why not for me? Stumbling into amazing things, rather like Forest Gump, I said yes to everything that came my way and each door seemed to lead to a better one. This is rather hard to tell young people starting out but it’s exactly the way it happened for me. The biggest lesson came very early on when someone I knew sold her painting and mine went unsold. I had a choice right then, be depressed or keep soldiering on looking neither to the right or the left. I must admit I’ve worked very hard but I’ve also sold a lot of art and for prices that have amazed me. My tag line is ‘Live Joyfully’ and that feeling of joy is what I want to convey to everyone who favors my artwork, either through greeting cards, prints or original work. I want something loving and joyful to be triggered in everyone my work touches.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Everyone should step their toes in the ocean at least once during each year. There’s something so healing, so restorative about doing that so going to one of the beach cities would be at the top of my list. Of course the Getty is a must see as is the Getty Villa in Malibu, after that would be LACMA and most certainly our most hidden gem, the Norton Simon Museum. At least a day would be spent at the Huntington Botanical Gardens where I teach Brush painting. For more down to earth fun stuff, watching a game of baseball at Dodger Stadium and perhaps a rock concert at Staples Center. There are so many wonderful restaurants in L.A. that one could pick just about any spot but a favorite place for me is the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Another great thing to do is afternoon tea in the Living Room at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills. I love going there and it’s especially delightful because my dear friend Lissi Kaplan hand paints the china for their tea service! Now that everyone’s been sent to their room I guess my little patio for lunch and a serenade by the birds will be just fine!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would like to dedicate my shoutout to my beautiful mother, Rosella, who always believed in me and dreamed beautiful dreams for me.