Moorhead woman uses art to heal, writes book
Artist Nichole Rae lives in her artwork.
Inspirational messages like “Art is about coloring outside the lines,” and “Life isn’t about finding yourself, life is about creating yourself” adorn her walls. Her shelves resemble her mixed-media collages. A couch has been covered with a door in her living room to create a workspace. She also has workspaces in her dining room and basement.
Rae creates inspirational messages printed on photos she’s taken. She also does hand-crafted mixed-media collage work, original typography and greeting cards.
She wrote a beginner’s art journaling book called “Art Journal, Art Journey: Collage and Storytelling for Honoring Your Creative Process.” It was released Aug. 6 by North Light Books and is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
Rae’s book was recently No. 3 in Papercrafts and No. 5 in Mixed-Media on Amazon’s best-sellers rankings. It details her art journaling process and includes journaling prompts and mixed-media and collage techniques.
“It breaks all lines of scrapbooking and introduces a new field of art journaling,” she said. “It’s literally just about documenting life wherever you’re at.”
Despite her success, she is quick to point out that she doesn’t have it all figured out and she’s still discovering who she is as an artist.
“It might seem like I have it all together, but I don’t,” she said.
The 29-year-old said she has collaged since she was a kid. She started out collaging shoe boxes.
“I have always been very creative and crafty,” she said. “I loved making gifts for people.”
But as a young adult, she said, she didn’t believe she could make a living as an artist. She started taking graphic design classes but didn’t like them.
Rae said her parents are both self-employed, but it was her own voice telling her she couldn’t create a career out of her artwork.
At 18, she moved away and spent eight years living in Florida, Arizona and California before moving back to Moorhead. She worked as a skin-care consultant and said she didn’t know herself, she lacked confidence and she strayed from her creativity.
“I carried more fear than anything else,” she said.
But moving back to the area has helped launch her career as an artist because of the encouragement and support she has received.
“I’ve lived in so many places where I didn’t feel a sense of community,” she said. “That’s what I’m feeling here. I’m exactly where I need to be.”
Rae sells her work at businesses in Fargo, as well as some shops in California and Arizona, and on Etsy, an online artist and crafters’ marketplace.
Fargo gift shop Buyer at Large also just started carrying Rae’s artwork. Christine Jaeger, Buyer at Large president, said Rae’s artwork is a good fit for the shop.
“When I saw her artwork, she uses a lot of inspirational messages and combines it with a lot of materials. It really strikes a lot of emotion when it’s all put together,” she said. “She’s such a great artist, and we’re really excited about supporting her and carrying her items.”
Ashley Leslie of Fargo, Rae’s twin sister, said her sister’s artwork is remarkable.
“I’m often the one standing there as her biggest fan,” Leslie said.
Leslie is also impressed with her sister’s ability to focus on following her dream.
“It’s absolutely beautiful the fact that she can share what has allowed her to grow and what’s allowing her to drive the direction she wants to take in life and stay true to herself. She can give other people that same lesson wherever they might be with just with the purchase of a book,” Leslie said.
Ashley Dedin, Rae’s friend and the owner of Aendee in Fargo, said Rae’s artwork is genuine and accessible.
“Because her work is so motivated by a desire to discover more and more about herself, it makes her pieces very approachable and easy to relate to,” Dedin said. “What makes her book so wonderful is that she is offering her way of navigating as a tool for others to use on their own journey.”
Dedin describes Rae’s art journaling process as art as autobiography.
“By spending time with certain images and words, she’s keeping track of her journey and the perspective that recognizing all of those pieces of one’s life is what makes the process so powerful,” Dedin said.
When Rae moved back to the area in January 2012, she said she felt like she had nothing. She’d been through a divorce and had moved away from friends and a routine with which she was comfortable.
But her artwork, she said, helped her heal, and she found inspiration in her heartache.
“For me it is about daily creating,” she said. “Daily creating for me is what’s healing my path and building my foundation and confidence to move forward.”
Her journey into a career as an artist started several years ago when she started a personal collection of book art to document her life. The books contain her journaling, photography and collages and are an early incarnation of the work she creates now.
And her artwork, she said, is giving her the opportunity to try new things.
Rae writes when she feels inspired, usually while drinking her morning coffee. She journals in a list style and will pull quotes for her collages and prints from her journals.
She also finds inspiration in old books, dictionary entries and the world around her. Feathers, flowers, rocks and shells make it into many of her creations.
She signs her work Artist Nichole Rae and uses the name as her Facebook page and website, she said, to help her “stand more grounded in my own feet.”
“It has helped me walk along my path and step into my purpose,” she said.