In Studio: The Art of Daily Practice With Artist Nichole Rae

Artist Nichole Rae is different. Her work is different. Her process is different.

Technically speaking, she creates multimedia collages, combining pretty bits of paper, stamps, Washi tape and other bits and bobs with hand lettered messages rendered in pen, ink, colored pencil and marker. But she’d be the first to tell you that the final product isn’t necessarily the point.

Instead, artist Nichole Rae focuses on the process, the practice, the act of intentionally and consistently sitting down and using art to channel our thoughts. The art that comes out of those sessions (which might be journals, hand lettered candles or coasters or affirmation cards) is secondary to the practice itself.

Coaster workshop with artist Nichole Rae

She believes that focused attention can help us create what we most need in life. She reminds us that working with our hands, even when we don’t feel inspired (maybe even especially when we don’t feel inspired) can keep us on track, reminding us of the life we want to make for ourselves. The act of creation can be therapeutic. The habit of creating can provide focus and order in a disordered world.

That message feels especially timely during a pandemic, when many of our routines have been disrupted and we’re all reimagining things we thought we knew. So today’s In Studio session is about both artist Nichole Rae’s creative process and her materials (which, even in normal circumstances, she’d admit are constantly in flux) and also about how to set up a routine for yourself and your family.

You can implement these tips for creating a daily practice listed below, or try a virtual one-on-one session with artist Nicole Rae. She also hosts occasional online workshops through Unglued in Fargo. I think she has a lot to teach us, especially at this particular moment in history.

All photos in this post (with the exception of my affirmation) are provided by artist Nichole Rae.

Creative hand lettering with artist Nichole Rae

How do you describe your work to someone who has never seen it before?

All of my workshops — whether you’re hand lettering, creating an affirmation candle, creating some affirmation beads, affirmation cards, or doing a journaling course — people come in with all these feels. They think they need to be creative, artsy, crafty. I tell them you don’t need to be creative, artsy, or crafty to practice with me.

Creativity is a fuel. Everyone is creative. You’re creative in how you dress, how you you speak, how you cook, how you do your accounting job, your mechanic job. Creativity is this fuel that drives this vision within you. We are all creative.

My work is helping people to begin to work through those feels. I give them affirmation prompts and journalizing prompts to help them forgive and release.

What kind of things do people need to forgive and release? Please give us some examples.

I forgive and release being anxious of the blank page. I forgive and release thinking that I can’t work with art supplies. I forgive and release not liking my own handwriting. I forgive and release comparing myself to someone else.

I am affirmations are a key part of artist Nichole Rae’s practice.

How do people respond to your work?

My work is about helping people connect to their most present self. When I get testimonials, they’re often surprised by their experience. I think they just surprise themselves.

When we see our lives as a practice, we have more of what we need – more peace, more compassion, more groundedness, more motivation. I want you to see your whole life as a practice. When we practice there’s space for us to feel whatever it is that we feel. We can fall down, we can show up in a bad mood. We create what we most need to find.

So what are some practical ways we can try this in our own lives?

In my journal every day, I’ve been listing my intentions. I take a moment to think about what I most need from my day. So today was I need peace, I need calm, I need to be in the present, I need groundedness.

Whatever it is we write down, we affirm to ourselves. I am peaceful. I am present. I am grounded.

This is a great activity for kids to do with index cards with Post-It notes, with markers. Have them make a little card deck. (You can also do it as a parent.) It can be become very creative. And it works even with very young students.

My affirmation isn’t as pretty, but it’s useful to me.

What do we do with the cards or the “I am” affirmations when we’re done making them?

From there, you think about how can you expose yourself to them throughout the day. Take Post-It notes, put them on your fridge, put them on the bathroom mirror on the front of the microwave, by your sink. If you’ve got a dry erase marker, write them on your bathroom mirror.

It doesn’t need to be fancy. It can be very simple, just getting them on some type of paper getting them written down so you can see them.

And it’s okay, whatever you feel in this moment. You can feel confused, you can feel like you have no faith. You don’t need to believe, you just need to practice.

And as you practice it, just by reading or by speaking it out loud, that will begin to shift. And you’ll begin to strengthen those feelings you feel within yourself.

What practical tips can help us set up a practice at home?

If you need to work from home, or if you would like to cultivate some kind of practice in your life that you could do to help ground yourself, you need to to have a space. It could be at a dining room table, it could be at desk, it could be a card table, it could be a desk you could make from two concrete blocks and a piece of wood.

Get a little basket, a little Rubbermaid container, something that you can put some things in. Then the next thing is having some kind of paper and pen at your space. If we don’t have the supplies, if we don’t have the space, we feel scattered.

Everyone’s to do list has changed during the coronavirus pandemic.

Do you have any particular instructions for those of us that are struggling with the challenges this pandemic has brought?

We are all creatives. And the challenges of staying creative and mentally healthy during a pandemic are many. Not only are we trying to protect ourselves, our mental health is being taxed. We’re all fearing things, even if we haven’t come down with this actual virus. I have deep empathy for anyone who is home with their kids who is not used to being home with their kids during the day.

As kind of an intuitive, empathetic, deep person, it’s amazing how my inspiration is kind of hard to locate right now. What’s happening here has actually brought up a lot of things deep within myself that I need to heal.

Be kind to yourself when nothing is going right. Everything starts with your thoughts.

What about you?
What do you most need at this moment?
What elements do you add to your journals?
What kinds of collage materials really speak to you?
Do you have any idea why you respond to them?
Have you ever tried mixed media journaling? Why or why not?

A meditation on peace by artist Nichole Rae

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