5 Questions With Artist and Illustrator Nathasa Rae

Nathasa Rae tells us how she overcame personal pain to create her inspirational artworks celebrating female warriors.
Featured Image Nathasa Rae

5 Questions with Stephanie Groves is an ongoing series featuring local women doing interesting things that we’d like to know more about. Want to be featured? Email us at editorial@indymaven.com.


Nathasa Rae wearing a black and white sleeveless dress with strips on it and a belt the woman has black hair and a pixie cut smiling with teeth
Nathasa Rae

Nathasa Rae is a self-described “hand-drawn neo pop realism ink illustrator and watercolorist” that creates stunning illustrations inspired by nature and female warriors. Nathasa (pronounced “Natasha”) was selected as an HGTV Urban Oasis 2021 artist, has been featured as a guest on the “Black Girls Eating” podcast, and has created artwork for several publications including The Yellow Cover Magazine.

We spoke with Nathasa to learn more about her and the inspiration behind her incredible work.

How did you get started drawing? Can you tell us about your background in art?

I started getting into drawing at a very early age. I began drawing people before I could even write my name. My mother saw that I was showing interest in drawing and, as an artist herself, she taught me many skills that I use today. In fact, she is still one of the few people I reach out to when I’m having trouble with a piece.

Why did you start creating artwork featuring female warriors?

I remember the very first time I drew a warrior. I was in my bed at the time suffering from several medical conditions at once, including 40+ kidney stones and my scoliosis had flared up. I was feeling hopeless and in so much pain.

black and white drawing of female warrior with afro and sword
Nathasa’s “Nia” artwork

My grandmother then called me, and she shared with me what it was like raising seven children pretty much on her own. She told a story of a warrior who overcame so much while also keeping her kindness, love, wisdom, and thoughtfulness intact. It was then I realized that my definition of strength was wrong.

A strong woman doesn’t mean she has to sacrifice part of herself to conquer trails. She can be fierce, a force to be recognized, while also being graceful, loving, and kind. A woman’s strength and beauty is so complex and so pure and true to who we are. So, I created the “First Warrior” as a reminder to myself that even during the darkest, most painful time of my life, I was not weak, and nor did I have to harden myself to overcome it.

black and white drawing of female warrior with a bow and arrow and long hair with a feather headband and feather skirt
“My First Warrior”

The strength of all the women in my family lived in me, and even though they all had tough painful lives, they still remained beautifully kind, caring, generous, loving women whom you never would have guessed suffered. I created the First Warrior to capture grace, power, beauty, and wisdom.  Four things you don’t often see present and see as one. It was then I knew that this message, this idea of redefining beauty and strength, was a message others needed to hear and see as well.

Can you explain a bit about your creative process? How do you create your stunning artworks?
colorful sketch of a female warrior with brown skin and long brown curly hair holding a sword
“Lady Justice”

When starting an art piece I first think of what culture and what message I want to convey. Then the research begins. I research the weapons and how they are used, I research their art and clothing. I partner with an anthropologist who helps me gather accurate information.

I then create a series of pencil sketches before working with inks and watercolor to bring it to life. On average I spend about 40 hours from start to finish, often spending close to 60 hours of time and energy to create it just right. Did I mention I create every single piece by hand with no digital editing or a ruler?

What advice would you give to other women who are interested in starting their own art business(es)?

When starting a business don’t be afraid to see what others are doing. I am not saying copy their artistic style. What I mean is to observe their marketing styles, see how others share their work. Use that to encourage and inspire you to show yourself and your art in a pure way.

Don’t be afraid to ask other artists questions. We are often full of knowledge and are willing to give advice and help. Continue to practice your trade and never be afraid to pitch something if it simply isn’t working. You are not wasting your time or materials; you are sharpening your skills.

What can we look forward to from you in the future? Do you have any upcoming events or pop-ups we should know about?
black and white drawing of a female warrior with a sword in aztec print clothing

I have partnered with The Yellow Cover Magazine and I will be creating more work with them. I know this year I am taking a shift and moving to working on including my art in more art galleries and focused shows.

You can stay up to date by joining my email list or by following me on social media (@nathasaraeart). I am also moving into the NFT community this summer.

Stephanie Groves is the Executive Editor of Indy Maven.

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