Natalia Rak on The Pre-Raphaelite Period and Being Your Own Boss

1xRUN is thrilled to welcome Polish street artist Natalia Rak to our International Women’s Day collection! Ophelia is a limited print edition based on a massive mural she painted for No Limit Borås in Sweden, her largest to date. In our exclusive interview, Natalia details her biggest influences, namely Pre-Raphaelite painter Everett Millais, and the biggest challenges to being a full-time artist. Read the full conversation below.

1xRUN: Tell us a little bit about this piece, anything immediate you would like us to highlight about this image?
Natalia Rak:
I painted Ophelia for No Limit Borås in Sweden in September 2014. It is the festival’s highest mural that stretches over a 7-story building and 27 meters – also the highest I’ve ever made.

1x: Tell us about your execution of this image.
I used a mix of spraypaint and acrylic paint. The whole painting took me around 7 days. You can see the whole process on a time lapse video. I chose vibrant and bold colors to create a more mysterious image.

1x: What were your earliest interactions with art growing up?
Since I was a child, I have always known that I wanted to paint and do things using my imagination, so I tried different artistic practices like drawing, silk screening, graphic design, painting, and sculpture. Watching life of my neighbor artist I was always wondering, what is the value of art in life. Observing and comparing his way of living and sacrifices he made for abstract ideas was something groundbreaking for a child.

1x: Who or what was a prominent figure that played a role in your formation as an artist?
My neighbor had a big impact on me, but I can’t name one as growing up watching albums with artists, old masters etc. There is so much influence in my work but I always did appreciate the groundbreaking times, in which you can feel emotions, the nostalgia and romanticism is something that you can see in my works too. Ophelia was inspired by an Everett Millais (1851-52) painting of the same name. Millais was an English painter and illustrator who was one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite period, which I love. I appreciate it for the abundant detail, intense colors and complex compositions.

1x: What are some of the biggest challenges to being a working artist?
The artist’s path is not easy. I want to be honest to my own convictions and at the same time meet the needs of my clients. The whole process of painting is a big challenge for me, as you have to remember, I’m a woman, I don’t have a body of an athlete. I have to work smart and effective as I have limited time to do a wall. The weather and other circumstances come with painting an outside wall too. Besides that, you have to learn to be your own boss and manager. That’s not an easy life but it gives a lot in return too.

Ophelia 1851-2 Sir John Everett Millais, Bt 1829-1896

1x: In what ways is the art industry becoming more or less accepting and equitable for women?
When I started my journey 7 years ago I was surrounded more with male artists. Last year I took part in Festivals where I met few really talented ladies. Those girls are hard working and committed to the idea and it just makes me proud. There is a change for sure and it’s a good path but I believe there is room for everybody, especially in art, and some changes just need more time.

1x: What are changes that you would like to see?
Hope to see our society rise above divisions and differences.I think elimination of wage disparities between men and women should be a priority.

1x: What artists inspired you in the past? Who are some woman-identifying artists that inspire you today?
I have to mention here a great polish painter Olga Boznańska still less recognizable outside Poland. She was stylistically associated with the French impressionism. I have to say I needed time to fully appreciate her work, her vibrating way of painting, atmosphere and psychological insight.

Today, female artists that I met during those years are a big inspiration for me too. I’m impressed by their imagination, artistic sensitivity and pursuit of self-improvement. These little beauties are fighters. Some of them even combine artist life and motherhood. I’m really impressed.

1x: What advice would you give to an aspiring artist?
Don’t be too scared to experiment with techniques and styles. There are so many directions where art is present or required. You will always find a place for you. Experiencing life on different levels will enrich your creativity.

Follow Natalia on Instagram at @nataliarakart.