Rae Whalen is a Chicago area portrait artist working in the traditional realist style. As a child she focused her creativity on singing and acting, but her parents divorce changed her life. While her mother struggled to make ends meet, Rae found herself homeless during her high school years. She then turned her creative energy to drawing. "I became socially withdrawn and terrified my peers would discover my hardship. My escape was my sketchbook. I found great comfort in the hours spent among the hills and streams of western Virginia with my pencil in hand. Seeing the beauty in nature gave me hope during such a dark period of my life". After graduating high school, Rae worked odd jobs to get by. Often working 70 hours a week, she found little time to create. Trying to keep close to art, she eventually found work in custom framing. Art was seen as just a hobby as there was always bills to pay. At 21 she had her first trip to the Art Institute of Chicago. Although there were many styles of artworks she found amazing, it was Rembrandt's painting The Old Man with a Gold Chain that stopped her dead in her tracks. "I never had much exposure to Old Master paintings and seeing the Rembrandt in person was a revelation. I never imagined such realism was possible. It was then I decided what I wanted to do in life. I was to be a portrait painter."
In her spare time she began spending hours at the library, studying what she could on Old Master painting techniques. She would scrap spare change together to purchase a train ticket to the Art Institute to study the paintings in person. Years were spent working by day, and painting by night. "The work becomes a part of me. When I'm painting, I find it difficult to eat or sleep. When I do sleep, I dream in paint." Perfecting her craft, she is now a full time portrait artist specializing in creating amazingly realistic images.