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Painting to fund racing – Rae Roberts

16.03.2024 By Richard Lindhorst
Painting to fund racing – Rae Roberts

Rae Roberts is a bit of a social media phenomenon. The 2001-born young woman from Florida does hyperrealistic paintings for a living and has amassed a huge following on Instagram. In this edition of the Elferspot Porsche talk, the ambitious painter told me why she used to dismiss painting as a bad habit first. It was only a stroke of fate that led her to continue painting. She is now so successful that she can fulfill her big dream of racing, funded by her own work.

Dear Rae Roberts, I’m very happy to meet up with you for a talk about your Porsche passion. Would you please introduce yourself to our audience?

Hey Richard, thanks for having me! As of now, I am 22 years old. I grew up in central Florida, which really isn’t famous for its car culture. But here I am, being a complete car enthusiast and self-employed painter for realistic to hyper-realistic car paintings. Since the end of last year, I am also a racing license holder. That has been a goal of mine since forever.

What got you into cars in the first place?

When I was 16 years old, I first got behind the wheel of a more capable car. That’s where the whole thing began. From probably 9 or so I started driving around in old pick-ups, which are very common in central Florida, as there are lots of private dirt backroads, but I took a more intense liking to driving while learning after getting my license and later got hooked by it. It was when I was 16 that my dad and my grandma bought me my first own car which also was my first enthusiast car – a 2008 BMW 328i. For me, this kind of car was always associated with rich people. And we weren’t that at all. I treated it like it was my baby; I was so proud to own it and take care of it.

We were sort of rallying around in our cars and learned how to slide, drift, etc. It was pretty wild at times, to be honest.

Rae Roberts

On the weekends, though, I did a lot of driving on the dirt roads with it. We were sort of rallying around in our cars and learned how to slide, drift, etc. It was pretty wild at times, to be honest. But the more I kept driving and got comfortable in the car, I started pushing further. That appealed to me so much that I wanted to learn this seriously. And I wanted to stop praying that there were no police around all the time (laughs).

Like many enthusiasts, Rae Roberts became a petrolhead through BMW ownership and later morphed into a Porsche fan.

When did you find out about your talent in painting?

My mum always says that I drew since I could hold a pencil. It sounds very cliché but I think she’s right. During school, I had my problems with it though. I couldn’t really focus on anything. I’d drawn on anything from books to exams and it often got me in trouble. I suffered from ADHD pretty significantly through all of my school years so drawing to me was just my mind going awry and jotting down whatever was on it.

I suffered from ADHD pretty significantly through all of my school years so drawing to me was just my mind going awry and jotting down whatever was on it.

Rae Roberts

I was made to believe that it was a bad habit and I even stopped doing it completely for a while. It made me hate school that much more truthfully. I really went into overdrive in order to skip a year and leave school early. Self education played a huge role in my life, just because I didn’t want to go to school for longer than I really needed. I loved learning, but I believed the traditional school system didn’t do the best job of catering to unorthodox learners such as myself.

And what led you into painting cars for a living?

That’s a longer story. During my upbringing, I tried out everything that seemed worth giving it a shot. I started working for a lot of outdoor companies for example. From fishing and free diving to tactical training, I have tried out everything. Aviation and flying was a big passion of mine for many years. But I noticed that it was probably not what I wanted to build my future around, after I got hooked by cars. It never was a fully encapsulated feeling for me. I liked it, but it was just the closest thing besides driving for me. What I love in the car that feels most familiar to being in an aircraft is that it’s all physics-based. You can manipulate the car with inputs from your body and it was just what I was searching for. It felt right.

It was a stroke of fate that gave Rae Roberts the courage to turn her painting into a profession.

At the airfield, though, I met a very good friend of mine called Catherine Eaglin. We were very close, spent a lot of time together and talked about our plans for the future. At the time, I was working in the legal department and honestly felt miserable. I wasn’t where I wanted to be. At that time, my dear friend always encouraged me to do what resonated with me or what I was passionate about. Sadly, she passed away very unexpectedly and I got the news on my lunch break.

I was only able to take the rest of the day off to mourn, and even worse was that my firm took her case so I had to have a constant reminder in front of me of the horrific event. My one takeaway was: Life is so short. Why spend it in a surrounding where I feel miserable and furthermore unable to heal and continue growing? She was easily one of the most passion-driven people I’ve met to this day and it struck a chord within me. After she passed in March 2020, I quit my job in October and from then on focused on building my art and apparel company RR7. To me, it almost feels like a way of staying in touch with her, as she was so supportive and always believed in me.

I was only able to take the rest of the day off to mourn, and even worse was that my firm took her case so I had to have a constant reminder in front of me of the horrific event. My one takeaway was: Life is so short.

Rae Roberts

Oh, I am very sorry to hear that. But as it seems, she was right, as you’ve got an amazing talent there. How would you describe your style?

I describe myself as an “Automotive Hyperrealism Painter”. It’s not a common skill to be that precise in the details in painting complex metallic figures. Especially as I use acrylic paint, which is pretty difficult to blend. You have a very narrow painting window with them, because they dry so quickly. And that color matching from a photo is what makes my paintings photorealistic and defines my style. It’s not always a hundred percent exact from a photo, but the result will be as if the vehicle is physically in front of you.

What’s the process of ordering or commissioning a painting by you like?

First of all, I am very selective with my commissions. Because I want to only provide my best work to my clients. It takes a lot of time to produce the quality of work I do. I do also take high pride in using the highest quality materials that are on the market for my work. I put the utmost care into what I do because I truly value my client relationships and rapport beyond words. And I am fortunate to say that my commission list is constantly about six months out and has been so for the past two years.

In essence, I can only produce as much as I am capable of. Now, I only accept private commissions. That’s why my Instagram is mainly used for showcasing pre-made artwork. Because once clients purchase one of those, they do have the option to commission an additional piece at any point in the future and offer referrals within their network. It’s all to control my workload essentially, while also maintaining a synonymous standard of what I produce for consumption. And from what I know, there are not many artists with this attention to detail in this niche in the US, let alone globally.

On the flip side, my work takes months, or in some cases even more than a year. Don’t get me wrong, but I’d rather have somebody mad at me for the painting taking so long instead of hastily delivering a rushed painting. And because of the work that goes in each painting, I learn something new in every one of them. Therefore, if I do multiple paintings at once and learn something in one of them, I want to apply these new skills to the other ones as well. I am constantly learning more about how to refine my craft and applying those skills and that can be seen in each work I have produced spanning from 2020 until now.

Why is your work so often about Porsches? Do they have a special place in your heart?

My first drawing was a Porsche 911 GT2 RS. The 911 silhouette is so timeless. When you see the shape, you instantly know it’s a 911. Initially I knew nothing about the brand itself really, but took notice of the design synonymity. You know, the first time I sat in a Porsche was shortly after I did my first drawing of one. I flew to Los Angeles to meet a friend of mine Kali Moldavon in person, which I only knew through phone calls and social media. She picked me up at the airport in a Porsche 991 GT3 RS. And the following experience really solidified my affinity for Porsche.

Not in a million years had I thought about being able to sit in such a car. I took so many pictures and videos of it and its sound and immediately understood why people like these things. And from then on, it really gelled with me. The more I was around them, the more I loved the cars. Even the standard Porsche 911 Carrera felt so familiar to the GT models even. The street car classics, safaris, and Le Mans competitors from decades back have now become my favorite subject matter in my works.

Simply because of their successes in motorsport history, their mechanical influence on later generations of competitors in a racing grid. and for just being a symbol of universal driving excellence and refinement in any conditions or setting. Seeing a 911 offroading is like a visual oxymoron almost and I love the contradiction. Any Porsche driving enthusiast across generations knows as soon as you get behind the wheel and you push it a bit further, everything comes together. It all makes perfect sense. Every bit of it is addictive!

Your motivation behind all this is racing and saving up for a certain dream car. Please tell me a bit about what drives you!

Racing has always been a huge dream of mine. When I was on track for the first time ever in 2022, I drove a Porsche 991.2 GT3 RS Weissach at Laguna Seca. I may have done a 3 minute lap because I was so nervous and rigid the entire time, but it was also my first time driving a GT3 RS in general. Since that day, my goal is to get myself a GT silver Porsche 991 GT3 RS at some point. Even though I’d saved up some money at the time for a new car, a GT3 wasn’t within reach. So, I was looking out for the closest thing and something that felt most familiar to me. That was the BMW M3 E92, as in its approach, it’s strikingly resemblant to a Porsche. I was so hyped, that in the paddock, still at Laguna, I bought my M3!

With that car, I’ve done a lot of track driving to prepare myself for racing. I use it as a training car. Last year for example I did 30 track days within 60 calendar days on eight different tracks in two states. It got exhausting, but never boring. And since the end of last year, I am now a proud racing license holder. As it stands, I will hopefully start participating in a national GT4 championship this year as long as all of the cards fall into place.

It sounds like a very cheesy story, but through art you met your significant other, who turns out to be a racer as well. How did you meet each other? Is he a good advisor for you and your career?

That’s a funny one. His dad was a potential client and wanted me to paint his son’s 992 GT3 Cup. After getting to know him a bit, he said that I should meet his son when I come to Florida. As it turned out, his son Michael McCarthy is a racer for Kelly Moss and the 2021 Porsche Sprint Challenge North America Champion. For the last two years he competed in the Carrera Cup NA, and I’d seen every race he ran in through both years on Porsche’s live streams- I was even in attendance at one of his races last year standing directly in front of his car in the staging area for an hour, having no idea who he was or what our future would hold. I’ve loved being a part of his journey thus far, and we bounce off of one another beautifully.

Rae Roberts’ significant other Michael McCarthy is a professional racer and 2021’s Porsche Sprint Challenge North America champion.

It works well that we both have experience in a pro racing paddock as his life revolves very heavily around his driving and coaching careers and my life/career is already highly entangled with motorsports in a professional way. Many of my clients are on a grid somewhere here in the US or across the globe so I am very familiar with each aspect of it all- I’ve even been on race control and taken part in preparing 992 GT3 cups for upcoming races. (laughs) We both put our all into our crafts and that dedication is mutually respected and understood. This year Michael is in the Michelin Pilot Challenge in a GT4RS. He & his KM teammate Riley took home an astonishing P1 finish in their race at Daytona and I couldn’t be more proud. This year should be phenomenal for us both celebrating independent and combined victories.

What’s your recipe to get into a real flow?

I don’t leave home very often and have created an atmosphere that really keeps me motivated. Usually, I want my works to be gone as soon as they’re finished, because I don’t like looking at my older paintings. Thankfully my work is high enough in demand that originals typically don’t last on my website for longer than a couple of hours-days. I always find something I would change after the fact. But some BMW M paintings really mean something to me and can stay. You know, I’m living in a flat on the 19th floor. I can look over a lake and feel really comfortable in my surroundings.

I’ve got trinkets on display all over the place like a hand painted race-used BBS wheel that Michael made me for Christmas, gifts from Porsche USA, and gifts from prior clients like a custom carbon fiber shift knob out of a client’s 997 GT2 while I hand painted his 70s Targa for an audience in Dubai for Porsche Middle East’s 75th celebration. Each little item has so many wonderful memories attached to them, most of which only I know the significance of. I have loads of inspiration around me and the sole reason I think I’m here is to create. It’s easy for me to forget that the world even exists with so much around me to be happy with and proud of.

You’ve gathered a huge following on social media at a very young age and are a person of public interest in the US car world. How did it affect your life?

It’s quite a humbling experience and it feels very sentimental in a way that my work is resonating with people. And it was very encouraging for me to actually take the leap to committing doing it full time. I hope that it’s an inspiration for other people as well, because it shows that if you believe in yourself it can work out. Social media has been a big help to create my painting career and therefore an enabler to do what I want to do.

Although sometimes, I even get anxious by this. At one Monterey Car Week Event I was speaking live on stage. To be honest, I wasn’t prepared for the size of it. I had to go on stage in front of 50,000 people! A huge amount of them were waiting to get my autograph. My anxiety was through the roof! I was almost crying, because it seemed like my work really touched so many people and I realized that I left a mark. And I’d gotten to leave the event in an Apollo IE after just months earlier I’d posted to my Instagram story saying “Should I paint this car” and the owner got in touch with me following the 24h post. Loads of things are too surreal to believe almost with social media. I am forever appreciative.

Thank you, dear Rae Roberts for giving us such a deep insight into your life and your work!

It was my pleasure!

Images are all provided courtesy of Rae Roberts

Meet our contributor

Richard Lindhorst is our chief-editor and lives in Northern Germany. He thinks about cars and bikes almost 24/7. If you’ve got a story for him, or just want to get in touch, feel free to contact him on his Instagram (@rchrdlndhrst).

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