I have been drawing and painting for most of my life, but I began my professional career in 1994 when I was approached by a company called Wizards of the Coast to contribute work to the popular Collectible Card Game called “Magic: the Gathering.” I worked with WotC for a few years, as well as several other CCG companies, but eventually I grew tired of working for other people and decided to try doing my own thing. In particular, I wanted to paint the characters from a story that I had been working on since high school, and I felt I needed to hone my skills to be able to truly ‘capture’ them.
The decision to become a print artist rather than a contract artist wasn’t an easy one for me to make. Contract art can be very lucrative—at least in the short run—and I was making fairly good money. Unfortunately, the work wasn’t as satisfying to me as painting my own work was, so I stopped being a Contract artist, and started my career as a Print artist. As a print artist I was free to create anything I wanted, but with that freedom came the understanding that I wouldn’t have a steady paycheck waiting for me, and because of that anything I produced had to be marketable. Even today, I paint everything with one eye towards the artistic side, and one eye on the practical business side. Experience has taught me that no matter how good your technique may be on a piece, stray too far from common themes in art and no one will buy it. In the end, the customer will always tell you if what you’ve created is marketable.
For the first 10 years or so of my career I painted exclusively in watercolor, with a touch of acrylic on some pieces. In 2004 I became enamored with digital art, and the more I began to like it, the more dissatisfied I became with my own paintings. So, I set aside my watercolors, bought a digital art tablet, Corel Painter 7 and Adobe Photoshop CS and began experimenting. It was a lot more difficult to learn than I assumed it would be, especially because I do not have a lot of experience with computers, so I spent countless hours surfing the internet looking for any and all digital art tutorials that I could find. My first digital paintings were actually hybrid works, where I mixed watercolor elements with digital ones, but eventually I became comfortable enough working with the digital art programs that I completed the transition to fully digital works. Now I do all of my work digitally, from the preliminary sketch to the finished product, and when I look at my watercolor art compared to my digital art, my watercolor pieces look unfinished to me somehow, almost as if they are color studies.
One of the positive side effects of keeping one eye on the artistic side of the art business and the other on the practical side is that I have had the good fortune to have companies approach me to have my artwork produced not only as limited edition prints, but also into a variety of other products, including statues, journals, art books and calendars, mugs, key-chains, magnets, pins, ornaments, stickers, and t-shirts. You can find products featuring my work in several catalogues, in retail outlets throughout the world, and all over the internet.
Creating new artwork for the various companies that feature my work on their products keeps me very busy, but I am making time to work on the project that I have been imagining for over twenty years. It is called “The Zarryiostrom”, and will be a multi-part fantasy novel featuring many of the characters that I have painted over the years. Last year my husband started writing the first novel, and I started painting images to go with it. The first book, entitled “Powerborne”, is nearly complete, and I couldn’t be more excited. It will take a couple of years to finish it, mainly because my painting schedule is dominated by projects for licensing companies, but when it is done it will be extremely long, with (hopefully!) an illustration per chapter. You can read the first nine chapters and see some of the illustrations on my website, http://www.nenethomas.com/zarryiostrom.shtml.
When I am not painting, I spend my time listening to music and feeding stray cats at our home in Oklahoma City. Aside from the seemingly endless stream of strays that come by looking for handouts, I also have eight cats that have adopted my husband and I: Domino, Gozer, Pumpernickel, Butterscotch, Greylordling, Blackfel, Nightshade, and Cassiramaithris. I have three sisters and two brothers, all of them artistic and musically talented. My hobbies include horseback riding, ice skating, playing EA Games “The Sims 2”, and collecting, displaying and sewing beautiful outfits for her beautiful Asian ball jointed dolls. I also keep a LiveJournal, which I keep updated as often as possible, and is the best place to find out what I am up to. You can find my journal at http://nenethomas.livejournal.com.
Ann-Juliette is Nene’s younger sister, technical assistant and photographer. Some of the pieces Ann -Juliette has worked on include Pretty Peacock, Rhapsody in Gold, The Gift, Pumpkin Patch, Lavender Serenade, Red Hearts, La Victime, Memento, Butterfly Wreath Yellow, Treasure, Petal and Ivy 2 – just to name a few. Ann-Juliette has also completed dozens of pen & inks, some of which can be viewed in Nene’s Parting the Veil art book.