Nene Thomas's exquisite and vivid faeries and women can be found in many places, including
on wall tiles, pins and magnets, as well as her gorgeous prints and figurines. She has been
drawing virtually her entire life and never remembers a time during which she did not draw.
The Wizards of the Coast hired Ms Thomas in 1994 to provide art for their card games. In the
late '90's, she struck out on her own as a print artist using mostly watercolors. Then, starting in
2004, taught herself digital art and never looked back. She is pursuing several new ventures,
including the artwork for the book The Zarryiostrom, which her husband is writing.
(Editor's Note: Publisher John Miller's favorite figurine is Nene Thomas' "Storm Runes." It
rests on his hard drive delivering inspiration whenever needed--all he has to do is look up.)
|Nene Thomas' Newest Images!!!!
|1) What would you like to tell us about yourself that we may not know?
Well, the main thing I would like to convey is that I’m actually quite normal…almost boring.
Should a history of my life ever be written, it’s going to be a real page-turner! “Chapter 1: Ms.
Thomas rarely if ever left her house, preferring instead to spend all of her time painting,
reading regency romance novels and novels about French, Japanese and English history, as
well as caring for her six cats. As far as we can tell, she never cut off her own ear, burned
down her own house, or experimented with mind-altering drugs. Instead, she lived exactly the
way she wanted--quietly. The end.” That’s right, my life’s story is really going to shake the
pillars of the earth.
2) How does your belief or lack of belief in faeries affect your art?
For me, belief in an idea is not an essential component to creating good art. I’ve personally
never seen a faery, nor have I ever met a person who has, but when I paint a faery or any
other creature, I try to find the essence of the subject and express it visually, hopefully in a
manner to which people can connect. Furthermore, I tend to idealize my subjects, making
them as beautiful, elegant, and graceful as I can, and I’ve found that people really respond to
that. When I think of the fae, I think of creatures that are perfect representations of ourselves,
and it’s in that perfection that I find inspiration. Other people have different visions of the fae,
and choose a different path. Two wonderful examples of this are Amy Brown, who captures
the playful and whimsical aspect of the fae perfectly, and Brian Froud, who emphasizes the
naturalistic aspect of the fae in his work.
3) How does your spirituality convene in your artwork?
I do not consider myself to be a particularly spiritual person, and I try to avoid overtly spiritual
iconography in my work if at all possible. Instead, I keep my themes simple and try to let the
paintings speak for themselves. It’s immensely gratifying to me when people can draw their
own inspiration from the imagery without my trying to force it upon them.
4) What new ventures does your future hold?
Other than the Zarryiostrom which I consider to be my most intensely personal project, I tend to
let other, more professional people worry about new ventures or projects and concentrate
instead on improving my craft through long, grueling hours of practice. Luckily for me, I am
able to make a living doing the thing that I love most, but I use the time that my success has
given me to work even harder at becoming a better artist. I like my creature comforts, but I do
not consider myself to be a materialistic person. As long as I can pay my bills and keep the
electricity on, I’m happy.
5) How does your art resonate with modern women and/or men?
This question is impossible to answer because everyone that looks at a piece of art does so
for their own reasons, and those reasons are impossible for anyone else to fathom. All I do is
create the work and present it to the public, hoping that someone out there will appreciate it.
Once the work is in the public domain, it is up to the viewer to find meaning in it, even if the
meaning they draw from it isn’t the one that I actually intended to convey.
6) Where does the inspiration for your characters come from?
Inspiration has never been a problem for me, because I have an extremely vivid imagination
and I almost always remember my dreams. Many of my paintings were inspired by something
that came to me in a dream, and it is one of the most intensely disappointing and frustrating
parts of my professional life that my artistic skills are simply not good enough to convey even a
part of what my mind sees. That’s why I work so hard to improve my skills, because if ever I
were to capture the feeling of one of my dreams on an easel or a monitor, I could die a happy
7) In what direction do you see yourself growing as an artist?
Hopefully upward! Unfortunately that never seems to be the case, but I trundle on
nonetheless. The reality is, an artist’s growth simply can’t be measured on a chart, and that
can be heartbreaking. The way it works for me is I’ll paint at a certain level over several
pieces, and then out of the blue I’ll somehow exceed my own skill level and create something I
consider to actually be good. But when I try to match it, or recapture that same level of skill, I’ll
fall short. It happens all the time, and the randomness of it just kills me. Luckily for me, I’ve
had a long career, and with age comes experience…and perspective. Looking back at the
body of my work over the last fifteen years, I can see that there truly is a progression in my skill
level. There are peaks and valleys in my career, but I learn just as much from my failures as I
do from my successes. All of my past work has made me into the artist I am today, and I
expect that in another fifteen years my skills will be even greater. If I could convey a single bit
of advice to every artist I meet, it would be that as long as you are willing to work at it—no
matter how frustrated you might be—you will one day become a better artist than you could
possibly have imagined. And by extension, there is always room for improvement.
8) Can you describe your creative process - how do you come up with ideas
for a new piece and how you take those ideas and create a finished piece of
When I decide to begin a new piece, I always start with a thumbnail sketch. This sketch can
take anywhere from a few minutes to an hour to complete, but once I have the basic blueprint I
begin looking at references. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that the best way to avoid
errors in your work is to use good reference material. I have an extensive library that I can call
upon, though I add to it as often as I can with catalogues, magazines and art books. After I’ve
found what I need, I begin the real work, which is to actually begin drawing. When I decided to
make the switch to digital art, the first thing I bought was a Wacom Intuos 3. After I got used to
it, my husband bought me a Cintiq, and boy am I glad he did. It’s pricey, but being able to draw
directly on a monitor is incredibly convenient. Thanks to the ease of drawing with the Cintiq,
all of my work is done on the computer, and I’ve eliminated the need to work on paper at all.
Once I start drawing, everything I do from the original sketch to the completed work is done
exactly the same as I used to do it on paper, except instead of using graphite or watercolors I
use pixels. A lot of people have a misconception about digital art. They seem to think that a
program like Painter or Photoshop makes things easy, almost as if there is a “make art”
button. You know, I’ve looked and looked for that button, but so far I haven’t been able to find
it. Instead, I spend more time painting a piece digitally than I did using watercolors, but the
difference in the completed work is eye opening. My watercolors look like color studies to me
9) Are you active in any online art communities? If yes, which ones, and why
are you using them?
I used to be active on several online art communities, but now I avoid them like the plague.
The main reason is time. It is incredibly easy to lose yourself in chat rooms and forums,
because there are so many different voices talking about the same things I find interesting.
But creating artwork isn’t just a passion for me…it’s my job, and every hour that I spend on a
forum or simply browsing a site is an hour that I’m not working on new projects or honing my
skills. How can you expect to get better as an artist if all you do is talk about art rather than
actually creating it? Having said that, honesty compels me to add that I do have one site that I
“shark” regularly. Icanhascheezburger.com. I absolutely love Lolcats.
10) What is your all time favorite piece that you've created and why?
My very favorite piece of art is always the one that I’m working on at the time, whichever piece
that may be. The reason is simple; when I’m actually working on a painting it has infinite
possibilities and potential, and the sky truly is the limit. As I’m painting I always wonder to
myself if this will be one of those rare pieces that makes me ask myself, “how did I do that?
Am I a better artist than I was on my last painting?” Conversely, my least favorite paintings are
the ones that are already done, even if they were beyond my level when I completed them.
When a piece is finished—or rather, abandoned—all I can see in it are the flaws, the places
where I had to accept a compromise because I simply wasn’t good enough to paint what I truly
wanted to paint. That’s why I don’t hang my own work in my house: it is incredibly frustrating
to me to be surrounded by my own shortcomings. Instead I fill my house with the work of
artists that inspire me.
11) Tell us how the story "The Zarryiostrom" came to be and what's
motivating your illustrations for it?
I first started creating the Zarryiostrom back in high school, in the mid ‘80s. Back then it wasn’t
called the Zarryiostrom, it was called “The Key to War”. I would spend long hours creating
extensive family trees, inventing plotlines (usually full of angst and tragedy) and most
importantly, drawing and redrawing the characters. The story changed several times over the
past twenty years, going from fantasy to sci-fi and back again. It was always on my mind, and
almost all of my artwork features one character or another from the story. Unfortunately, I’m
not a writer. I had a great visual sense of the story, but as with my art I simply can’t convey
what my mind sees onto paper. So I had all but given up on it until my husband got behind me
and started pushing. Steven spent more hours than I care to remember just listening to me
explain about the characters and their motivations, and helping me to solidify the plot in my
own mind. Then one day he surprised me with a poem he had written called “The Song of the
Two” which he had based on the story. Following that, he wrote the prologue and surprised
me with that as well. Well, once I found out he could write, I kept on him until he just couldn’t
take it anymore. Unlike me, Steven is a wonderful writer, and once he took on the challenge of
writing the book, the Zarryiostrom truly began to come to life. As of this article, he has already
finished writing the first novel and is about 75% done with the second, and it is better than I
ever imagined it could be. Remember what I said about only being able to see the flaws in my
own work? Because Steven is the one doing the writing, that rule doesn’t apply, and I can
read the book and see the strengths rather than the weaknesses. I may have created the
story, but I’m also its biggest fan.
I feel that the work I’m creating for the Zarryiostrom is the best I’ve ever done, mainly because
the story demands nothing less from me. I take my inspiration from the way Steven is bringing
the characters to life on the written page, and I try to portray the characters as faithfully as I
can to the events of the book. It isn’t easy, but it is extremely rewarding.
12) Are the faces in your work modeled after anyone in particular? If so,
who and how did you select this person?
I do use models in my work, though it’s a relatively new thing for me. I’ve always used art
reference in my work, because it’s just foolish not to, but thanks to the advent of the digital
camera, using models became much easier than it used to be. I started by using photos of my
sisters as references for a few pieces, but now I try to use professional models whenever
possible. The difference between using a professional and an amateur is that the professional
knows what to do and is able to do it with little or no direction. That makes a huge difference
in the final work of art.
13) Anything else you'd like to add?
The most important thing for being a good artist isn’t talent, its determination. Talent is a
wonderful thing to have, but it simply gives you a head start, and you can’t base a career off of
it. Drive is better by far, because that is what will make you a successful artist.
For those of you who have attended shows during the past year, you may have heard about
Nene’s next big project; a series of novels based on the characters that she has been painting
over the entire length of her career. This series, currently entitled “The Zarryiostrom,” is being
written by her husband, with the cover art and interior illustrations created by Nene herself.
When it is completed, the series will be approximately six books long, with each book
containing at least 750 pages of story and art. Currently, only the first Seventeen chapters of
Book One are completed, so the release date is still a long way off, but nevertheless we are
proud to unveil the title of the series itself as well as give you a sneak peak at what is in store.
“The Zarryiostrom” is a sweeping fantasy epic about four kingdoms: warlike Dakkadia,
wealthy Illymar, vast Ferralin, and the prize of prizes, the anarchic Badlands. The story covers
a turbulent time between the four kingdoms, and the lives, loves, and conflicts of the main
characters. Below you will find two images from the series; “The Prophecy” and “Destiny”, as
well as the Prologue and the first chapter of the book itself.
We hope you enjoy your first taste of “The Zarryiostrom”. Click on the hyper links to read the
Prologue , Chapter One, Chapter Two.and Chapter Three. We will be updating the page
periodically, so please check back from time to time for news.
("The Zarryiostrom" borrowed from Nene Thomas' website.)
Nene has extended
her portfolio to us,
allowing art lovers to
take advantage of
some of her special
deals at her site. For
cheaper rates by
buying multiples, go
Nene was kind enough to offer us a sneak peek at one of her
NEVER-SEEN-BEFORE unreleased images from the Zarryiostrom!
It is UNRELEASED! That means you won't see it anywhere else, and
it is BEAUTIFUL!!!!