Nomi Wagner Portrait Artist

Digital Art Rocks! “The Times They Are A-Changin”

by Nomi Wagner

It is so exciting for me to see my painting on this year’s California Strawberry Festival poster. The festival, right here in my hometown of Oxnard, raises millions of dollars to help many local causes and I am proud that my art can help.

Every year I would read the Ventura County Star article about the winning poster artist. My niece emailed me in January and suggested that I enter this year because the contest rules were expanded to include digital artists.

The California Strawberry Festival is now embracing creativity in a wide variety of media. Those of us who experiment with new art forms deeply appreciate the support and encouragement they have shown us.

I am primarily a portrait artist and paint in a traditional style, but I use digital media instead of regular pencils, brushes, and paints. In the past, people were resistant and had difficulty believing that I could have created my paintings with a computer.

But now, because of the broad use of computers by the general public, digital art has become accepted. We are all exposed daily to phenomenal technology, and though we don't understand how it works, we are willing to suspend our disbelief and marvel at it.

My husband, Gerry Beane, had been an engineer on very early computers and I was a portrait photographer. In 1992, Gerry introduced me to the brand new digital graphics that were being developed for the public. I saw the amazing potential and was immediately hooked.

I had already been studying art history and life drawing, so I added classes in fine art watercolor painting, color theory, and computer graphics. My goal was (and still is) to paint portraits and landscapes in a classic watercolor style, but to use fine art technology.

The landscape painting that I submitted to the contest is very much from my heart. To me it represents the beauty and bounty we so enjoy in Ventura County.

Gerry and I are lucky to live at Mandalay Beach in Oxnard. When we walk out to the beach, the views of Anacapa and Santa Cruz Islands take my breath away. I wanted to paint the things I love most about our area.

I had assembled and photographed the scene of a romantic picnic on the dunes … with beautiful Oxnard strawberries. That photo and other photos I had taken of the islands were my references. For this particular painting, I used my digital Pen & Ink with Watercolor technique.

It has always been a challenge to quickly explain my digital process, but I will try. I hope that this will inspire you and maybe you can tell your children and grandchildren about the amazing possibilities available in the high tech art world.

The software I use is Corel Painter®. I’ve worked with Painter® for 25 years and am very proud to be one of Corel’s Elite Masters and beta testers.

Owning Corel Painter® is like having the world’s largest art store at your fingertips. Every painting and drawing medium that you can imagine is available. The creative potential is infinite, far beyond what artists have ever achieved.

Using the Painter® program, I figured out my own techniques. Like all art, it’s an ongoing process and I still learn something new each day.

Instead of a mouse and mouse pad, for precision I use a pressure-sensitive Wacom® stylus and graphics tablet. I draw and paint every stroke by hand. I can paint a tiny eyelash or a broad stroke of color. Combined with Corel Painter®, the stylus gives me the same lovely feeling as a natural brush, with water and color flowing on paper.

In my studio, I work in front of two 27inch Apple® monitors, giving me plenty of room for lots of reference photos. Below is a photo I took, showing how I painted the poster.

The reference photo file is on the left. I can enlarge it to show fine detail that I would not be able to see otherwise. I began with a blank file on the right.

With my stylus, I drew a digital pen&ink sketch and then painted the digital watercolor, stroke by stroke. It’s the same process as when I paint a commissioned portrait.

Most clients find my website on the Internet. I paint their portrait from scratch, referring to the one or many different photos they have emailed for reference.

The Corel Painter® tools I have customized replicate natural brushes, pens, pencils, charcoal, erasers and blenders. I can change the stroke size and texture as I paint.

I pick my colors from the color wheel and mix them right on the virtual canvas.  There is even a button to “dry” the watercolor between strokes, so I can build up layers of color. And I can press Command Z, to undo my boo-boos!

You may be wondering why I go to all this trouble just to paint a picture! Well, first of all it’s really fun for me. Secondly, it's challenging, which makes the work always interesting.

I love working digitally because I can easily get the client’s feedback by emailing them samples of the work in progress. I can make additions or changes throughout the project, without damaging the painting. I can be spontaneous and try new things, knowing that I can always revert to a previous saved version of the portrait.

When I’ve completed the client’s portrait (which usually takes weeks, depending on the complexity and the number of people and pets), I upload the file to Gerry who prints the painting on watercolor paper or canvas of any size up to 30x40 inches, along with any additional gift prints that the client ordered.

If a painting is ever damaged during shipping or later, it can be reprinted from the original archived file. That’s very comforting, both for me and my clients!

Nomi with Strawberry Poster

I am thrilled that my painting was chosen for this year’s poster. It is truly a high point of my career. Winning has energized me and encouraged me to keep experimenting with my art.

It has taken a long time for the general public to be accepting of digital art. I was convinced I’d never see it happen in my lifetime, but in the words of Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan, “The times they are a-changin’.”

It is extremely gratifying to finally see people truly interested and appreciative of the time and passion we digital artists put into our work.

I would never have had this long painting career, were it not for the brilliant minds at Painter® who envisioned and have kept producing the software that makes it possible to create art with technology.

Hats off to Corel Painter® for allowing me to express my creativity in ways that challenge and keep me excited to do more. I couldn’t have done it without them. I am deeply grateful.

Please take a look around my website to see my other artwork. I hope you'll think of me the next time you or someone you know would like a portrait of a family member or pet. Thank you.