Born and raised in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma the artist’s professional name “Nene” comes from her family nickname. Her sister called her Oneesan, which means “Big Sister” in Japanese, which eventually was shortened to Nene.
With no formal art education other than a figure drawing class in college)Thomas began her professional career in 1994 when she was approached by the game company Wizards of the Coast to work on their popular card game called “Magic: the Gathering.” She worked with Wizards for a few years, particularly enjoying the freedom that that the company allowed its artists. She freelanced for other CCG companies, as well – in time becoming well known for her fantasy art for games such as Galactic Empires, Jyhad, Shadow Fist, Battle Lords of the 23rd Century, Tempest of the Gods, Dragon Storm and Wyrm Wars. Thomas’ artistic influences come from a variety of sources, including classical art, Japanese animation and Manga, turn-of-the-century American illustrations, and, popular culture.
The decision to become a print artist rather than a contract artist, working for game publishers, wasn’t an easy one for Thomas. It was lucrative in the short run, but “the work wasn’t as satisfying to me as painting my own work . . . free to create anything I wanted.” She soon became known for her striking images of mystical and fairy art although the change required Thomas to “keep one eye on the artistic side of the art business and the other on the practical side.” She was successful in seeing her art produced not only as limited edition prints, but also translated into a variety of other products, including statues, journals, art books and calendars, mugs, key-chains, magnets, pins, ornaments, stickers, and t-shirts. The retail success of her art hasn’t changed her focus however, and with each new piece she strives to push herself as an artist.
For the first 10 years or so of her career Thomas painted exclusively in watercolor, with a touch of acrylic on some pieces. In 2004 she became enamored with digital art, and began experimenting with the medium. Her first attempts were hybrid works, a mix of watercolor elements with digital ones. In time, and in tandem with her growing art business, she transitioned to fully digital works “from the preliminary sketch to the finished product,” she says, adding “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.”
Since 1990, Thomas has been working on “The Zarryiostrom”, a multi-part fantasy novel featuring many of the characters she has painted over the years. She collaborates with her husband Stephen C. Plagman on literary projects, and he also does much of the matting and framing of her art. Other projects range from annual fantasy art calendars to concept designs for fantasy doll collections marketed by Ashton-Drake. When Thomas is not attending to projects for licensing companies, she and her husband maintain an active travel schedule, and she has been Artist Guest of Honor at several genre conventions. The first book dedicated to her art was published 2005, Painting the Veil: The Art of Nene Thomas (Chimera Publishing). Thomas’s family is musically and artistically talented, and her younger sister Ann-Juliette, also an artist, acts as her technical assistant and photographer. Thomas enjoys collecting, displaying and sewing beautiful outfits for her beautiful Asian ball jointed dolls, and caring for stray cats. She lives with her husband in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma where she has lived most of her life.