For years, when Danika Wright worked alongside her husband, Matt, in an office, they were first digitally creating film sets and props for movies in Southern California and then designing video games in Seattle.
Now, the small office space they share at their home just outside of Madison Park doubles as an art studio, and Wright more often stands in front of an easel with a paintbrush in her hand rather than a computer screen and a mouse.
Her eventual career change from 3-D designer to fine artist was more a return to her roots rather than a sudden, dramatic life choice.
“I’ve always loved art and painting,” Wright said. “I didn’t really think you could make a living doing traditional art.”
While she was receiving her fine arts degree from California State University Fullerton, she also took aviation classes, thinking she would make her money as a pilot and paint on the side. When her career took off in the studio creating models and props for movies and then shifted to video games, thoughts of a painting sideline took a back seat to earning an income.
After 10 years in the male-dominated video game industry in Seattle with few female coworkers but many long hours and late nights, and with a son old enough to start school at the time, Wright revisited the idea of becoming a full-time traditional artist again, this time with serious consideration. After discussing it with her husband and determining the feasibility, Wright cut back her computer graphic work in half and went back to school to refine her painting techniques. She studied under Tenaya Sims at Georgetown Atelier for four years before completing her education at Aristides Atelier through Gage Academy on Capitol Hill, attending for two years and taking workshops on the side.
“I came out with a lot of great skills that I didn’t have before,” Wright said.
Wright said, while she knew being a full-time artist would be hard work, she was prepared for that.
“I’ve always had a job,” she said. “I’ve worked since I was 15 years old.”
Working at a job where a steady income wasn’t guaranteed, however, was a different matter.
“That was a really hard concept to wrap my head around,” Wright said.
The day she sold her first painting still stands out in her mind.
“I was elated. That was when I was still in school,” Wright said. “I sold that for $1,000.”
While that painting was of a still life, Wright’s preferred subject matter is of people, and she likes her series to follow a theme, usually with a nod to activism. Her latest series of paintings is “A Celebration of Women” and is inspired by the book “The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World,” by Melinda Gates.
Before that, she did a series on climate change and was inspired by climate activists and specifically the youth climate movement spearheaded by Greta Thunberg.
Right now, Wright is researching ideas for a new series that would feature accomplished women in history performing the work for which they become renowned.
Finding realistic images or documented pictures to use as a reference has been challenging, however, so Wright said she is exploring different ideas.
“I have a problem. I have to finish one piece and get it to where I like it before I can move onto another,” she said.
The process she follows when creating a piece is methodical and the process is thoughtful and deliberate.
“It can easily take three weeks to a month to finish a piece,” she said.
And while she is confident in her art, Wright said she is still learning the business side of selling her paintings, which they don’t teach at the art academy and which she describes as “a process.”
She said she dislikes the marketing aspect of the business the most and finds having to constantly promote herself through social media posts an on her website updates and through more traditional channels a tedious but necessary evil. And then Wright must weigh the pros and cons of showing her art in a museum or submitting it in a competition rather than putting it up for sale immediately.
If Wright puts a painting or drawing up for sale immediately, and acts as her own broker by selling it through her website, she must first agonize over the price. If she goes too high, then she risks collectors deciding the price exceeds the painting’s value, and then they won’t buy it.
On the other hand, if Wright sets her price too low and undervalues her art, then a collector might think it isn’t valuable or worth anything, and it won’t sell.
If Wright opts to sell her work through a gallery, however, professionals will set the price, eliminating the guesswork on her part, but they also take a 50 percent commission, cutting her profit by half, and she doesn’t get to meet the collector, which she dislikes, as well.
“The goal is really to make enough of a living to have a bit of a steady income and do something that I enjoy,” Wright said. “It always feels good when something I painted or created resonates with somebody. Like, what a huge compliment.”
And Wright gets the same thrill when someone buys a piece of her art now as she did after selling her first painting.
“Mostly it just gives me the warm and fuzzies that people spend their hard-earned money on something I created and put it up in their house,” she said.
To see Wright’s paintings and drawings, people can see go to her website, https://www.danika-wright.com/, or follow her on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/danikawrightart/.