Rancho Santa Fe artist cultivates her ‘Magical Garden’ via digital work

Rancho Santa Fe artist Annie Omens specializes in digital art. Photo by Karen Billing
Rancho Santa Fe artist Annie Omens specializes in digital art. Photo by Karen Billing

Rancho Santa Fe photographic artist Annie Omens’ latest art show, “Welcome to My Magical Garden,” is now on display at the Encinitas Civic Art Gallery.

Annie Omens’ “Chivalry.”
Annie Omens’ “Chivalry.”

Rancho Santa Fe photographic artist Annie Omens’ latest art show, “Welcome to My Magical Garden,” is now on display at the Encinitas Civic Art Gallery. The show featuring 25 digital paintings on canvas is part of the Encinitas Arts Division 2015 juried art show and runs through May 6.

Omens takes a lot of inspiration from her deep connection with nature, focusing on the spiritual meanings behind animals and sharing messages about environmental issues.

After attending art school in the 1970s, Omens thought she might have a hard time making a living, so she became a flight attendant with American Airlines. She became a stay-at-home mom to her two children, and once they had grown, she went back to school at San Jacinto College to study digital photography.

Although art has always been a part of Omens’ life, over the past five years she has decided to “just go for it,” to create and begin showing regularly.

Omens has participated in past exhibitions such as the Annual Juried Athenaeum Show in La Jolla, and the Santa Rosa Plateau Annual Show and the Local Art in Public Places Show in Murrieta. She was a featured artist at the Tina Christensen Gallery in Coronado.

She has three pieces in the North County Society of Fine Arts’ open juried show at Poway Center for the Arts this month, with a total of $1,100 in prize money.

Her work is composed from her original photos. Sometimes she will do a “straight photo,” but most times she will create her own composition, layering several photos into one and sometimes painting and drawing on them.

One of her pieces, “Chivalry,” started as an original photo of a horse in a stall. In Photoshop, she pumped up the color, removed the stall and layered in photos she had taken of cherry blossom trees and a rainbow she had made using paper and beveled glass.

“That’s how I work. I don’t really plan it, I just go through my photos and see what goes with what,” Omens said.

Layers of pieces in the show include images of butterflies, passion flowers from her backyard, textured fabrics, the face of an antique Japanese mask, an agave plant drenched in the bright colors of Mexico, and a lizard she found in her front yard.

“I like putting a mysterious and spiritual aspect to my work,” Omens said. “I just have fun with it and combine things.”

Many of her photos were taken in her treasured Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve, where she used to live in Murrieta.

“There’s so much nature there, and the nature is not intimidated by people,” Omens said.

She recalls photographing a still bluebird from 10 feet away, and snapping a shot of a rattlesnake in the front yard, standing on a rock over the snake. “My heart was pounding,” Omens said.

She likes to frequent zoos and botanical gardens and exotic-animal reserves, like one she found in Ramona.

“I take photos through the fences and bring back them back to life by putting them into a believable environment or not, one that’s more fantastical or mystical,” she said.

Omens has come a long way since her art school days, working in a black room to develop her photographs.

“The darkroom is a very romantic kind of place, with the red lights and bubbling water,” Omens said. “But I appreciate not working with the toxic chemicals anymore, and I can get so much more done faster. (Digital) is a very elegant way to work, and it’s a very efficient way to work.”

She happily trades toxic chemicals for carpal tunnel, converting hours to minutes.

A longtime equestrian, for many years Omens trained for competitive horse shows in jumping and dressage, although she recently retired.

Omens is also a collector of ancient Tibetan bowls, she has led Mandala circular art classes where she plays the ancient bowls while participants work in a meditative, artful experience.

Most of all, she enjoys the work in her studio, graduating from her makeshift studio in her daughters’ old rooms to the spacious guest house of her Rancho Santa Fe home.

“I’ve worked really hard all my life to finally be able to produce a body of work to show and sell,” Omens said. “It feels like a complete circle, or a wonderful second beginning almost. I just like getting my art out there.”

The show at the Encinitas Civic Center is at 505 S. Vulcan Ave. To view her work, visit annieomens.com.