Nina Rae Vaughn is a Disney Diva. She is lighting fast, technically accurate, and highly expressive in her work. She starts an illustration by doing extensive color studies; often this exploration is the best part of her job because it allows her to establish an effective color direction for the illustration. Although Nina is gifted in the use of linear perspective in that she can make objects appear to recede in a painting with the use of parallel lines that converge on the horizon line, I feel that she has an equally important strength in color perspective that also creates the illusion of distance in a painting. Cool colors such as blues and greens that have been grayed down in tone generally recede because they simulate atmosphere like distant mountains and warm intense colors such as reds, oranges, and yellows advance or come to the foreground of a painting. If you were painting several acres of red flowers, the flowers at your feet would be straight out of the red paint tube and those in the distance would be grayed down or a muted red and the flowers in middle of the field would be a gradient of the two. In the space of three inches in a small painting, you would have created the illusion of 300 yards using color. Nina has used her gifts in perspective starting as a special effects illustrator and expanded into illustration work for attractions such as the Muppet Vision 3D film at MGM Studios in Orlando, Florida and California Adventure theme parks, and also did a bird’s eye view the 50th Anniversary Map for Disneyland.
When Nina first began to illustrate at Imagineering, we used a process where we had to paint the illustration large so that it could be photographed and reduced to achieve sharper details. A one-inch wide brush stroke in the original large painting would be only an 1/8th of an inch wide in the smaller reproduction increasing the sharpness of the image. This technique required the artist to know what level of detail that was needed in the reproduction before starting on the large painting. We got a better understanding of this reproduction requirement by doing small study sketches that were generally the same size as the reproduction. I feel that this is where Nina developed her exceptional ability to do small studies and once that study is done she has a mental picture of how to paint the full-scale painting to achieve the level of detail that she wants in the final piece or reproduction.
Along with her brushes, paints, and illustration board, she uses the computer that allows her to virtually reverse the order of this process. Now the computer makes it possible to do a smaller painting and enlarge it putting in the needed enhancements. In addition to her illustration work, Nina also did art direction for Tokyo Disney Sea attractions. She graduated from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, and has continued to learn from colleagues such as Herb Ryman and Bryan Jowers as well as continuing her fine arts training in workshop study.