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May Artist

Crab Fest Poster Artist
Robert Wagner

Friday May 3rd at 5pm-8pm

Join us for the First Friday Art Walk

Find out more about The First Friday Art Walk here...


The Frame Shop is hosting one of Kodiak’s most talented artists, Robert Wagner, creator of the 2024 crab fest poster. Don't miss out on this unique opportunity to own a piece of Kodiak history and get first pick of our stunning Crab Fest poster framing specials!


More about Robert curtesy of the

Kodiak Daily Mirror

written by 



Kodiak resident artist and producer Robert Wagner has been on and off the Emerald Isle a few times since he graduated from Kodiak High School in 1995. 

His first escapade off island was to pursue an acting career in New York City shortly after graduation. However, the glitz and glamor of the Big Apple couldn’t keep Wagner away from Kodiak; he returned within six months, broke.

A second time, he moved off island for California in 2009. He returned in 2011.

“Kodiak is like a vortex, it keeps sucking you back — in a good way,” Wagner said. 

“I really realized I loved Kodiak the day before I left for California and San Francisco in 2009. I quietly drove around in the car by myself and went to different parts of the island that I loved, that I was going to emotionally miss. I realized then how much it meant to me because I didn’t know when, or if, I would see if again.”

Born in North Dakota and initially raised in Minnesota, Wagner’s family first came to Alaska in 1983.

“My dad moved us up to Sterling, Alaska, and, in 1987, we moved to Kodiak,” Wagner said. “I was in sixth grade at the time and it was the biggest place I had ever lived because I used to live in a homestead. I used to call the kids here city slickers because there were so many people.”

A local artist and sometimes film producer, Wagner’s first claim to fame was winning a state fair contest when he was a child.

“The first art award I got was when I was in kindergarten for a picture of E.T.,” Wagner said. “My teacher entered it into the Minnesota State Fair and I took first place, won some cash and ribbons and stuff.”

Ever since then, he was hooked on art, both on the canvas and the silver screen. 

Wagner said he took every opportunity he could to pursue art at Kodiak Middle School and Kodiak High School.

“That was the thing that I excelled at,” he said. “Then, I got to high school and it was at the point where I took two hours of art given the opportunity.”

Nowadays, Wagner is a a part-time artist and stay-at-home dad to his 3-year-old son, Ethan.

“It gives me the opportunity to do my artwork as a side business,” Wagner said. “I’ve sold paintings all over the island, Alaska as a whole, as well as California, Georgia and Oregon.”

Wagner’s portfolio ranges from landscapes to Disney and comic book cartoons, usually done in oil and acrylic.

Pillar Mountain with its iconic wind turbines have served as Wagner’s inspiration in recent years.

“It’s something about the sunset,” Wagner said. “In the summertime, when the sun goes down, you can see those windmills stand out like giants. A sunset in the fog is eerie but beautiful.”

Wagner often does commission work for items he normally wouldn’t paint, such as Coast Guard helicopters and aircraft.

“I would never have probably painted that (Coast Guard helicopters) if someone hadn’t asked me to. After a while, you understand what the aircraft looks like,” Wagner said. “To me, they look like these majestic machines that are angels coming to save you, so a lot of my pieces will have the helicopters mixed with a religious undertone.”

There was a time when Wagner’s passion for art was split among between the fine and the dramatic.

“I was accepted into an art school in Arizona but two weeks before I was supposed to leave I decided not to go,” Wagner said. “I changed my mind because I didn’t think it would be fun to design cereal boxes or such things for a career.”

Instead, he took that first adventure off island to Manhattan for a short stint in pursuit of an acting career.

“I wasn’t real great at it but I did a lot of projects,” he said. Most of his roles were bit parts in low-budget films. In addition, he said he had roles as a production assistant. However, he wasn’t making enough to pay the bills. “I eventually ran out of money and came back to Kodiak.”

However, returning to Kodiak didn’t keep Wagner off the proverbial movie set. Instead, he served as the producer for two low-budget, feature-length films made on Kodiak Island.

He said he partnered with his friend Ronald Jackson, who directed and filmed “Cope” in 2004 and released in 2007. His second film, “Survive,” was shot in 2008 and released in 2009.

“Cope” is branded a psychological thriller/horror film that centers on a Kodiak family who are the only ones left after the town’s residents vanish during the night. In addition to serving as producer, Wagner starred as the lead “Mickey Allen,” who investigates what happened to the disappeared residents.

“Survive” is an adventure/drama film focused on four backpackers who find themselves stranded after a late-summer trip in the Alaska wilderness. The tensions in the film revolves around the need for them to band together despite weather, isolation and a divided mindset.

“They took forever to get done, but they were projects we ended up getting on Amazon Prime,” he said. “We never got a penny from them, but they were released.” 


In 2009, Wagner decided to pursue his art career, which brought him to California and the Bay Area to tap into the Disney art world.

“I ended up doing a lot of Disney-themed artwork and ended up selling a lot of them,” he said. 

He was in California for two years before he returned to Kodiak to do art for himself.

“The irony is that I didn’t go to school for it (art) but ended up doing it as a side career, and I enjoy doing it,” he said. “I actually make a little bit of money for something I didn’t academically pursue.”

Wagner’s list of art inspirations are eclectic, from legendary artist and illustrator Norman Rockwell to comic book icon Jack Kirby, who, in partnership with Stan Lee, created some of Marvel’s most iconic stories, such as the X-Men, Silver Surfer and the Fantastic Four.

Wagner’s admiration of pop culture shows itself in his home studio. The room is adorned with action figures, such as the Fantastic Four, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Jurassic Park dinosaurs. On one wall hangs a large painting of Darth Vader in hues of gold, black and red.

From a cinematography and producer standpoint, Wagner draws inspiration from industry legends, such as Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson and James Cameron.

Wagner said he fell out of film for a while before donning the producer’s cap once more for the low-budget, 15-minute horror short “Kushtaka,” which was directed by Cameron Currin and completed in December.  

The short film draws on the Tlingit legend of the land-otter man and is loosely adapted from author Harry Colp’s “The Strangest Story Ever Told.”

“I originally told Cameron I was done with film and was trying to concentrate on my art,” Wagner said. “A year went by and he asked again and I thought, ‘Someone once helped me so I’ll help him.’ I found his passion very inspiring, and he got the flame ignited in me again.”

Wagner said cinema and studio art have common themes when it comes to producing something — there’s a certain magic to the process.

“It’s essentially a magic trick where you are playing all of these characters and putting all those talents into one piece,” Wagner said. “The magic show might go on 15 minutes to two-and-half hours, but the magic trick involves getting a ton of people just to pull off this amazing illusion that an audience is going to see.”

Wagner added that that type of magic blends several elements — light, sound, acting and music — into a final piece that evokes emotion. He placed an important emphasis on music.

“Think of a movie without the right music — it’s just not an actual film,” he said. “Imagine ‘Star Wars’ without the music behind its scenes. It’s just not that cool because there is so much emotion behind the music.”

Wagner added there is a difference in producing films in Kodiak and metropolitan areas,  such as New York City or Los Angeles.

“The downside is you don’t have a lot of resources, though that is changing because technology has progressed so fast,” he said. 

Like the film-making process, Wagner said life in Kodiak isn’t without its pros and cons.

“When I was a kid, there was a lot more around to do in my opinion,” Wagner said. “The community was a little more social driven, whether it was dances or more businesses downtown. The internet changed everything. People can go on Amazon instead of buying locally.”

Nonetheless, Wagner said he can’t imagine raising a family off the island. It’s where he met his wife, Tami. They met when they were both working at Safeway. He was 18 years old and she was 17.

“We dated for 10 years and married in 2006, so we’ve been together 22 years,” Wagner said.

After 20 years together, the two decided to start a family. Ethan is their first child, who Wagner described as the love of his life and a budding artist.

“He has his own easel and paints and is quite talented for a 3-year-old,” Wagner said.

Most of Wagner’s immediate family lives on the island, though his mother moved to North Dakota a few years ago and his father has since retired overseas in the Philippines.

“My brothers, who I’m very close to, are my best friends,” Wagner said. “One reason why I love staying in Kodiak is because they are here with their families.” He added that his sister-in-law also has twins his son’s age.

“It’s a jungle gym in our garage all the time,” Wagner said.

In a way, he said that was why he admired Kodiak and the residents.

“It’s like a family — sometimes a dysfunctional one — but we all try to look out for one another,” he said. “When someone’s down and out, we try to come to their aid and help them.”

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