By Jenny Burgess, News Reader and Wedding Celebrant
“I’m happiest when I’m producing art.’’
– Stephen Thomas
I’ve Got A Shark In My Boat in Evan Heads, NSW (May 2017)
From the very first painting he sold of the ‘Little Owl,’ at age 18, Stephen Thomas’s work has been appreciated by art lovers around the globe. Growing up in Brighton, Stephen’s appreciation for art started at an early age, for his own interest first, and that of his family, then a teacher recognised his talent and at the age of 16 he was accepted into Eastbourne Art and Design College.
“I was classically trained and I loved the countryside,” he says. His landscapes were popular with buyers in England but he wanted to see the world. “Travelling invigorates me“ and by taking trips to France and Africa his painted scenes changed and evolved. He became a freelance illustrator, a marine artist then a teacher. He spent 28 years in Hong Kong and he was commissioned to paint many local scenes which still hang in boardrooms across Asia. Whilst in Hong Kong, he was struck by the chaotic colours and characters on the street and his comparative figure work became a feature. Teaching watercolours and drawing and sketching meant a fire was ignited and Stephen ran an art school for over 18 years. “I loved teaching, capturing the imagination of my students, I loved sharing my enthusiasm and love of art. Teaching them how to see things, to be excited about a subject and share it.”
Stephen kept up his British profile and had exhibitions in Brighton, Canterbury, Sussex and won the Queen Mothers Birthday Award for the first day cover design for the Royal Wedding of 1986.
In 2002 Stephen was awarded the prestigious Dr Ann Clark fellowship from Saint Ignatius College Riverview in Sydney, Australia. The fellowship is awarded each year to a highly esteemed educator who has demonstrated excellence in their professional field, a clear illustration of Stephen’s devotion to the arts.
His watercolour work representing the effects of light has a spontaneous immediate quality that draws you into its depth. In his more current work Stephen paints elements of cartoon legibility, but with a classically trained dedication to detail.
”After I received a commission from NIKE to paint the industrial workplace in China, I travelled to Australia for a holiday. I was blown away by Australia, it conjured up the sense of adventure, it made my work freer in every aspect. It was like recharging my batteries.”
His Australian landscapes capture the glint of the water, the dusty quality of the sand and the blue stretches of limitless blue sky. The recent touches of dusky pinks add an originality to his paintings.
“I get excited about my work and I want to share it. I like to include humour in my work and at times discreetly include figures or an animal or two, it’s all about composition and positioning.”
‘’As an artist I like to be a chameleon going from one style to another. Obscure subject matter still interests me, and I also enjoy botanical painting as I become totally immersed.’’
“Travel has made me become the ultimate risk taker. I’m happiest when I’m free to paint my experiences. I like to be fearless with my work.”
Stephen currently draws inspiration from nature and lives in Cumbalum, NSW with his beautiful wife, Esperanza.
Stephen hopes you enjoy his website, collection of watercolours, acrylics and mixed media work.
Companies for which Stephen has been commissioned are as follows: