Six-Gun Justice Podcast’s co-host Richard Prosch recently had the opportunity to talk with Western artist Andy Thomas, whose painting grace the covers of some of Rich’s books.
SIX-GUN JUSTICE: Have you always liked to draw, or is it something you took up as an adult? Has your artwork always been western-themed?
ANDY THOMAS: I have been drawing and painting all my life. I have always done a wide assortment of subjects, including westerns. Today, most of the work I show the public is western or politically themed.
SGJ: Do you have a western or rural background? What’s your inspiration?
THOMAS: I grew up in a small town, Carthage, in southwest Missouri. My family owned a small, nonworking farm nearby. My interest in the West came from Frederic Remington and Charles Russell reproductions. Of course, Hollywood must have influenced me.
SGJ: Do you work exclusively in oils? What other media do you enjoy?
THOMAS: I enjoy all media but most of my major pieces are in oil. I do many works in pen and ink and watercolor.
SGJ: How do you come up with a specific scene? Is it suggested to you from literature or real life? Can you walk us through the process?
THOMAS: That is a great question with lots of answers. Here are some of my paths to a painting: Sometimes I set out to do an iconic image of the West; People suggest ideas (I think being open to the ideas of others is good); I have read many journals and first-hand accounts of the West and those stories prompt ideas; Yes, sometimes literature inspires paintings; I’ve done some paintings based on songs; Sometimes I start with an emotion and try to build an idea from that; Many times I paint historical scenes, which I enjoy researching; I have sometimes used a painting of another artist, say Howard Pyle, identified why I like the painting, and tried to incorporate those things into a new painting; Rarely a good idea just pops into my head
SGJ: I can say I have had success and failure with all these methods. Once I have an idea for a painting that I am enthused about, I doodle small layouts with pencil and graduate to a quick, 9 x 12” color study. Some ideas die there when the study is uninspiring. Less than half become full paintings.
SGJ: Your work has a great deal of kinetic energy. Lots of movement. Do you work from photo shoots to catch the action in the moment?
THOMAS: Those comments about my paintings are words I love hearing because it is something I strive for: energy and motion. I usually start with horses and figures that I make up in my color study. I have many horse photographs and close-ups that I use to do a finished painting, using my study for the dynamic motion. Figures I usually just make up. If I need to, I will pose myself for some ideas using a digital camera. I almost always shoot photographs for hands and guns. I want the horses and figures, through their poses, to help tell the story of the painting as much as the setting and clothing.
SGJ: Do you use live models for the variety of unique faces and expressions your characters employ?
THOMAS: Creating unique faces can be a challenge. Usually, I make up the faces. Sometimes I try to make them look like people I know or even actors. Sometimes I have used photos of family members. The natural impulse is to paint good looking faces, but the best ones fall short of being handsome or pretty.
SGJ: Do you paint full time? What’s a typical day like for you?
THOMAS: I paint fewer oil paintings than I did before, but I still do a lot of artwork. When I have a painting or project in the works, I am in the studio at 10:30 in the morning till 6:00pm. I go back up from 9:00pm to midnight.
SGJ: What happens to your work when you’re finished? Do you work toward putting together shows or gallery displays? Do you take commissions and/or sell your work online?
THOMAS: It is my good fortune that my wife and business partner, Dina has always handled all business affairs for us. She varnishes the paintings, has them scanned, framed and shipped. We have been working together for 29 years. It’s been a very good life.