Meet Thomas Paquette. Thomas hales from Warren, PA, is part of the CCAC community, served as a portfolio reviewer for SAVI, and donated a painting for the 2012 Cause for Celebration Raffle. Thomas is an accomplished painter whose work has been featured in a variety of solo exhibitions and prominent galleries and museums throughout the country. He has served as artist in residence at the American Academy in Rome, the Millay Colony, McNamara Foundation, USM Aegean Arts and Cultural Exchange, and three National Parks among other places. His works have been selected to hang in diplomatic facilities for the United States around the world, including embassies in St. Petersburg, Athens, Rome, Vienna, Santiago, and Taipei. Thomas draws inspiration from the natural world immediately surrounding him in the Allegheny National Forest, and just as frequently from more distant travels. The following is an excerpt from an interview Thomas completed in 2010 with Mary Soliwoda of Windham Fine Arts in Windham, NY. To read the complete interview, see his work in color, or learn more about Thomas Paquette, go to thomaspaquette.com.
At what point in your life did you know that you are an artist? I believe that we are all born potential artists. Most of us make art until we think we are better suited to other things. I just never wanted to stop. I loved drawing and painting and was saddened when peers I thought were good gave it up. Until I went to college, I seemed to be the last lonely man standing. I had an epiphany of sorts when I was twelve about the direction I felt my life should take. A dog ripped into my right hand and in my fear I thought it would have to be amputated. The only thought I had after that - and it really shook me to the core - was how was I going to be an artist now? After that moment I valued my passion for art in a new way, and tried to make sure that nothing would prevent me from being an artist.
What would you like your audience to take away from viewing your works? My hope is that my audience will catch the excitement I have for color. And too, I hope it they share my enthusiasm for the vibrant world of nature and our place in it. The paintings tend to draw from me a sort of awe regarding perception and existence, and if others connect with that in their own lives, so much the better.
Discuss how you create a painting—the process, the materials, the worktable, your timetable, etc. My palette is a large glass plate on one rolling table. On another rolling table I have about 50 large tubes of different colors laid out spectrally so I can find them easily. I am shockingly orderly sometimes, but mostly it is so I don’t poison myself or struggle too long looking for a certain red. I lay out blobs of color on my palette spectrally too, with a variety of warm and cools in each hue. At first it is very thin washes, just to establish some guidelines. After I have established what subject I will paint, the first step is to decide whether it is best expressed in a large work or on smaller dimensions, or whether I should work it on a couple different scales. Another decision is whether to paint on coarse or smooth linen, a wood panel, or even a troublesome canvas that has already been painted on. I then cover the canvas in colors that sometimes do, but more often do not, approximate the finished colors. And sometimes I cover the canvas with arbitrary paint just to give me something to “work against”. Another initial approach I sometimes take is to conceive the composition as a big loose drawing using just one color. As unruly as my process is up to that point, I can’t even tell you what happens next because it is game with no rules, except one: to make something to look at that is as interesting as possible, perhaps even beautiful.
Have you completed works that you find difficult to part with, and why? Ha. That would be true of most of my paintings. Primarily because they can always hold more paint, and I am always game for changing them. But there are also some other paintings I like to keep around for a while because they represent a direction - though interesting - that I may decide to forego. Or because they hold a lesson I am not sure I have completely absorbed yet, and need to contemplate.
What words of encouragement or wisdom would you like to share with amateur and/or emerging artists? If your life is an artwork, how will you shape it? Your greatest asset is your passion. Find what really interests you and pursue that without looking for approval or remuneration. Your passionate involvement is by itself the most valuable reward in any endeavor; be careful not to trade that for a steady but dulling income. If you care to be an artist, you must learn to survive simply so you can do your next artwork.
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