Light & Shadow
BY TRACY RISUCCI
A Thai based artist we discovered on Instagram, and now also often see his work featured in the Saatchi Art catalog.
Thomas Donaldson focuses primarily on portraits and nudes in his vast body of work. We are drawn to his subjects, intense shadows and bold strokes, and especially love his studio shots and his 4 legged companions (Sherbert and Hiccup 💕) We reached out to Thomas requesting him to be part of our launch and he graciously accepted and took the time to answer our q&a (below). It is a pleasure to exhibit a small sample of his incredible work here.
BB: Tell us about yourself.
Thomas: My Name is Thomas and I’m a British artist. I have been living and working in Thailand for the last 14 years.
BB: What’s your favorite part of being an artist?
Thomas: Umm, my least favorite part is stretching canvas. I don’t really have a favorite part as such, as each activity is instrumental in the making of a work.
BB: You describe your style as English figurative. In layman’s terms, can you explain what that means?
Thomas: I mean that I work in a representational manner in that I deal with real subjects, not pure abstraction and my subjects are predominantly portraits and nude paintings.
BB: We love the way you create shadows that appear totally different near and far. Is that a technique you learned in school or simply part of your unique style?
Thomas: It’s something one has developed over the years through experimentation. I want my work to look unified from a distance but as you get closer, they’re just a collection of marks and blotches of color.
BB: Your work has a sense of drama. Do you agree?
Thomas: Yeah of course, I want the work to be visceral. I want to create contrasting elements in the paintings, strong highlights and shadows, thick and thin paint, giving the works an emotive or dramatic feel.
BB: As a professor of art (Asian University) can you tell us what makes a good art student?
Thomas: Haha ones that stay awake! Just one who is receptive and open to different concepts and who goes that bit extra when completing assessments/briefs, they get absorbed in their work. That’s when teaching can be such a pleasure.
BB: We love your studio shots. Who are the adorable dogs?
Thomas: The studio/process shots are important, people now want to see more than just the finished artwork so the studio shots allow an insight into your process and surroundings. I have two dogs who are always in and out of the studio one is a German Shepherd called Sherbet and the other is called Hiccup who is a mixed breed, part beagle, part Thai street dog, part Pitbull and always looks like he’s been hard done by, he has a wonderful grumpy face.
BB: Please tell us about your creative process?
Thomas: My painting process has evolved over the years becoming less overly expressive and more reflective. Most of my work goes through four or 5 stages but within this framework there’s always the possibility of chance or happy accident which can add to the process. I think my process is as important as the final piece so I try to leave areas of earlier stages in the resolved piece.
BB: How long does a typical painting take to create? What materials do you most often use?
Thomas: Oh, how long is a piece of string? It varies, I try to work quickly and avoid overpainting so sometimes a work can be completed in a few hours. I often leave the paintings for a couple of months, bring them out and continue working on them, sometimes I will only add a couple of marks and they’re done, sometimes a bit longer and some unfortunately end up in the trash. I mainly use oils on the canvas pieces and inks, watercolors, cold tea etc. on my paper pieces.
BB: We first discovered you on Instagram and have also seen your work in Saatchi Art. Are these platforms a big part of your business?
Thomas: Definitely, Saatchi Art sells a lot of my works and Instagram is a great marketing tool, allowing a lot more people to see my works. I also work with other galleries. Social media is a double-edged sword in a way, you can reach a much larger audience but you have to be more productive as an artist and make a lot more work. I think it’s probably a lot different for artist now than say 15-20 years ago when I first graduated.
BB: We noticed an Asian theme in your subjects. Does living in Thailand inspire your use of subjects or did you move to Thailand in search of your subjects?
Thomas: I’ve probably painted a lot more Asian subjects since moving to Thailand and my wife is Thai so she is quite often one of my subjects. I try to use models that will translate well into my style of paintings.
BB: Do you have a favorite artist?
Thomas: I tend to change my mind about artist I’ve liked/disliked over the years. Artist I didn’t like when younger I’m now drawn to. Although two artist that have been a constant influence since first seeing their works as a young art student are Egon Schiele and Francis Bacon.
BB: What are your hobbies?
Thomas: Things I like to do when not paintings are spending time with my wife and our dogs, I also like to get out on my motorbike, but sometimes can be a bit scary riding on Thai roads. I tend to enjoy pottering round, fixing stuff, hands on type of thing.
BB: If someone is interested in your work, or a commissioned piece, what is the best way to reach you?
Can reach me on my email: [email protected]