Different Subjects and Mediums – Interview with Grant Thomas
Grant Thomas is a multi-talented artist who is known for his Ferrari artwork and while he does branch out to into different subject matters he also branches out into different mediums.
We got in touch with Grant to ask him a couple of questions about his work.
AA: Hi Grant, what you have been up to lately?
GT: I just finished a new major work that involves something different in subject matter. While I am known for my exotic cars, I am becoming popular at the local cruise nights where a lot of muscle and 1950’s type cars show up. I have been donating a few of my framed photo prints and a couple sketches as door prizes which were excitedly accepted. Having become more immersed in this era of automobile, my latest work “South Beach Diner Meetup” features a 1958 Plymouth Fury and a 1960 Dodge Dart.
A show that just finished – a juried show for the Oshawa Artists Association at the Robert McGlaughlin Gallery – I got two pieces accepted. “Sassafraz Serves Italian”. An ink and watercolour on Yupo featuring a 458 Italia Ferrari in front of a popular restaurant in Toronto, and one of my detail watercolours on paper: “430 Reflections”. The latter, I am pleased to say, won second in its class.
And finally, I am preparing a show for the 19th of August, as I am the spotlighted artist for the Marques d’Elegance exotic car show in Burlington, Ontario held at the Paletta Mansion. I will be have about 15 pieces exhibited throughout the landmark structure. This is their inaugural year and I did the photoshoot and graphic design for the promotional materials. Very exciting! I am hoping it will become an annual event for me to display my new work.
AA: Known for creating Ferrari artwork, do you like doing other type of automobiles?
GT: When I refer to “different subject matter” is that I don’t just focus on the Ferraris and exotics. While they are my favourite, i do branch out and do other models… The 50s-60s American cars in “South Beach Diner Meetup” are marques I don’t regularly do.
Further to that, for the adult and kids classes that I teach at a local gallery, I get to explore still-lifes, florals and life drawing. I didn’t do those for years and when the opportunity arose, I found practicing these “artisitic fundamentals” improved my dexterity and the effects could be seen in my automotive work – the architectural backgrounds, trees, people etc. Sketching and doing longer studies from life really help to keep my artistic roots and skills strong.
AA: You mentioned you taught adult and kids classes at a local gallery. What recommendations would you give an automotive artist wanting to sharpen their skills?
GT: Try to embrace a variety of media. Have one that you are known for but dont be afraid to widen your skills. If you focus on only one you miss out on some great effects one can only create in another. I have my ink and watercolours but I also enjoy digital, oil on canvas, drawings on paper… Certain moods and effects suit one media over another and being versatile can allow to access these when the need arises.
AA: With all the work you do, what’s your studio like?
GT: Alot going on there. Its too small for the amount of work going on at once. Between some freelance work and my automotive there are always 2 or 3 things a various stages going on at once. It is the third bedroom of a 3 bedroom home. There are 2 drawing tables. One for drawing. One for watercolour renderings. There is a long flat chest of drawers (made for architectural plans) that I use for storing paper and finished work. That leaves just enough room for an easel to do my canvas work. It can appear in quite a state when all 3 areas are employed. On the walls are a variety of work from the past 20 years – about 8 pieces. They get changed from time to time as new work is done and some are being used for shows or displayed in showrooms around the Toronto area. To the unaware it can seem to be in disarray. While I would always like to have more room – I would like to explore doing larger 50+ inch canvases next – it has worked well for me the past few years.
AA: Artists may stay with one medium during their whole career, but you seem to work in a lot of different mediums. Can you tell us a little about that?
GT: While I have used ink and watercolour for a long time, I have discovered some new synthetic papers in the past couple of years that are just wonderful: Yupo and Terraskin. Yupo has a very slick surface that gives wonderful wet on wet effects. Terraskin has a small amount of texture that allows it to work more like paper. Both are wonderful and I highly recommend trying them.
Watercolour painting has always been my forte. But my Illustration course at Sheridan College taught us to be versatile – ink and graphite drawing, painting on canvas… and I exercised those skills through the years. While keeping watercolour as my primary choice – and what I am known for – I am able to satisfy clients that prefer the “painterly, oil on canvas” approach.
My most recent was a second painting for a return client: “Green Cobra”, a 36×36 oil on canvas of his restored 1965 classic. I also did two demonstrations for my gallery that resulted in major works. And, happily, some sales. “Timeless Fascination”, a charcoal drawing featuring children with the Time Machine-DeLorean from Back to the Future and “Eiffel Tour de France”: a conté drawing of a Ferrari with the Eiffel Tower in the background. I enjoy the chance to “stretch my artistic legs” with other mediums and surfaces.
AA: It looks like you mainly work from commissions. As for working with clients, do you find that clients like to have a lot of input or do they let you do what you want based on seeing your previous work?
GT: Up until a couple years ago, Commissions were 90% of my sales. Specific cars from their owners that wanted something done of their car. Exotics have a lot more options than in the past. A red on tan 308 would serve a large number of potential customers back in the 80s and 90s (and still do). But the present cars have a large number of paint options, striping, interior finishes, wheels etc. Lately some of my more personal work have resulted in sales. Facebook has provided me with a fan base and a couple of collectors of my work. “Timeless Fascination” and “Eiffel Tour de France” was purchased by one who liked my drawing style and subject matter. I am trying my best to ramp this sort of thing as I find it very self-satisfying as an artist. These works I am most attached to and it feels very good when someone else takes a liking to it and sees what I am trying to convey. Happily, this is slowly increasing in frequency, and I am doing my best to fan the flames of this change.
But when I do get a commission they tend follow one of two scenarios. Some refer to a previous painting in my portfolio to indicate the medium and look and feel of what they would like. Beyond that its up to me, using photos from my archive altering it to suit their car. They provide shots if it is very unique. Others have something particular in mind and specify the medium, the angle of the car with a photo and request a background – providing a separate photo of a skyline or personal residence – and I can accommodate them with a final rendering merging the two reference shots. There is still a large measure of artistic freedom in both instances that I enjoy.
AA: So what do you have coming up?
GT: Some good news: After this weekend’s show at the Marques d’Elegance, a gallery/framing store in Toronto that has displayed my work regularly for a couple years has informed me that they want me to have a one-man show! A first for me in a gallery. This will be occurring in the fall. I will announce the exact dates through AutomotiveArtists.com when it is firm.
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