The Art of Isolation with Thomas Stokes

What have you done to improve your skills as an artist? Thomas Stokes, a 21-year old fine artist based in Texas, tells us how he had to isolate himself from social aspects of life for some time to improve his craft. The talented painter explains to us the process he goes through to create his work, as well as his plans for the future – including how he has started to incorporate digital effects to his work online. Read the interview with Thomas below.

A lot of your more recent work features a face with multiple eyes, noses, and mouths – as if to show multiple emotions at once. How did you settle into this style?

The motifs from those drawings mostly come from my painting “Self Portrait I” from 2017. It has multiple partial-faces that, depending on how you may interpret it, convey different emotions as well. I just wanted to apply the same concept onto paper with a different medium. I often like to play with motion and gesture in my work, so when I’m drawing or painting one of the questions I ask is where the viewers’ eyes might start and end on the canvas/paper. And with these drawings I used lines as a sort of “guide” for the viewers’ eyes as well as to work with and compliment the facial features. As for the faces themselves, they depend on my current mood when drawing. Sometimes they are inspired by phrases or words I hear throughout the day that have stuck with me for some reason.

How long have you been making art? And was there ever a specific point where you realized that you should pursue it seriously?

It’s rather a cliché answer, but honestly: since preschool or for as long as I can remember. It has always been a part of my life. While I had been serious about art throughout school, I didn’t see it as a potential career until shortly after I had graduated and saw other young artists become successful (through my eyes) off of their work. And for me that was monumentally inspiring and showed me that it really was possible. I started to practice, experiment, and push myself as a creative – isolating myself from friends and events. Not being much of a social person made it easier of course, but I’ve learned a lot about myself from those experiences.

Was it hard to separate yourself from the social aspects of life? Or did you just look at it as a necessary step in order to get to where you are now?

Most of the time it didn’t bother me. I don’t know if that says something about me or some of the people who I would normally spend time with. But I saw at as something that was necessary in order to develop myself – artistically speaking. Though I feel I still have a long way to go on that. Which is perfectly fine. I would get bored of creating if I didn’t.

How do you work on your paintings? Do you come back to them over time or do you feel the need to finish them as they’re started?

I rarely finish a painting within the same day that I started it. I don’t like to rush things, as I feel like that can show easily. I often take breaks to re-evaluate the work and then progress from there. So they can take anywhere between a few days to a few months depending on the size, composition, and content. And there are several ways that my paintings can start. Some begin from a few spontaneous gestural lines and shapes drawn on the canvas (eventually forming a figure), while others are planned from a drawing or idea in one of my sketchbooks. My mood plays a part in all of this as well.

You’ve recently shared some of your paintings “in motion,” with paint seemingly being washed down the canvas. What sparked an interest in creating these motion paintings?

I saw a GIF online that had the same effect but applied to a stream of water. So I then I wondered what some of my paintings would look like if they seemingly shifted along the brush strokes and paint streaks that I had made. I know I’m not the first to do it with paintings, but when you apply it to your own work then it becomes unique per se.

Was that your first time creating art in a digital format? Or have you dabbled in digital work in the past?

I created a few throughout high school, mostly as assignments that I didn’t care much for. But this was the first time in a few years. I plan on doing more with upcoming work.

What goals do you have for yourself as an artist? And what’s your dream job?

I would say that my main goals are to keep finding ways to reinvent and refine myself as an artist, and gain new connections in the art world. I don’t know if I’ll ever be completely comfortable with myself and my work, but that’s okay. My dream job is to be in L.A., or some other city with better resources than San Antonio, while making more work but at 1000% and on much larger scales—hopefully gaining personal and financial freedom from my experiences doing it. I don’t see myself wanting to do anything else or having a career in any other field than art. I feel like this is 100% me and what I want to do with my life.

Follow Thomas on Instagram and Twitter.

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