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"Animal Painting #013-0825 (deer)"
Les Thomas, "Animal Painting #013-0825 (deer)," 2013, oil on board, 60” x 60”.
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"Animal Painting #013-0830 (cinnamon bear)"
Les Thomas, "Animal Painting #013-0830 (cinnamon bear)," 2013, oil on canvas, 48” x 48”.
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"Animal Painting #012-0651 (trout)"
Les Thomas, "Animal Painting #012-0651 (trout)," 2012, oil on canvas, 48” x 48”.
By Maureen Latta
Les Thomas likes to prowl hardware stores looking for tools he can use to make interesting marks in his paintings. He’s interested not merely in prosaic standbys such as spatulas and putty knives, but also in unconventional objects like sink strainers and toilet plungers. “I don’t use brushes ever,” he says. “I think the reason is to escape from certain conventions of painting.”
Thomas lives in the hamlet of Bragg Creek, west of Calgary, where he is known for creating textured paintings that feature a single animal in the centre of a square canvas or board. However, he defies the conventional label of wildlife artist – he doesn’t strive for hyper-realistic rendering and is more interested in the smears, drips and patterns that surround and overlay his subjects.
Thomas’ training included a year at the Slade School of Fine Art in London at a time when art-world debate over the supposed death of painting was challenging painters to find ways to resuscitate the medium. He says he eventually forged a path by combining an analytical approach to painting with his love of animals and the outdoors. “An animal in nature is not subject to time or a schedule or anything beyond its own impulses. I kind of approach art that way. So, in some ways, the animals symbolize the very act of making the picture itself.”
His latest works feature wolves and fish. He retains a resolute commitment to his own vision. “I think being regional is more important than trying to emulate something off the pages of Art Forum.”
Les Thomas is represented by Canada House Gallery in Banff, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, and by Douglas Udell Gallery in Edmonton and Vancouver. His work is priced at $2,000 to $30,000.