Creative Cauldron - Tom Thomson

Monday, April 23, 2012

Artist inspiration and artist influences. No biographies, dates or scholarly research here -  this is a personal response to the work of Tom Thomson by Australian artist Fiona Morgan.

Tom Thomson painting - After the Sleet Storm
After the Sleet Storm
It's only quite recently that I have become aware of the paintings of Canadian artist Tom Thomson.

Tom Thomson painting - Algonquin Park
Algonquin Park

Tom Thomson painting - Decorative Landscape Birches
Decorative Landscape Birches
Apparently he holds legendary status in Canada in a similar way to Tom Roberts here in Australia. His paintings were done at a culturally important time for the nation and manage to embody a kind of national spirit. Not being Canadian I did not see or feel this when I discovered his paintings, it's something that has been brought to my attention in research. Instead I was instantly grabbed by three standout elements of his work.

Tom Thomson painting - Early Spring
Early Spring

Tom Thomson painting - Early Spring
Early Spring
Pattern. Many artists rearrange what they see in front of them to form a pleasing composition (and this is something many amateurs don't seem to understand). Tom Thomson takes this to a greater extreme than most, actually making it a feature instead of a subtle way to improve a painting.

Tom Thomson painting - Evening, Canoe Lake
Evening, Canoe Lake

Tom Thomson painting - In the Northland
In the Northland
The patterns are the strongest design element. There are shades of Japanese design and Art Nouveau in his arrangements. The patterning is so strong that you can change the colours in his images and the overall design stays strong. The patterns are so strong and such a feature that they become decorative. I mean this as a compliment, not in a snooty nosed derisive manner. I love the decorativeness of his patterns, the way he has rearranged the landscape before him into beautiful shapes.

Tom Thomson painting - Maple Saplings
Maple Saplings

Tom Thomson painting - Northern River
Northern River
Apparently he was a self taught painter, with a background as a graphic designer. His era was the early 1900's, when graphic design was illustration and poster design. It was a goldern era for illustration, where high technical skill was normal and the ability to compose or design in an eye-grabbing manner and lead the viewers eye around, was expected. I see a strong similarity between the poster design of the era, and the design of his paintings. It's a large part of my admiration for his work.

Tom Thomson painting - Pine Trees at Sunset
Pine Trees at Sunset

Tom Thomson painting - Sombre Day
Sombre Day
Colour. The way Tom Thomson uses or chooses colour makes me swoon. Restricted palette. Subtle groups of related colours. Bright yet not dancing around with it's pants off. Wonderful contrasts of lights and darks.  I am working toward somewhat toning down my palette, and I consider the balance he has found to be an ideal to work towards.

Tom Thomson painting - Spring Algonquin
Spring Algonquin

Tom Thomson painting - The Birch Grove, Autumn
The Birch Grove, Autumn
Texture. Something I love when I discover it and would like to do more of myself is putting texture in the paint. This is a hallmark of Van Gogh's work, and also an aspect I admire of Criss Canning's paintings. The brushstrokes are part of the patterning. The paint is highlighted. His works are paintings, not images.

Tom Thomson painting - The Drive
The Drive

Tom Thomson painting - The Pool
The Pool
To me his work is so strong and compelling that I had great difficulty in choosing which paintings to include in this post. His work completely knocked me out when I first discovered it, which is not something that happens often anymore. And funnily enough, this painter has once again highlighted to me my soft spot for landscape paintings. Hmmm....

Tom Thomson painting - Woodland Waterfall
Woodland Waterfall

More Tom Thomson links

About the Creative Cauldron series of posts

Creative Cauldron - artistic influences & inspiration for Australian artist Fiona MorganThe Creative Cauldron series of posts explores and showcases the visual styles, techniques, attitudes, ideas, artists and paintings that have had the most impact on me. 

The rest of the series is accessible via the Creative Cauldron page. Have a meander if you please, and remember to check out my artworks on Flickr, and have an insider peek at life as an artist on Facebook.

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