Charles L. Thomas (b. 1943)
Born in 1943 in Houston, Charles L. Thomas grew up in Clinton Park where he attended Clinton Park Elementary, E.O. Smith Jr. High School, and graduated from Phyllis Wheatley Senior High School in 1961. From 1963-1967, Thomas studied art at Texas Southern University, studying under Dr. John Baggers, Carroll Simms, Theresa Allen, and Athena Watson, and earned a B.A. in Art Education. After graduating, he taught art briefly at Charlton Pollard High School in Beaumont and substituted in Houston Independent School District, prior to starting his thirty-five year career with Texas International Airlines (which later became Continental Airlines, and now United Airlines). Throughout his life, no matter his vocation, art has always been and will continue to be a significant part of his life.
Regarding his approach to painting, Thomas states:
I am a realistic and an impressionistic painter; mostly interested in portraits, still lifes, landscapes and seascapes. I know that most people have heard the phrase, "A picture is worth a thousand words;" but I think that a good picture is worth even more than that. A good picture also gives you the inside story, like the inside personality of a portrait, if that is what you are painting.
Lately, I have returned to using oil and the new medium water mixable oil color and watercolors. Before this, my medium for over 30 years was acrylic watercolor, which was my greatest interest. While a student under Dr. John T. Biggers, our first painting medium was oil colors. When Dr. Biggers introduced a new paint called casein (which is a type of watercolor) to us in the early 1960s, this was a great change from the oil paint we had been using, as it was a little easier and faster painting process. Now, I am back to the oil medium again.
One thing I learned from Dr. Biggers is that a painting is just the next step beyond a great drawing. In other words, a good painting is like putting color on a good drawing. That is, a painting is like putting color onto a monochromatic drawing. Monochromatic is a process of lights and darks, or going from dark to light, or black to white in a drawing.
The majority of my paintings are done this way—that is starting with a dark, to middle tones, to light, in a picture, either a drawing or painting, then finishing with color. I think during the process I found that I love brilliant colors for the most part, at least great colors. While following this process, I think about the personality of the individual in my painting, if it is a portrait. I also think about the story that I am trying to portray, if it is another type of painting. Therefore, the phrase, "A painting is worth a thousand words," or a good painting should tell some type of story, or at least it should attract a great deal of attention.
Several of Thomas’ student works completed during his time at Texas Southern University are published in the 1978 book Black Art in Houston by John Biggers, Carroll Simms, and John Edward Weems published by Texas A&M University Press. Today, Thomas continues to reside in Houston and frequently participates at group and alumni exhibitions at Texas Southern University, never forgetting those great teachers from his past who guided and shaped his passion for art.
Biographical and Career Highlights
• 1943 Born in Houston, TX
• 1961 Graduated from Phyllis Wheatley Senior High School, Houston, TX
• 1967 Graduated from Texas Southern University, B.A. in Art Education, studying under Dr. John T. Biggers and Carroll Simms
• 1968 Taught art at Charlton Pollard High School in Beaumont, TX
• 1970-2005 Worked at Texas International Airlines (later Continental Airlines)
• Currently resides in Houston, TX
Selected Exhibitions and Awards
• 2017 Homecoming: The Seventh Biennial Art Alumni Exhibition, The University Museum, Texas Southern University, Houston, TX
• 2017 On My Journey: The Legacy of John Biggers, curated by Sally Reynolds, Arts Brookfield, Houston, TX.
• 2015 The Big Show, Lawndale Art Center, Houston, TX (Received Special Distinction Award)
• 2015 Homecoming: The Sixth Biennial Art Alumni Exhibition, The University Museum, Texas Southern University, Houston, TX.
• 2015 The 18th Citywide African American Artists Exhibition, curated by Dr. Sarah A. Trotty, The University Museum, Texas Southern University, Houston, TX
• 2014 Circle of Six: Selected Works by TSU Alumni, a group exhibition, The University Museum, Texas Southern University, Houston, TX
• 2013 Homecoming: The Fifth Biennial Art Alumni Exhibition, The University Museum, Texas Southern University, Houston, TX.
• 2011 Homecoming: The Fourth Biennial Art Alumni Exhibition, The University Museum, Texas Southern University, Houston, TX.
• 2009 Homecoming: The Third Biennial Art Alumni Exhibition, The University Museum, Texas Southern University, Houston, TX.
Selected Public Collections
• Texas Southern University, Houston, TX