Sunday, February 18, 2018

Pushing Impressionism


"Pushing Impressionism"

Artistic talent can show itself in many forms, depending on when and where the artist needs it. For Thomas G. Lewis, his drawing and painting abilities spent 40 years in the graphic design business, but evolved to new, impressionistic levels when he moved to Montana 14 years ago. 

“The whole thing was kind of an adventure coming up here,” Lewis said. “One of my goals was to get serious about my painting.”

Given his recent work, Lewis is definitely on track to accomplishing that goal. About 50 of his pieces were on displayed at Collage Gallery in Bigfork in an exhibit called “Pushing Impressionism.” 

All of the pieces are work Lewis spent the last year creating and curating, and they are a different type of painting than he’s done before. 

“When I first started to exhibit, I was exhibiting with a lot of abstract stuff,” Lewis said. “When I came to Montana, it tightened up a lot.”

His current exhibit is still impressionistic, but the characters and scenes are easily identifiable as ranch life and landscapes. Much of the inspiration came from Lewis’ life, his somewhat nomadic childhood spent in various communities across the west, punctuated with life on the ranch. 

Visiting Montana was like coming home after spending decades in southern California and the Southwest.

“We came up here and I saw the trees and the mountains and the water and it reminded me of the ranch in Colorado that my dad had and that just yanked me back to something that I really loved,” Lewis said. 

Part of his recent work includes 4-foot tall paintings of cowboys, inspired by the men he met as a child. 

“These are the guys who would show up in the ranch in the spring and they’d be gone in the fall and I’d never see them again,” he said. 

Other pieces, such as his painting of bison spanning 12-feet in length, were inspired by the time he spent in Northwest Montana. 

Lewis said his “Pushing Impressionism” pieces are the result of his love of painting that laid dormant for decades while he pursued a successful career in graphic design. 

He went to college at Arizona State University for commercial art, and from there opened a graphic design studio in San Diego that evolved into a big business, including creating the logo for Jack in the Box restaurants. 

“We were pretty fortunate,” Lewis said. 

He also started a publishing company with his sons, Tehabi Publishing, that focused on coffee table books. It was a fun pursuit, he said, but when it came to retirement, he felt the pull to get back to the canvas. 

“I had some wonderful painting teachers (at Arizona State) and that built an enduring interest in painting,” Lewis said. 

Since rediscovering his love for the craft, Lewis has tried to focus more on painting in the moment, with a technique called alla prima, meaning applying wet oil paint to other layers of wet paint. It requires quick and decisive work, he said, because it has to be completed before the previous layers dry. 

Lewis also spent some time teaching painting workshops, and having to articulate his methodology enhanced his own painting because he understood it more concretely. 

“That translated into my painting because suddenly I was applying (my methodology) and applying it in a planned way; not tight, but a planned way,” he said. 

The result is his latest work, and a new chapter in his very creative life. 

“I grew up on a cattle ranch and I had a real interest in the romance of the western life,” Lewis said. “I’m trying to translate all of this into this different voice.”

For more information on Thomas G. Lewis, visit



Upcoming Events

Shafers Restaurant

Shafers is one of Bigfork's newest resturants in Woods Bay and features an amazing chef. They also feature some twenty of my paintings—both Western Wildlands and Western Ranch Life. For a special treat find your way to Mountain Lake Lodge for a culinary and visual treat.  

Home Gallery and Studio

I spent nearly three months this winter painting every day from about 10am to 6pm at the Arizona Art Expo. I joined 100 other artist displaying work and painting each day. My motive was to explore a fresh "voice" in my painting style while concentratiing on pursuing an increased "Impressionistic" view. It was an invaluable experience and as a result I finished about 35 new works. These pieces can be viewed at our Home Gallery and Studio at 546 Grand Drive, in Bigfork. Give me a call and we'll make an appointment for you to come by. The works will also be hung on our deck overlooking Bigfork Bay the first weekend in August at the Bigfork Festival of the Arts. 

Stumptown Marketplace

Twenty of my paintings are featured in the Stumptown Marketplace in Whitefish throughout the summer.

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