Top prize at Area Art Show goes to Worthington artist with deep Minnesota roots
“It’s still part-time, something that just started out, really, as a hobby.”
WORTHINGTON — A pair of trucks drive into the north woods, the sun-dappled face of a sleepy buffalo and a black bear seemingly on the point of dancing — artist Seth Thomas’ paintings show his deep Minnesota roots up north in the forest and down south on the prairie.
And now those paintings have earned Thomas a Best in Show in the 2022 Area Art Show at the Nobles County Art Center.
“It’s still part-time, something that just started out, really, as a hobby,” said Thomas, who grew up in St. James and moved to Worthington in 2014. “I’m an auto glass technician.”
He started painting when he was young, though, but at that point mostly used watercolor rather than the acrylics he usually uses now. A friend of the family was a professional local artist, so he took many classes from her, as well as taking art in school.
“Through my teens and early 20s, I didn’t really paint. I just got back into it,” Thomas said. “It’s just felt really good to get back into it.”
His return to painting started at the end of 2019, and as the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Thomas found he was at home a lot and could spend the time on painting.
His work tends to spotlight Minnesota and its animals and landscapes, but though he’s lived in southern Minnesota his whole life, he and his wife have enjoyed hiking in northern Minnesota, around Lake Superior.
That’s where Thomas gets the bears, loons and forests more common up north.
“Part of what I enjoy trying to do is taking something we may be used to and kind of overlook, like the prairie, and make it something that feels special, in a painting,” he said.
Sometimes Thomas uses reference photos, and other times, he works from the imagination alone.
And lately, he’s even taken commissions, most often from friends and family members, producing portraits of people’s pets. They range from the realistic — a cheerful dog panting over a stand of daisies — to the whimsical — a furry canine wearing a monocle and a starched white collar.
Thomas also offers greeting cards on his website that have a more minimalistic look stemming from his sole use of black markers and white acrylic marker on the brown cards. Keeping the media simple helps the images stand out.
And for those who want to create their own art, Thomas has a few inexpensive coloring pages for sale, too, which he drew digitally using Adobe Fresco.
For the art show, he brought three acrylic paintings and three drawings in the style of his greeting cards; the piece that earned top honors and $125 showed colorful vehicles with the forest all around and a brightening sky ahead.
Thomas said he was very surprised to win the competition, as it was the first art show he recalls entering, and he’s never really displayed his work before, either. He praised the many other accomplished artists who entered their work in the show and thanked the Art Center for the show, the award and their hard work.
Nineteen artists participated in the show, contributing 74 works, said Art Director Kimberly Kooistra. Many of the show’s awards are funded directly by donors.
Gene Schar Excellence in Painting, Agnes “Bobbie” Alsgaard-Lien, $100; Honorable Mention, John Kolb, $75; Fiber Art, $100, in memory of Lorna James, Sandy Ahlberg; Sculpture, $50, in memory of Tom Ling, Rhonda Fueston; Illustrated Original Poem, $25, Simon Fraga; Jewelry, $50, sponsored by Johnson Jewelry, Susan Middagh; Mixed Media, $25, sponsored by Serenity Gifts, Adrienne Herbert; Pastel, $100, in memory of Mary Thompson, Linda Ackland-Kolb; Pottery, $50, sponsored by Jean Bunge, Hank Hall; Watercolor, $100, sponsored by Joanne Johns, Destiny Scroggs; and Merits, Mary Earll, Tricia Mikle, Krystl Louwagie, Ellen Baker-Merrigan, Jerry Deuschle and Nancy Jo Hambleton.
The juried art show can be viewed at the Nobles County Art Center, which is open from noon to 4 p.m. on weekdays.
More of Thomas' art can be found at his website, seththomasart.com.