*With a professional career that has stretched across several decades, James Thomas Sr. has held an array of titles, to include entrepreneur, author, newspaper owner/publisher, motivational speaker, and now abstract artist.
While Thomas has worn many professional hats, the hat of an abstract artist is one that he’s still getting used to, especially since before the spring of 2016 he had never painted.
Thomas’ unexpected odyssey to become an artist began in May of 2016, after the sudden and tragic death of his younger brother, Ricky Thomas, in South Central L.A. Just one week earlier, James Thomas’ long-time pastor and spiritual mentor of 40 years passed. In Thomas’ quest to cope with back-to-back tragedies, a lady friend suggested painting.
“I never had any real interest in painting,” Thomas told EUR’s Lee Bailey during a recent interview. “However, my friend kept pushing me to try it. After trying it, I became frustrated because I didn’t know how or what to paint.”
Thomas did, however, see some relaxing properties associated with painting. Still, he was ready to give up when he decided to take a different approach to connecting with the brush, paint and canvas.
“I put music on and listened to it through headphones,” recalled Thomas. “I then painted whatever the music made me feel. And when I did that, it was almost like I had a born-again experience. It was like I was in another world. I was listening to Barry White’s ‘Oh, What a Night for Dancing,’ and I just painted what my hands were feeling.”
What his hands were feeling produced a beautiful abstract painting in the eyes of Thomas. Thinking he was somewhat bias because he painted it, Thomas posted the artwork on Facebook to see what reactions he would receive. The response was better than Thomas thought, as a woman in South Carolina purchased the painting for $500.
After the painting sold, a marketing company that markets to millionaires reached out to Thomas and told him that they felt they could have fetched $10,000 for the abstract painting. Thomas was floored, but continued painting and posting other artwork on Facebook.
With all ensuing paintings, the formula for Thomas is always the same: put on music, put on headphones, and let the feel of the music and lyrics guide the paintbrush over the canvas. In all instances, after the artwork is completed, Thomas gives the painting the same name as the song that guides him.
Over the last 17 months or so, Thomas has completed and sold paintings named for such songs as, “Always Be My Baby” by Mariah Carey, “Stranger” by Jeffrey Osborne, “Rapture” by Anita Baker, “You Got Your Hooks in Me” by ‘The O’Jays,’ “Purify Me” by India Arie, “Human Nature” by Michael Jackson, and many others.
Thomas’ paintings have sold between $500 and $5,000, with $1,500 being the average price. He is currently working on an art piece with a price tag of $25,000.
In addition to his uncanny gift as an abstract artist, Thomas continues to be successful in other professional endeavors which include, owner, publisher and editor-in-chief of the Carson Courier Newspaper in Carson, California; owner of Red Letter Agency, a Los Angeles-based public relations firm with other offices in New York and London; a national motivational speaker; and author of three books: “Five Minutes to Motivation,” “Five Steps to Owning Your Own Business,” and “The Incredible History of the Academy Theater.”
Although he loves his entire portfolio of professional ventures, since becoming an abstract artist and seeing his artwork sell nationwide, Thomas, under the auspices of J. Thomas Luxury, is totally captivated by his art of the feel.
“I prayed and told God if I could just paint and do motivational speaking for the rest of my life, I’m good,” said Thomas. “I love writing and I love journalism, but painting has moved to the top of the list. I have never done anything in my life that I love more than this.”
While Thomas is jubilant, he realizes his success as an artist comes with a painful reality.
“I would have never picked up a brush to paint if my brother Ricky had not passed,” Thomas said in an emotional tone. “It just wouldn’t have happened! I believe when Ricky got to heaven he told God that you got to do something for my brother, and I believed God made sure that I discovered my talent for art.”
“Because of my art, so many people have told me that my paintings are spiritual, and the paintings make them happy when they look at them,” Thomas said. “I’m happy to bless people, and I believe in times of tragedy, we have to look within and discover something about ourselves that can help others, because when we help others we help ourselves.”