donna fischer | the artist next door | aug. 2016
Beau Thomas paints Green Bay in Bold Colors
Just try not to stare at the striking images Beau Thomas sets to walls and canvases. Can't be done. Colors you would not find conventionally appealing together meld into vivid scenes and splashes and it's impossible for a set of eyes to look away. The city of Green Bay has a bold new artist with a promising future in art ahead of him.
This recent graduate of UWGB has just created a mural the likes of which Green Bay has never seen. Stretching out 110 feet wide, this mural welcomes viewers to the Arts District. Situated on the 600 block of Main Street, the vibrant shades of green in the central lettering virtually sing out with hometown pride. For Thomas, it was a first big step into the world of public art. “The Green Bay Mural was recently completed and took about two months of my time,” Thomas admits. “The painting is the largest mural I've ever created and is one of my first true pieces of public art. The project took enormous amounts of time and energy, but I'm very happy with how it turned out. The mural is a tribute to our city and the place we call home.”
Local businesses have already caught on to Thomas' unabashed zeal for high-impact design. The Gutter bowling alley in Suamico now features his work on their interior walls. It's a perfect setting for the youthful look of his work. In 2013, Thomas started Trackside Design while still a college student. “I graduated six months ago and have been running the mural business fulltime ever since. I'm having so much success as an artist and as a business — it's a real blessing.”
The name Trackside Design hints at what led Thomas to the artistic path he is on. As a young skateboarder, he discovered graffiti art and never really looked back. “The subcultures of skateboarding and graffiti have a lot in common. In these worlds, it's all about the individual. Developing skills, having style and taking risks are important. There's also something to be said about how the individual interacts with their environment. The skateboarder has to search the city for places to skate while the graffiti writer has to explore the city to look for places to paint. At the heart of everything I'm just a kid looking for adventure.”
Thomas' years at UWGB no doubt gave him time to explore the foundation of graffiti art. “Graffiti has a long and rich history, so it definitely deserves respect as an art form. That being said, there is a lot of bad graffiti out there and it doesn't deserve to be framed and hung on a gallery wall. People generally know high quality when they see it — no matter what style of art.
“My favorite graffiti is on the sides of train cars. Train graffiti is really an amazing phenomenon — colorful, complex and illegal paintings travel around the continent on the sides of shipping containers. You never know what's going to come rolling down the tracks. It could be a brand new piece of graffiti or something that's 20 years old.”
When it comes time for this 25-year-old artist to tackle a new work, he tends to trust his instincts and let the work just flow. “Every project starts with some kind of basic idea or theme. I do some initial research and sketch out some ideas. I actually do a fair amount of improvising when it comes to the painting of the mural, though. I like to work things out directly on the wall and make design decisions in real time. This style of working keeps me flexible and always on my toes.” Thomas loves what spray paint can do for his work, but he's able to use other materials. “I think it's important to be versatile and be able to work with whatever you've got.”
It isn't a stretch to expect to see more of Thomas' work around town in the years to come. With the publicity generated from the Green Bay Mural, he will likely get the opportunity to transform more dull corners with his dynamic hues and edgy designs. “In general, I want to do a lot more public art in Green Bay. We live in a great city but it needs some more color. Public art is a win-win for communities. From simply making people happy, to driving up property values, murals can make a really positive impact in the city.” And yes, this Green Bay artist has a taste for the colors green and gold. “I've always wanted to do some mural work inside of Lambeau Field. I'm a native of Green Bay and have been a lifelong Packers fan. Being able to paint inside the stadium would be a dream come true.” Who can argue with that?
See more of Thomas' work on Facebook or at www.flickr.com/tracksidedesign or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Donna Fischer is an avid fan of music, film and art. When she's not writing on these subjects you'll find her gardening or snowshoeing around Green Bay.