If you were walking down Germantown Avenue in Chestnut Hill recently, you just might have seen Trevor Wade Thomas and his easel.
If you were walking down Germantown Avenue in Chestnut Hill recently, you just might have seen Trevor Wade Thomas and his easel-holding tripod, painting a distinctive picturesque local scene. It would be just one of the 100 local scenes he is in the process of painting, most of which are completed.
“I just always liked coming to Chestnut Hill, and I am a glutton for old houses,” explained the Erdenheim resident. “When I am painting, people stop and ask questions. Some of them think I'm a survey worker. There is a genuine cultural interest in Philadelphia people.”
In Colorado, where Thomas previously lived, he said the identity is rooted in the mountains. Here, there is a real interest in the community.
“People will say, 'Did you check out this building? Did you check out that location?' The community really has a lot of fervor. Some people will ask if they can buy the painting. Of course, the answer is 'yes.' All of them are 6 inch by 8 inch oils. My favorites are churches, Valley Green Inn, Bredenbeck's, the Water Tower and views looking down the street and seeing what the outcroppings are. These things make Chestnut Hill such a cool neighborhood.”
Thomas was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in 1987. He knew at age 5 or 6, in the first grade, that he enjoyed drawing. “My teacher at the time said I had a real talent for it,” he recalled. “By the 10th grade I was hooked on it. My mom's maternal grandmother was a colorist. Dad was a home remodeler. His dad did mechanical drawing for Goodyear. Dad always had an artist's eye, so I got 'drawn' in and continued to study art.”
Thomas earned a bachelor’s degree, magna cum laude, with an emphasis in studio art from Colorado College in 2010. During his undergraduate studies, he had the opportunity to study in Europe and work with various visual art media. After graduation, Thomas apprenticed for Eric James Bransby, a celebrated muralist.
He worked as Bransby's principal assistant on a mural for the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center and learned the traditions of egg tempera, buon fresco and traditional mural painting from Bransby, who had studied under Thomas Hart Benton, who initiated the American mural movement of the 1930s. Since then, Thomas has created two murals of his own, including an altarpiece for the Church of St. Uriel in Sea Girt, N.J.
Thomas then came to Philadelphia to study at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA). “I wanted to come east and had never been to Philadelphia,” Thomas said. “The city and school felt right, and I did make the right decision. The history of PAFA is trying to experience the world through painting.”
In 2015, Thomas earned an MFA from PAFA. During his studies, Thomas developed a strong devotion to figuration and anatomy, which remains a central topic in his visual explorations and teachings.
The artist, whose wife, Kim (Malora) Thomas, is a child therapist and Erdenheim native, has taught art at Cabrini College in Radnor and in Colorado. “In my heart of hearts, I am an academic,” he said, “but now I am painting the Chestnut Hill scenes three days a week ... I see the world through shape and light. I grew up a home remodeler's son, so I have a puzzle-like process.”
Like many European immigrants, Thomas’ great-grandfather Augustino DiTomasso, changed his name at Ellis Island. He became Gus Thomas. He was a ceramic tile painter who immigrated here by himself on a boat in 1913 at age 11. “I did foreign studies in the town of Bugnara in Abruzzo, where my family came from,” Thomas said. “I was taken to the oldest man in town, 89. His last name was also DiTomasso. A man took me down a hill and said, 'This is your great-grandfather's brother's house.' That was 2008. A lady who was my grandfather's first cousin said she could see the family resemblance in my face.”
Currently, Thomas teaches foundations about materials and techniques both privately and at local institutions. He consistently publishes artistic and educational content on his YouTube channel, the Oil and Earth Studio. His work has been showcased and collected in the U.S. and Europe, and he regularly exhibits his work.
For more information, visit oilandearthstudio.com. Len Lear can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org