Thomas Johnston


Since graduating (Thomas was in the first group of MFA graduates) he has continued his art practice, building on the foundation the art program at UCSB provided: painting, printmaking, and photography, with an approach to search for the new and unknown, even at the risk of failure.

Thomas was fortunate to be a part of a dynamic program with exciting students, a professional faculty, and internationally acclaimed visiting artists, performers, and exhibitions, in a world-class university system that was an open place of learning, experimentation, support, and sharing. Those initial experiences have informed his approach in many ways – in the studio, during his teaching career, in his exhibitions, his curating, and in his contributions to his communities.

Thomas’ studio practice has remained constant over all these years, with a desire to create original, thought-provoking work that grows out of the inspiration from, and respect for, art history. It is his hope that this work will make a contribution to the conversation.

Thomas’ paintings, prints, and drawings have been exhibited and are in collections internationally. He created the printmaking program at Western Washington University; initially based on the early program at UCSB, it was further inspired by his experiences working in studios in France, Belgium, England, and Italy. At Western Washington University, he also worked with the gallery program (expanding on his initial experiences as a lab assistant in UCSB’s galleries). Later, Thomas took on the directorship of Western Gallery; his curatorial projects included some exhibitions that featured works by artists who had also been associated with UCSB. He expanded that basic gallery program from a converted, temporary space, to a dedicated contemporary state-of-the-art gallery with a full-time director. Many times during the 1980-2001 years he was able to live and work in Europe, establishing on-going working relationships and professional friendships. Thomas has written about some of those experiences on his website and continues to add material there.

During his final decade of teaching, Thomas was elected to chair the Department of Art for 5 years, before retiring in 2006. He relocated to Olympia, Washington, where he built a studio and continues a practice dedicated to painting, printmaking, and photography; much like what he started at UCSB.