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All You Need to Know About Karl Thomas

Karl Thomas, a Utah native, and life-long artist creates scenes that are both exciting and fresh, as they often capture the first impression of what the artist has seen. It's easy to see when viewing a Karl Thomas painting that he has been magnetized by his subject. His paintings have a special quality that portrays the crispness of the air and the movement of the sun in a landscape. Widely acclaimed for his Plein Aiir compositions of the Grand Canyon of Arizona, The Grand Tetons of Wyoming, and Wasatch Mountains near his home, Karl Thomas acknowledges the influences of Inness, Sargent, Bierstadt, and Moran on what he describes as his own style of “realistic impressionism.”  A signed Karl Thomas oil painting is not difficult to distinguish. The experience is visceral. You feel the movement of the landscape, the shifting light, quaking aspens, and its changing, ephemeral qualities; you feel the spontaneity and freshness of new terrains, the breathtaking atmosphere of a canyon vista, and the diffuse shimmering light of a copse of quakies. You see the light-values shift, the contrast of movement, and the ever-changing effects of light and color. There are very few one-time collectors of Karl Thomas’ oil paintings. His work tends to excite and captivate his buyers, and there are several collectors with 20+ works. Public collectors include Zions Bank, Hoopes Vision, and OC Tanner. Several galleries in Salt Lake City make sure to always have a few of Karl’s works on display at all times as they sell quickly. Thomas currently resides in Provo, Utah. He studied fine art at the University of Utah, Brigham Young University (under the direction of William WhitakerWilliam Whitaker), and at the L.A. Art Center.  After teaching for eight years at the Waterford School in Provo, Utah, Karl started painting full-time in 1988. As a well-recognized artist represented by galleries throughout the Western United States and in New York City, Karl has been included in the Collectors Sale in Dallas, the American Art Classic, and the Texas Renaissance Sale in Houston. He was featured in the January/February 1990 issue of Art of the West and was selected in the top 100 artists in the Arts for the Parks Exhibition in 1995. Locally, Karl has been invited to participate in the annual Zion’s Bank Art Show since its inception. He also attends the Sears Dixie Invitational, winning Best of Show, Purchase Awards, and several First Place and Honorable Mentions over the years. In 2017, Karl was commissioned by Valley native and real-estate veteran Mark Snyder to commission his largest work to date, a 9-foot by 22-foot painting of Camelback Mountain serving as a focal point for the Embassy Suites in downtown Scottsdale, Arizona.  Karl’s wife, Renee Bagley Thomas, passed away on January 10, 2020, in her home. Married for 45 years, Renee was an integral part of the development of Karl as an artist. As an artist in her own right, her critiques gave Karl a fresh eye. inspiration, and pushed him to be the best he could be. Renee is dearly missed by Karl, her son, Michael, and two precious granddaughters, Violet and Cleo. Since her passing, Karl continues to paint in her memory.   .


 1 The Grand Canyon and Utah Desert

Karl is best known for his majestic portrayal of the Grand Canyon of Arizona. The stunning vistas of the Grand Canyon in Arizona have inspired painters from Thomas Moran to Louis B. Akin to Erin Hanson. The Colorado River carved this immense canyon over centuries to become what it is today. Every outlook over this triumph of nature is beautiful, and Thomas has painted both the famous Northern and Southern Rims. Thomas tries to capture all times of day and every season and the light and colors are never the same.  His impressionist brushstrokes capture the canyon during the golden hour, sunrise, and midday as storms roll through and during summer, fall, winter, and spring. Every Thomas oil painting captures the golden glimmers of sunlight hitting rock along with the rainbow hues of the surrounding landscape.    Many of Karl Thomas’ Grand Canyon art feature the world-famous mule pack trains, bringing history and nostalgia into focus. The equine of choice at Grand Canyon has long been the mule. These animals combine the sure-footedness of a burro with the larger size and strength of a horse and have been carrying miners, copper, and supplies since the late 1800s. The beasts of burden still reign supreme at the Grand Canyon. This is especially true on the South Kaibab Trail, where young mule packers leading a lumbering line of the creatures, all carrying full bags, are an everyday sight.    Similar in color to the Grand Canyon, the desert of Southern Utah has always been a best seller of Thomas’. From well-known destinations like Zions National Park, Arches and Canyonlands, to lesser known gems like Canyon de Chelly, Kolob and Bryce. Sometimes a simple desert landscape with sagebrush and a limitless sky can move a viewer by its simple beauty. Other  times Karl is inspired to paint vast overlooks and towering walls of sandstone. A favorite is winter in the desert, where the landscape changes dramatically for a small window of time, as snow only lasts a few hours after a storm. 

2. Rural Towns of Utah

Utah’s pioneer heritage means within a couple of hour drive in any direction you can pass through several historic towns. Some have seen massive growth since their beginning, like Park City or Salt Lake City’s Avenues. Some haven’t changed much, like Mantua, Koosharem, Rockville, or Kanarraville. But all have a unique charm that is captured in the homes, dilapidated fences, barns, surrounding mountains, amazing native trees and flowers, and livestock that all make their way into Thomas’ paintings. Commissions of favorite childhood homes and family farms are a steady request.    Park City is especially unique as it has a rich mining history and the city has done much in the way of preserving historic buildings and homes. As with many winter mining towns, the homes are painted in every imaginable color. Now a ski town, hosting the Olympics as well as an art town, hosting the Sundance Film Festival, there is no end to the inspiring scenes and Karl has his own charming way of capturing the feeling of Park City in his art.   

3 Tree 

 “The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”  ― John Muir Cottonwoods and Aspens are plentiful in Utah, and the current color of leaves is a sign to any observer of the changing of seasons. Spring is lush, sometimes so lush it’s easy to forget one is in the high desert. Fall is a vibrant but short season in Utah. The air is crisp, and the sun shines at a distinct angle, giving everything a warm glow. It is one of Karl’s favorite times to paint. Golds, reds, oranges, and stubborn greens make the trees the center of attention for all of October. Yearly trips to Fish Lake in Central Utah take Karl to the largest Aspen grove in the world. Winter is one of Karl’s favorite seasons in Utah. A sunny day after a large snowstorm presents unique shadows, colors, and shapes not observed at any other time. The angle of the sun during winter creates long shadows a warm and cozy glow. Thomas’ winter paintings are among some of his most sought-after.

4 Alpine Mountains

The mountains of the West have always been a favorite of Thomas. From the Tetons in Wyoming to the base of Mount Timpanogos where Karl resides. Morning and evening light, the four seasons, and the drama of a sky full of clouds give endless opportunities to capture their beauty in a unique way each time. Some of the better-known locations are the High Sierras of California, The Grand Teton Range of Wyoming, and the rugged peaks of Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons near Salt Lake City. Closer to home, Karl paints his home mountain, Timpanogos from every angle and in every season. The view of Timp from the valley floor is incomparable. A winding drive through the range takes you past Robert Redford’s Sundance Mountain Resort, a small ski resort, and over the famous Alpine Loop, with stunning views all around. Large Aspen Groves line the road and create a sparkly, filtered light that Karl captures masterfully.  

5 California Coast

The draw to California’s coast began over 40 years ago when Karl and his wife, Renee Bagley, took their honeymoon on Catalina Island. The contrast to Utah in climate, landscape, and mood offers a welcome challenge to Thomas and keeps his work fresh. Big Sur, Fisherman’s Warf, and other coastal towns are favorite subjects where the colors and lighting are unique and the chance to paint Plein Air keeps Karl’s work fresh.  SUBSCRIBE RECENT POSTS Hand Written ArtHow to Prepare Canvas for Oil PaintingIdeas for Oil Painting on CanvasHow to Clean a Painting on Canvas?Fine Art Reproduction - What material should I choose for my art print?Top 15 Unexpected Locations in Utah for Landscape ArtistsAll You Need to Know About Karl ThomasUtah’s Most Influential Landscape Artists

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