He also painted Hickok vs. Tutt.
On a Missouri hill in the early 1800s, a party of tall Osage Indians—in full war paint, their heads shaved except for roach clips, some brandishing muskets they have acquired from the French—appear ready to fight another band of Indians. The 24-by-36-inch oil is fittingly enough called Osage War Party, and does what Carthage, Missouri, painter Andy Thomas does so well: captures a moment in American Western history. “They were unusual,” Thomas says of the Osages.
“They averaged more than 6 feet tall, some of the Indians were described as being 6- foot-7, 6-foot-5, and one image always struck me: ‘How would a 6-foot-5 Indian look riding on an Indian pony, which was probably 13 hands?’ I always wanted to paint that, but when I go to paint it, it looks so comical, I think, ‘This can’t be right.’ But I do try to paint ponies as small as I can bring my conscience to paint them.”
Thomas, 49, grew up with an interest in art, pursuing that passion after high school by working in advertising as a commercial artist and attending night school at Missouri Southern State University. He stayed in advertising for 16 years, working his way up to department manager, but by the time he was 33, he “got the itch.”
“I had always wanted to just paint,” he says. “I said I’d better try it now while I still had some energy, and if it failed, I would go back to work.” Sixteen years later, he’s still at it.
Thomas paints various subjects, including portraits, nudes and still lifes, but his one constant has been historical subjects. “I think almost every man likes history to some degree,” he says. “The marriage of art and history is too tempting not to delve into it.” Those historical moments include Wild Bill Hickok facing Dave Tutt in Springfield, Mo., in 1865; artist Frederic Remington with the 10th Cavalry; action at the Little Bighorn in 1876; and plenty of Civil War scenes. His portrait of mountain man Kit Carson appeared on the cover of the April 2007 issue of Wild West Magazine.
Any dream projects? “Really,” he says, “I wake up and I get to pick and choose the subjects I want to paint. I have that luxury. It’s really a great life. It’s not really work, I guess.”
Andy Thomas’ art can be viewed at www.andythomas. com. Also see www.history net.com/magazines/wild_west
Originally published in the October 2007 issue of Wild West. To subscribe, click here.