Mark Thomas


Mark Thomas

I started selling my paintings at Central Art Gallery in Queenstown at 24 - that was almost 40 years ago! When I was 14 I was told to learn carpentry as a trade by my father, but I was too inspired by the surrounding beauty of the mountains to not try and capture it. I decided there and then I was going to be an artist. I still had to work as a carpenter - but in my spare time I was painting.

 I taught myself, though I did go to art school for about two hours. I was sitting there, in the lecture with the class, and I felt a buzzing up my trousers, so I ripped them off, in front of the everyone, and a bee flew out. I ran out the room, and never went back in…. I’d had enough of sitting and talking about art anyway, I just wanted to go do it.

I’m an impatient painter, so I quickly sketch the shape, then paint the basic block with a bit of oil paint for a minute and a half, and then start painting immediately. You have to work quickly to capture the light. I love to capture the mood, sunlight, temperature and feel of the place - especially Queenstown and the Southern Lakes. I quite like looking at other paintings, you know when you see a good one and it’s painted well with real feeling and inspires you. 

Mark Thomas's ambition is that people feel his paintings, that viewers see his art with their spiritual eyes, and that on canvas he will be able to convey emotions by way of colour, form and texture. Inspired by nature’s forms around his home in the Wakatipu Basin and tempered by the events and experiences of his personal life, Thomas's paintings depict a search beneath the surface of subjects ranging from the bush to Christchurch’s water tower.

Thomas' personal views are incorporated into his paintings yet do not command them. Viewing Thomas' paintings takes place on two levels. Initially colours and the texture of paint upon canvas draw attention, the viewer’s perception of form and subject are then evoked by Thomas' translation of emotion into the visual field.

The versatility of Mark Thomas' art is a reflection of his personal life. A reluctant carpenter, he bought paints on the first day of his apprenticeship and worked each day with his mind on other things. Three years later Thomas took a two week holiday and never returned. The holiday became a career as a deer stalker. The freedom and camaraderie of his new career were balanced with a growing sense of survival that was analogous to life in modern New Zealand.

Mark Thomas describes his artistic energy as coming from "the transferring of the spiritual to the reality". For Thomas the spiritual form gives "the blueprint for action"




Check out Mark's interview on

Mark Thomas has been capturing our imagination with his dreamy Southern Lakes paintings for almost half a century. One of Central Art Gallery’s longest-standing artists, Mark’s ability to paint the emotion, light and life of Queenstown’s mountains and the surrounding region has awarded him an international following. For the full interview on click here