Green Bay Mural artist and creative entrepreneur Beau Thomas | Trackside Design has been selected as NEWAA’s May 2019 Member of the Month. Beau has created an impressive array of public art in his community, making it more welcoming, engaging, and walkable. His work has been featured in galleries throughout Northeast Wisconsin and has been featured in nationwide art exhibits. Interesting fact: Beau got his start painting graffiti on freight trains which shaped his signature rugged aesthetic.
About Beau Thomas
While just 28 years old, Beau has completed over 100 murals throughout his home state of Wisconsin. A kind-hearted creative professional led by passion and vision, Beau is transforming our region with relatable humanity and profound compassion. Not only is this extraordinary young artist beautifying our cities, he’s also raising awareness of important issues and building community. Beau isn’t afraid to show his vulnerability, tackling tough situations like homelessness, which he himself experienced as a youth. Says Thomas, “It’s when we’re down that we need help the most.” Using his creative influence, Beau has helped raise money with his art and voice for homeless student outreach. His kindness in action inspires and provides hope during difficult times.
Thank you, Beau, for reminding all of us that we have a home in each other, in this shared community we call home.
Our Interview with Beau
What does “being creative” mean to you?
People usually think creativity is some natural, automatic and effortless trait - it's really not. Creativity comes from a lifetime of experience and your own unique ideas about the world. To be creative is to work - making something new, solving a problem from a different perspective. I also like to think about the issue in terms of history and passing the baton - humans have been around for a long time, creating some amazing things. What are you going to do with that foundation of history to push an idea forward?
Can you describe the time when you first realized that creating was something you absolutely wanted to do?
Making things has always been a part of who I am. As a kid, I filmed and produced skateboarding movies. During my teenage years, most of my friends were at parties drinking beer - I felt like that was a waste of time and instead went to paint graffiti in the train yard because I saw it as more productive. Now as a professional mural artist I make my living off creating large and colorful paintings. Through each experience, I've seen that I do have the power to change the world, which is a great feeling.
What kind of creative patterns, routines or rituals do you have?
I've fallen in love with post-its and manila folders as a way to record and organize my ideas. Thoughts come and go but when you write something down, it becomes a seed that can grow. I've got giant murals and complex paintings that all started from simply jotting a few words down on paper and putting it into a folder. As time goes on you can look back and have a wealth of ideas at your disposal.
What’s your favorite thing you’ve ever created?
I'm really proud of my piece 'The Green Bay Mural.' It's made a pretty big impact so far - as the largest piece of public art in Green Bay and as a work that celebrates the city itself. I've heard people talk about how proud and excited they are to have the mural in town, from homeless people to members of local government. It's helped me reach a wider audience and convince the community that public art can really transform and bring life to an area.
What are you trying to communicate with your art?
There's a lot I want to say through my art and it's often different with every piece. Early on I was comfortable creating abstract pieces until I realized I wasn't really saying anything. The world doesn't need more splatter paintings. Years ago I heard a quote that really stuck with me - "An artist's job is to reflect the times." Since then I've really expanded my subject matter in terms of ideas and imagery. I've made paintings about the death of family members, childhood nostalgia, humor, embarrassing moments, my hometown, political ideas and current events. I like to imagine someone finding my work in a few hundred years and being able to better understand our culture and moment in time.
Which creative medium would you love to pursue but haven’t yet?
One of my 'closet dreams' is to try stand up comedy. I'm a big fan of the art form and really admire the people that do it well. It's amazing that one person on stage can take an entire audience for a ride and give them such a positive emotional experience. We'll see if I ever get the guts to sign up for an open mic though!
What’s the best advice you have ever received about how to be more creative?
A lesson from my Dad comes to mind. I used to be in a band and he told me that you should never record something on an album that you can't reproduce live on stage. I think that concept has great application across a lot of mediums - especially for me now as a mural artist. We think there are infinite possibilities when creating and designing a piece, but there's actually a lot of limitations and restrictions. That's not necessarily a bad thing - those limitations can become the guardrails on a highway - they help guide you and keep you on track. There are only so many hours in the day, your arms are only so long, a budget may only be so big. Once you foresee the challenges and limitations of a project, it really helps you design around and avoid those problems. If you can't execute something when you get to the wall, you shouldn't design it on paper.
What advice would you give a young artist who is just starting out?
There are a few things - first of all, be patient. It takes so much time and hard work to stand out in the art world - nothing comes easy. Make a thousand paintings and then make a thousand more. Another thing is that progress and evolution don't come automatically with putting in time. You have to constantly educate yourself, explore new influences and try new things. Finally - document your work and preserve the little things. You'll be amazed when you look back on a project/sketch/photo and all the memories flood back - the place you were, the people you were with and the moment in your career. It can bring smiles, tears and really show you how far you've come.