Joe Thomas’ personality, much like his paintings, comes across as larger than life. The vividly-hued, giant farm animals that Thomas creates with spray paint, oil paint and even glitter are animated and expressive — much like Thomas when describing his life in Paso Robles.
“I came from Los Angeles, and I love the diversity there, but when I saw Paso I realized that this was a place to reflect,” he said excitedly. “The natural beauty that is Paso is a constant inspiration.”
Thomas and his wife, Leslie, own almost 10 acres of fruit and nut trees as well as a vineyard in the east hills, where they produce two organic wines, a 100 percent barbera and a traditional Italian-style field blend. His Thomas Hill Farms is devoted to growing organic, heirloom varieties of produce.
Thomas is slowly adding farm animals and horses to the farm, which offers inspiration for his paintings.
“The farm dictates what I am going to paint,” he said. “I play in the dirt and create drawings for a living.”
Thomas was a computer graphics instructor in Los Angeles, but when he moved to Paso Robles he realized that he needed to conform to the rural economics of the area. He purchased some land, opened a restaurant (which his former wife now owns) and jumped into the art scene.
Thomas shows his art at Studios on the Park, an artists’ nonprofit in downtown Paso Robles, where he also teaches art classes.
“Paso has an emerging art community that is groundbreaking,” he said. “These studios are becoming the hub of the community.”
Thomas said he still enjoys the urban bustle of Los Angeles and San Francisco, but he has found his muse in the rolling hills and restored downtown area of Paso Robles.
“I love Paso’s frontier culture,” Thomas said. “In regards to art, we’re defining what Paso is right now. So many things are changing, but the rural sensibilities of the people here keep everything grounded. Some amazing stuff is happening here in Paso.”