Born in 1946 in Houston, Roy Vinson Thomas grew up in Clinton Park where he attended Clinton Park Elementary, E.O. Smith Jr. High School, and graduated from Phyllis Wheatley Senior High School in 1965. From 1965-1970, Thomas studied art at Texas Southern University, studying under Dr. John Baggers, Carroll Simms, Theresa Allen, and Athena Watson, and earned a B.A. in Art Education. While serving on his tour of duty in U.S. Army from 1970-72, Thomas attended classes at the University of Arizona, and returned to Houston to complete his M.A. in Education (Guidance and Counseling) from TSU in 1974. Upon graduation, Thomas was employed by the Texas Commission on the Arts & Humanities to launch “Artists in Schools” Program in Waco Independent School District and Galena Park Independent School District in 1974-75, landing him a job as a High School Art Educator in Galena Park Independent School District for the over forty years, before retiring in 2016. During this time, Thomas continued with his pursuit of art and studied painting and drawing at the University of Houston Clear Lake from 1979-1981. Since this time, he has participated in numerous solo and group exhibitions throughout the United States and internationally, including exhibitions in Brazil, Nigeria, Atlanta, Tucson, and throughout Texas in Austin, Beaumont, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, and Wichita Falls among others.
In reflecting upon his time at Texas Southern University, Thomas states, “…both Dr. John T. Biggers and Mr. Simms were demanding teachers. They taught technique; Biggers would require a personal solution; Simms would require a simple solution.” He also recalls that his classmates, which included artists Kermit Oliver, Charles Criner, and Henry Wilson, were quite competitive.
Several of Thomas’ student works completed during his time at Texas Southern University are published in the 1978 book Black Art in Houstonby John Biggers, Carroll Simms, and John Edward Weems published by Texas A&M University Press.
Regarding his output, Thomas considers himself “an emerging newcomer artist,” only in the sense that he doesn’t produce as many works in a given year as some of his established counterparts since he teaches public school, granting him limited time during the academic year to paint. Also, he works in a style which is both expressionistic and realistic style, which can be time consuming; thus, there are fewer of his works to submit to shows. However, his mature style finds success in most juried competitions. Since he began his career as an artist, Thomas’s painting evolved to figurative forms, sculpture in nature. After thousands of sketches, he doesn’t use models; he draws directly on the canvas or paper from memory. His colors are more toned down than the earlier palette he used of raw color. In his work, he often uses concentric lines to move the viewer through his work.
Today, Thomas continues to reside in Houston and frequently participates at group and alumni exhibitions at Texas Southern University, never forgetting those great teachers from his past who guided and shaped his passion for art. Throughout his career, Thomas’s professional affiliations include: Organization of Black Artists (OBA), National Art Education Association, Classroom Teacher Association, Minority Artists Coalition of Houston, Texas Southern Art Alumni Association, National Congress of Artists, and Texas Art Education Association among others.
Biographical and Career Highlights
• 1946 Born in Houston, TX
• 1965 Graduated from Phyllis Wheatley Senior High School, Houston, TX
•1970 Graduated with B.A. in Education from Texas Southern University, Houston, TX
•1970-72 Served in U.S. Army and attended the University of Arizona during his tour of duty
•1974 Graduated with M.A. in Education (Guidance and Counseling)
•1974-76 Employed by the Texas Commission on the Arts & Humanities to launch “Artists in Schools” Program in Waco Independent School District and Galena Park Independent School District
•1979-1981 Studied Painting & Drawing at the University of Houston Clear Lake, Houston, TX
•1988 Work illustrated in “In Search of the American Dream,” Eleven x Fourteen Art, published by F ran Kalmykov, Autumn Issue (Vol 1, No 1)
•1992 Work illustrated in the Calendar of African American Art, from the collection of Atlanta Life Insurance
•1976-2016 Served as High School Art Educator in Galena Park Independent School District
•2016 Retired from teaching after 42 years in public school system
• Currently resides in Houston, TX
• 2017-18 Homecoming: The 8thBiannual Art Alumni Exhibition, The University Museum, Texas Southern University, Houston, TX.
• 2017 On My Journey: The Legacy of John Biggers, curated by Sally Reynolds, Arts Brookfield, Houston, TX.
• 2015-16 Homecoming: The Seventh Biennial Art Alumni Exhibition, The University Museum, Texas Southern University, Houston, TX.
• 2015 The 18th Citywide African American Artists Exhibition,curated by Dr. Sarah A. Trotty, The University Museum, Texas Southern University, Houston, TX
• 2014 Circle of Six: Selected Works by TSU Alumni, a group exhibition, The University Museum, Texas Southern University, Houston, TX
• 2013 Homecoming: The Sixth Biennial Art Alumni Exhibition, The University Museum, Texas Southern University, Houston, TX
• 1993 National Conference of Artists: International Conference and Exhibition, Lagos, Nigeria
• 1991 Cultural Arts Extravaganza: Benefit Lou Rawls Parade of Stars Telethon, United Negro College Fund, Sponsor Ladies of the Lake Women’s Group, Bay Oaks Country Club, Friendswood/Clearlake, TX
• 1991 Forerunners and Newcomers: Houston’s African American Artists in the Lead - Revisited, curated by Dr. Sarah A. Trotty, sponsored by the Southeast Texas Arts Council, Mobile Foundation, Golden Triangle Chapter of the Links, Inc., Texas Commission on the Arts and Humanities and the City of Beaumont, Beaumont, TX
• 1989 Forerunners and Newcomers: Houston’s Leading African American Artists, sponsored by Cultural Arts Council of Houston, University of Houston-Clear Lake, Houston, TX
• 1988 Eight Annual Atlanta Life National Art Exhibition and Competition, Atlanta Life Insurance Company, Atlanta, GA (Awarded 2nd Place award and purchase prize for painting)
• 1988 National Conference of Artists: Second International Conference and Exhibition, Bahai, Brazil
• 1988 Houston Area Exhibition, Sarah Campbell Blaffer Gallery, University of Houston, Houston, TX
• 1988 Wichita Falls Museum and Art Center, Midtown Fine Arts League, Wichita Falls, TX
• 1987 Sharing 1987: Annual National Alumni Exhibition, The University Museum, Texas Southern University, Houston, TX
• 1987 Seventh Annual Atlanta Life National Art Exhibition and Competition, Atlanta Life Insurance Company, Atlanta, GA (Awarded 2nd Place award and purchase prize for painting)
• 1987 National Conference of Artists: 29thAnnual Convention, Los Angeles, CA
• 1987 Juneteenth Celebration 1987 Exhibition, North Galveston Community Center Galveston, TX (curator)
• 1987 National Urban League’s Art Expo ’87, Albert Thomas Convention Center, Houston, TX
• 1987 Houston Art Education Association Annual Membership Show, Houston Art Institute, Houston, TX (Awarded Best of Show/Cash Prize)
• 1987 Group Show, Barnes/Blackman Galleries, Houston, TX
• 1985 Eighth Southwest Black Art Exhibition, The Museum of African-American Life and Culture, Bishop College Campus, Dallas, TX
• 1985 Spiraling Symphonies, Soaring Melodies, Junior Black Academy of Arts and Letters, Inc., ARCO Towers, Dallas, TX
• 1985 Regional Black Artists’ Exhibition 1985, Black Arts Alliance, Austin, TX (Awarded Best in Show/Cash Prize)