Artist Thomas Sutley began his artistic endeavors at a young age. “With Crayola and printer paper, I would draw dinosaurs,” he says. “But middle school is when I got really involved in art.” That is when he began to take art classes. “Mr. Moodenbaugh was the coolest guy I had met at that point in my life, with tattoos all up and down his arms. He got me started on canvas art with acrylic paints.”

The next year, Thomas took an advanced art class and Mr. Moodenbaugh recommended he enter an art contest. “He told me ‘I think you are really geared this way,’” says Thomas. “I became fascinated with the way you can work with paint. I got hooked on it.”

Thomas also designs clothing.”It’s a good cost-efficient way for people to access art,” he says. “Where does art come in where it’s practical – clothing. Who doesn’t buy a t-shirt with a cool design on it? People do that all day every day.” Photo courtesy: Thomas Sutley.

Thomas began doing commission work in high school. “It pushed the boundaries I had unintentionally set for myself,” he says. “I am very fascinated by the world around me. I see art in everything. It’s hard not to.”

It was during this time that the goal orientated young man started to push himself artistically. “I met some folks who think a little more out of the box and are very inspiring,” he shares. “That’s when I got into things that are a little more abstract. I started playing around with more colors and hit a good spot in my head, and people started to notice.”

After graduating from W.F. West High School in 2013, Thomas went to Centralia College. Here he traveled to Columbia and Equador with his Spanish class. “My mom funded the thing,” he says. “She worked really hard to get me there as a substitute teacher. The sacrifice she made was an influence on me. She pushed me in that direction and I would not have been able to go without her.”

In South America, Thomas was inspired by the colors and street art. “There isn’t a single surface down there that doesn’t have art on it,” he remembers, “stuff that just blew my mind. These people are doing this because they can’t keep it inside them and they have to put it on the walls. I would love to apply that somewhere like here and bring in some color and a little bit of culture.”

Thomas creates art every day. When he’s not working or creating he spends time with his girlfriend Alexandria and infant son Azariah. Photo courtesy: Thomas Sutley.

Recently, Thomas has worked in collaboration with Emily von Flotow on downtown Chehalis beautification with The Chehalis Renaissance Team. Thomas calls the garbage can lids with floral paintings of native wildflowers and plants, beneficial art. “It’s educational, it’s bright and vibrant,” he says. “It’s all about the downtown. It pops. Young people around here will really respond to that. I know I do.”

Personal projects and commissions supplement Thomas’s income from his full-time job at Grocery Outlet. “Working at Grocery Outlet has taught me a lot about marketing and aesthetics,” he says. Some of Thomas’ art can be found at 710 Beans & Glass, Dapper Games and Chehalis Barber and Company.

Ideas for art comes from many sources for Thomas. The natural world inspires him, but he has found that pushing his boundaries is often most inspiring. “With new projects on things I normally wouldn’t do, but other people wanted me to do, I find inspiration,” he says. “It’s all fascinating if you allow it to be. It’s all inspirational. I hope I never run out of that juice.”

“I want my art to be something that brings all parts of the community together,” says Thomas Sutley with Vryheim Design Company. Photo courtesy: Thomas Sutley.

Thomas is a big thinker with future goals that involve creating more art both publically and personally. He also hopes to help other artists get their art in front of people. “If I can do that while doing something I love, it’s a good mutual experience,” he says. “I’m fascinated by all of it. I’m still waiting for that favorite project, yet I almost hope I never reach that. Everything is a step in reaching understanding, not just physical goals.”

Zealous and enthusiastic, Thomas’s positivity reflects in his dreams and outlook. “I’ve seen a lot of people, figuratively and maybe even literally, in holes,” he says. “There’s a lot of despair, but just look outside. Force yourself to find beauty in things. Eventually, you’ll see it. The colors are there. I’ve struggled with that personally. Goals and dreams, you’ve got to have them, otherwise what’s the point? Once you do that, figure out the steps to do it and pursue it. There’s something you can apply yourself to and there has got to be something you want no matter how minuscule or grand. The colors are out there.”

Thomas Sutley
Vryheim Design Company
tsutley@live.com
360-388-6338

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