Abstract Rock Painting: Inspired by Alma Woodsey Thomas

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An illustration of a thumbs upIn my Pittsburgh neighborhood, one of the most vibrant connections to come out of the pandemic has been the shared art of painting rocks. We have so many talented artists of all ages who have been hiding painted rocks for others to find as they stroll the neighborhood-it’s been a source of joy for lots of people! This month, I’ve been thinking about different sources of inspiration for my own rock paintings, and I have been focusing on the abstract artworks of Alma Woodsey Thomas.

Thomas, an African American artist originally from Georgia, is best known for her vivid explorations of color. Her artworks are abstract in style and use splashes of color as a tool to express Thomas’ unique vision of the world. During her life, Thomas had a long career as an art teacher but did not start to paint professionally until she was 69 years old. As such, she continues to be an important role model for older artists as well as for Black female artists. Thomas was famously the first African American woman whose art entered the public collection of the White House, and her works are exhibited today in collections in art museums across the country. If you’d like to learn more about Alma Woodsey Thomas, check out these online resources from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the National Museum of Women in the Arts and MoMA. We’ve also created a list of some additional resources from our Library Catalog to help you learn more about the artist as well as some books to get you started making painted rocks of your own! 

If you’d like more creative ideas, check out the video tutorials on Creativebug (access is free with your Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh card!). If you’re new to rock painting, I recommend the Painted Rocks class which is a short and sweet tutorial for beginners. If you’re looking for some creative ways to draw inspiration from the work of other artists, you may enjoy 31 Creative Prompts from Modern and Contemporary Artists. Finally, take a look at the @clpvideo to watch my own attempt at rock painting using Alma Woodsey Thomas’ artwork The Eclipse as a model. If you want to paint along, you will need some acrylic paint, paintbrushes and a smooth, flat rock.

Titles available exclusively on Hoopla Digital:

Alma Woodsey Thomas: Painter and Educator by Charlotte Etinde-Crompton and Samuel Willard Crompton

Born in Georgia at the end of the 19th century, Alma Woodsey Thomas defied society’s expectations for Black women. She did not marry, have children or work as a domestic. Instead, Thomas was a teacher and an artist. Fascinated by nature and the universe, she could paint vivid scenes of everything from the trees in her yard to NASA’s first moon landing. 

Resources from the Library catalog: 

Alma Thomas

Filled with vibrant illustrations, this stunning volume traces Thomas’s development as an artist: her transition from figuration to abstraction, her fascination with the natural world and space exploration, and the mesmerizing mosaic-like paintings she completed before her death.  

We Are Artists: Women Who Made Their Mark on the World

A richly illustrated book, We Are Artists celebrates the life and work of fifteen female artists from around the globe and the distinctive mark they made on art. Presented as a collection of exciting biographical stories, each section reveals how the artist’s unique approach and perspective provided art and society with a new way of seeing things.

The Art of Rock Painting: Techniques, Projects and Ideas for Everyone

New painters wanted! No experience necessary! With Lin Wellford’s instruction, thousands have discovered the thrill of turning rocks into works of art. Her bestselling books have helped to awaken interest in modern rock painting. The Art of Rock Painting offers a variety of easy projects designed to introduce basic painting techniques yet still appeal to seasoned painters.

Title also available on Hoopla Digital.

Art on the Rocks

Art on the Rocks offers a colorful, modern approach to rock painting, taking readers through a dynamic exploration of techniques and projects that teach the art of creating beautiful painted stones.

Title also available on Hoopla Digital.

Rock Art Critters: Paint the Perfect Pebble

With clear step-by-step instructions, lots of variations and loads of inspiration, Rock Art Critters will soon have you on your way to creating your very own pebble pet coterie of cute critters just waiting to be brought to life with a little bit of paint and a whole lot of imagination. Get ready to rock on!

Rock Art Handbook: Techniques and Projects for Painting, Coloring and Transforming Stones

Rock art is showing up everywhere–on Etsy, at craft shows, online and on hidden “kindness rocks” around your neighborhood. And the good news is you can do it yourself! Just look in your own backyard, a nearby beach or the local gardening center to find the perfect rock. Then with the help of a few colorful craft supplies and the tutorials in Rock Art Handbook, you’ll be on your way.

Title also available on Hoopla Digital.