Luke Thomas

Words: Karena Meyer
Photos: Joshua Spencer

Luke Thomas makes art that pops off the pages of music magazines, record store shelves, and Saint Laurent couture jackets. His style is a blend of layered, gritty and bright colors influenced by his father’s underground comic book collection of dot patterns and halftones. If his work seems surreal at times, that’s because it is. Luke’s dreams and nightmares have a way of creeping into his art. Whether they’re post-apocalyptic landscapes or a goblin with a 1950’s hairdo, his vibe is something like pop art punch meets macabre. “A lot of what I struggle with is trying to find a balance between pop art and something psychologically deeper, like fine art. To me it all blends together.”

As a teen, Luke spent a lot of time in the punk scene of his Vermont hometown. Punk’s raw, crusty, direct shock to the senses helped shape his art, pulling him out of the mundane and into a dark yet fluorescent subversive underworld. After starting a punk band with his brother Kyle Thomas, Luke started to focus on merchandise, making t-shirts and record covers for his brother’s bands Feathers, Witch and later on, King Tuff. This platform helped Luke grow a diverse network from broke punk bands to high fashion labels and eventually led him to Los Angeles, joining his brother and other Vermont artists. When asked how the move has affected his work, Luke responds, “I’ve been using a lot of pink recently. Not sure if it’s LA or the weather or what.”

Luke has long been drawn to the immediate and tangible medium of zines, posters and ink, but he’s recently been transitioning to LA’s gallery scene. Luke is excited about a group show at the ECF (Exceptional Children's Foundation) Art Center downtown, where he shows his oil paintings alongside the works of special needs artists, most of whom don’t realize their talent until they start working with professional artists. “Whenever I go down there I get inspired.” Spending time at ECF helps Luke “keep the magic alive” and avoid burning out on commercial work.

Luke’s also back collaborating with his brother Kyle, together painting the interior of a 420-themed room at the Hicksville Pines Hotel in Idyllwild. The spray painted black light forest scene depicts a woodsy atmosphere of psychedelic animal dwellers peering out from behind fluorescent redwoods. Luke recalls the time spent working with his brother fondly, “We want to go back and add some more animals.”