Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Robert James Thomson – Artist

Robert James Thomson was my brother… He was born on June 2, 1948 and he passed away on April 25, 2013 at the age of 64.  While he lived what must be termed as a challenging life, he seemed to have been born with an artist’s genes.  In fact, his father Hugh, his brother Ian and his sister Anne, as well as our mother Elizabeth, all had these genes/talent to one degree or another.

This is Robert “Bob” at 9 years of age, sitting at an easel completing a pencil drawing…

This is one of those pencil drawings from that stage in his life…and I can’t even draw a straight line using ruler!

This is another early pencil drawing…all by free hand and with tremendous detail!

This is one of my favorite pencil drawings by Bob… I like ships and the detail in this drawing is spectacular!  This drawing is probably from the late 1960’s.

Robert’s father died when Robert was only 10 and his father was his hero.  It seemed to change the course of his life.  Trouble found him in many ways over the ensuing years and he struggled for the rest of his days.
This is definitely one of my favorites… ‘The Fish Mongers’.  I know that this drawing was copied from another work by a different artist but the skill level with the pencil has always dazzled me!

This is a photo of Bob/Robert at work at a home he owned in Kansas City Kansas.  While he was in the VA hospital for a lengthy stay and in critical condition, the power in his home was turned off and the house was left sitting empty.  The house burned down… As per a fire marshal I spoke to, it was definitely a case of arson.  With no insurance on the house, he spent the last few years living in a trailer park… Even more significant, he lost all of his art work, equipment and other belongings.
His primary medium was oil paint.  Much of his work is quite linear…leaning towards graphic art.

Some of it is a bit startling…like this cat on a railing.   Note the cat on the couch next to the painting.

He worked for the railroad for a while and he really liked trains or anything related to the railroads.  This study showing the drive wheels of a steam locomotive is a graphic example…
Railroading was the best job he ever had…and when he was laid off in a cut back, he never really held a good job after that.  He kept trying to duplicate the salary and those jobs were just gone forever.  His trains kept coming though, via his paintings…

…and, if not trains, such as the less graphic but ‘warmer’ painting above, many of his paintings were at the very least train related.
Like this painting of a railway trestle…

…or this view along one side of Union Station in Kansas City Missouri.

Then there is this 30” x 40” painting showing Union Station and the Kansas City skyline.  An art collector, dealer and antique collector in the Kansas City area owns this and several other paintings by Robert.
But, just when one thinks that they have Robert and his style ‘pegged’, he would come up with a surprise or two…

My son has this stylized painting of a mountain lion hanging on a wall at his home in Ohio…

He also has this painting…which Robert painted from a photograph he took in Hong Kong while in the Navy.

Then there is this very large painting…in my own collection.  This is Robert’s wife’s grandpa from down in Arkansas and she assured me that the shotgun was right next to him on his right side…

When I saw this painting, I was very surprised… Its style and composition was unlike anything I’d seen Bob create.

His skills continued to evolve…with another nod to railroading and a windmill.  This painting and most of the others were painted before he lost his house. 

Robert did spend a few years in the US Navy aboard the USS Kearsarge.  This was during the Vietnam War… It wasn’t too surprising that he drew and painted boats and ships as well.   
The William S. Mitchell was an Army Corp of Engineers Side-wheel Dustpan Dredge.  She was built ca. 1934 and was retired in 1986.  This ship was 277 feet long and 87 feet wide.  She spent most of her working life dredging the Missouri River in order to keep the shipping channels open.

This is another of Robert’s paintings that belongs to the collector in Kansas City.  This ship has had quite a history.  It was known as the ‘death ship’ because of all the crew members who died during the working life of this vessel. 
There was also a major incident that happened in Kansas City when this ship broke loose from its moorings and floated downriver, crashing into bridge after bridge.  For a video re: this news story, go to  Amazingly, this ship still ‘lives’.  It is now a tourist attraction…the USS Nightmare…a haunted ship moored at Newport Kentucky, right across from Cincinnati.  Check it out at

We really like this painting… It has some of the linear qualities of his earlier works but it has much more character.  I have no idea what happened to this oil painting.  Robert may have sold it… He sold a number of paintings over the years, usually for amounts well below their value, often because he needed some money to pay the bills…

This pencil drawing is the last piece of art work that I have from Bob… This is a portrait drawn from a photograph of our brother Ian.  At this stage in Ian’s life, he was dying from cancer.  Robert truly captured the humanity…the suffering that Ian was experiencing…
Robert had a lot of talent…and many demons as well.  He mellowed out and was more in touch with family in the past 4 or 5 years.  I hope that he has found the peace that he struggled to discover all these many years.  Hopefully, his art work will survive as a lasting memorial to his talents here on earth…
Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…
Thanks for stopping by and viewing an art exhibit by Robert James Thomson.
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave


  1. If you told us about this we totally missed it. We're sorry for your loss bur realize it may be a blessing to everyone. Wouldn't it be something if he now became a famous artist?

  2. Dear Dave, Robert was a very talented and gifted person. I hope that he has found the peace that he searched for also. His work is very beautiful. I hope that he realized that.
    Blessings, Catherine

  3. what talent! wow. may God bless his soul.

  4. Lo que significa una persona con talento un verdadero artista un ejemplo aseguir,me encanta la gráfica y la pintura en general,hugs.