Senior Artist Profile: Thomas Lue ’16

Each year in May, The Colby Museum of Art hosts the Senior Art Show, an exhibition featuring works by senior students ranging a variety of media, including photography, sculpture, printmaking, and painting. Over the course of the past several months, the Echo has featured interviews with the senior artists, showcasing their work and speaking to them about their personal inspirations and processes.

Thomas Lue ’16 is concentrating in painting and is currently in the final stages of preparing his work for the show’s opening on May 5. His work combines a unique passion for imagined subjects and carefully observed light conditions. Though Lue’s show will center on his paintings, he has a wide range of interests in other artforms and subjects.

What have you been studying over your time at Colby?

I’m double majoring in studio art with a concentration in painting and computer science. I already wrapped up with computer science in the fall, so this has been my art semester. I also work for theater and dance. I’ve taken a few classes, but I’m a research assistant for the department so I help with a lot of special effects and design. It’s like the intersection of computer science and studio art, but for performance. I also do some club theater for Powder and Wig.

What art classes have you taken over your time at Colby? What have been your favorites?

In terms of studio art, the first art class I did was Intro to Digital Imaging with Gary Green. It was kind of like Foundations to Studio Art, but on Photoshop. You get to learn Photoshop, which is a great skill to have, but you don’t really get hands on with painting and drawing. But I also took painting with Bevin. I’ve done art for as long as I can remember, but I didn’t take classes until I got to Colby. Beyond foundations, I think I’m on my sixth painting class and I took Printmaking this semester.

Is painting your favorite form of art?

Painting is definitely what I’ve committed to. They all kind of relate and can be different. In Printmaking, I don’t print the same stuff I paint—it’s an opportunity to branch out. I like theater and dance because it’s a collaborative process and everyone brings their own talents that build up on each other. Studio art is more isolated and meditative. I don’t really know if any of them are my particular favorite.

Do you see yourself going forward with any of them after Colby?

It really depends on what job I find. I’m going to keep making art. A lot of times I find myself painting things that other people can somehow relate to or that are kind of academic in a way, so what I end up painting, drawing, or acting in the future might be completely different from what I’m doing here. I could definitely see myself going forward in those media.

What are you thinking about doing after college?

Part of the reason I ended up doing Studio Art and Computer Science is because I played computer games for a while, and felt like I could make money or be productive off of it. So, I applied to a few schools and ended up at Colby. Art ended up being connected to video games in a way that is similar to movies, and I thought that would be a good intersection. So, in the future, I want to see if I can land a job in some sort of entertainment industry and then maybe get a masters in something if I need a little more expertise.

Can you describe what you’re painting now?

I wanted to paint something that I like but that other people can relate to, so I ended up being focused on skies and clouds. People all see different types of clouds throughout the day, like the different physical and visual conditions that happen naturally with skies. Also, not everything is natural. So, I’ve been painting skies, which I hadn’t done before this semester. Usually I do figure and portrait stuff—it was a new experience and I feel like I learned a lot. I began working from observation, but now I’m totally inventive and I take things from what I observed before.

Do you have any favorite artists?

Over spring break, my friends and I went to the MFA and there was an artist who does landscapes: Lawren Harris. His style reminds me of Alex Katz, but I think he has a nice sense of lighting and form. His landscapes don’t look like real landscapes but they seem cohesive and physically there. It’s kind of like Disney animation: not real but definitely visually cohesive. You can imagine yourself there. Cohesion and strong visual language are important. I think that’s more important than just naturalism.

What has your experience with the capstone class been like?

It’s definitely nice to get a bunch of different perspectives, including the faculty’s. They all have wicked different opinions. Gary Green is not afraid to speak his mind. The conversation just goes all over the place—sometimes for better, sometimes for worse, but the better parts make the risk worth taking. I’ve gotten some suggestions that I’ve taken into consideration. It’s not too big of a deal.

Do you find it hard to work almost completely through imagination?

In life, I’ve been working from imagination more than from observation. Even if that means just doodling as a kid from ages four to freshman year of high school. So, it’s not that hard for me to do stuff from imagination. It’s always nice to use a mix because when you work from imagination, you can create the compositions you want because you feel completely free to move stuff around. It’s also good to have a physical model, which is the benefit of working from observation. You know which areas relate to other areas whether it’s temperature or value. Black and white figure is a great way to go but to get those figures to work together as a cohesive unit, it helps to have an observed informant.

Do you have any reflections on your time as an Art major at Colby?

I feel like I’m not going to finish painting and I feel like you’re always kind of learning when you’re making art, so it doesn’t really feel like too much of an end. It just feels like I’m going to get that looseness of being able to do whatever I want after 5 p.m., whether that’s art, reading a book, or just watching a movie. It doesn’t feel like an end and that takes the pressure off of deadlines. Pressure’s not a bad thing, though; I could’ve spent more time in the studios than I did. But I’m excited to take the next step.