Visual Arts

Thomas Weeks Strikes a Balance Between Humor and Depth With Pop-Culture Oils

You can find art all over town -- not just on gallery walls. In this series, we'll be looking at some of the local artists who serve up their work in coffeehouses and other non-gallery businesses around town.

Thomas Weeks's original plan after graduating from Metropolitan State University of Denver was to go into graphic design. But the best-laid schemes often go awry. "The market was really saturated at the time," Weeks recalls. Since painting had always been his passion, at the urging of his wife he took a day job with the U.S. Postal Service so that he would have the freedom to create art on his own terms.

See also: Suzanne Sigona Found a Second Career as an Artist After Moving to Colorado

This St. Louis expat has one steadfast requirement for his art: Nothing boring. And in a sense, Weeks's artistic demands parallel his own adventure-filled life, which includes two cruises to the Persian Gulf during a four-year stint in the Navy, some pretty wild nights in downtown Denver and the unpredictable undertaking of child-rearing.

Weeks started painting regularly because he "wanted to do something constructive that wasn't addictive," he says. "I'd stay up until 2 a.m. playing this online game; I was averaging five hours of sleep a night." He broke the pattern by grabbing a brush, and in an effort to break one addiction, Weeks painted other addictions -- fast food, cigarettes and tequila, mostly.

The "Burger King" series is telling; it consists of five still-lifes that come with a funny anecdote. A would-be buyer wanted to purchase one of the pieces, but was offended by the cigarettes and asked Weeks to paint a sixth. That's when Weeks showed the prospective buyer the hidden cockroaches in each of the paintings -- another turnoff, apparently. "I didn't want to paint a Burger King commercial," Weeks explains, adding that he'd originally wanted to use McDonald's items but preferred Burger King's packaging.

Weeks doesn't want to overthink his art. "What I like to do is to make something contemporary, something that says something about this culture," says Weeks. "I don't think about things too much. I like to get an idea and start going...when I start overthinking and try to put in symbolism it becomes a labor."

The "Still Life with Orange" series was a particularly spontaneous endeavor that Weeks began after seeing "the annoying orange from the YouTube videos," he remembers. He built the table for the fruit himself, then staged the scene with a knife and fruit from his kitchen. Once the first still-life was finished, he added the orange's strange face.

Continue reading for more on Weeks' bizarre celebrity renderings and his current show. Weeks' portraiture is equally inventive. He's done family members, celebrities, bacon -- even his basset hound. Only the celebrity stuff is for sale, though, and Weeks has sold quite a few from the series that features famous folk imposed on Denver street scenes. Take the "Walker Texaco Ranger" portrait: For his premiere attempt at celebs, Weeks found a picture of Chuck Norris, photographed a local street and mixed the two together.

He used the same technique for a Bruce Lee painting and the depiction of Clint Eastwood in front of a downtown Taco Bell. "Godzilla versus Shakira," staged in front of the old Qwest building, is a favorite.

"Oils take a long time to draw, and that helps when trying to render something like a portrait," says Weeks. For minimalist paintings, he experiments with acrylic because it dries quickly and the colors are easier to manipulate.

Weeks's newest endeavor -- one he doesn't want to discuss too much -- involves painting an L.A. street scene with the aid of Google Maps. "There's a certain place in Hollywood where I've been but can't go back to right now," explains Weeks. "I wondered what it would be like if I opened up Google Street View and got pictures that way." (The project is working, sort of, though Google Maps has a fisheye effect that messes with proportions, he says.)

You can see Weeks's current works at La Belle Rosette (the South University location) this month. Last month, Weeks showed at Adelitas Cocina Y Cantina. For more information, visit Weeks's Facebook page.

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Jamie Siebrase is a Denver-based freelance writer, and author of the forthcoming Falcon Guide Hiking Wth Kids, Colorado: 52 Great Hikes for Families.
Contact: Jamie Siebrase