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Notes from a Wandering Artist

By: Kelsey Jacobson

World famous painter Thomas Paquette returned to Bemidji State University Monday to inspire students from the Introduction to Painting class.

Paquette specializes in oil painting and the many landscapes Minnesota has to offer.
Paquette2In the painting studio in Bridgman Hall, Paquette showcased the many paintings he did while traveling around the United States after receiving his BFA degree from BSU in 1985. In 1988, he started painting full-time after earning his MFA degree from southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Today, you can find Paquette’s work in the stairwell, or the walls of the BSU library.

He described what it was like growing up with a father who was in love with the thought of traveling around the world. Growing up, Paquette remembers his brothers and sisters being left behind when it came to trips with his mom and dad. There was not much room when it came to a station wagon and 11 kids. Paquette went to the University of Minnesota in 1977 to study art. While studying art at the U of M, Paquette believed that dropping out of school to become a traveling artists was something he was meant to do. So one day in March of 1978, he decided to buy a railroad atlas and started his journey into the unknown with the help of freight trains. Every day he would train hop starting at 9 in the morning to get where he wanted to go. At that time, he traveled all the way to Alaska and California in order to work on his paintings. NS-1
Paquette thought of himself as a wandering artists—someone who was not afraid to go places he had never been to before in search of who he was at the time, a painter out in the wilderness. The longest he has traveled is 24 thousand miles over two years, which consisted of him painting a total of 49 canvases.

After traveling around the world Paquette found himself at BSU in spring of 1982. He was pulled away from painting, and instead discovered himself studying Environmental Interpretation, which used to be part of the Mass Communications department, and was only offered in about four other colleges across the U.S. Paquette found himself taking photography classes, and was surrounded by woods and the outdoors. Within two years, Paquette became obsessed with painting again when he took Professor Holden’s, department of Technology, Art, and Design, painting class. He also, was fortunate to have a dedicated art department at the time. “The professors made my work very rewarding,” said Paquette.

Paquette1He talked about life after BSU. When Paquette was in graduate school he branched out and tried new things, such as design work in addition to painting instead of honing in on one thing he was good at. As the years has gone by, he now understands how to work with his inefficiencies as an artist by painting over his previous work. Paquette’s next project is painting the Mississippi River. He believes that it is part of America many people overlook or take for granted. “It is important to look at it again,” said Paquette.

He described how he got lucky along the way and was not afraid to take risks. Paquette described the way he thinks about art in general. He says we all are kids with crayons in our hands and everyone tells us to put our crayons down. Paquette told students to keep on retaining their fascination with art no matter how old they become. He also, went on to say how some people may tell you to not pay any attention to art and get a real job. “Artists are kids who never give up their crayons,” said Paquette.