John Paul Thomas (1927 - 2001)

For a detailed biography on John visit his Wikipedia entry. Click on the link below.

Wikipedia entry:


The following are samples from John's collaborations with Jerré Tanner and Harvey Hess.

The first, a monograph by Jerré on John's use of the grid in the construction of his paintings, while not technically a full collaboration, was made possible by John's informing Jerré on a step-by-step basis the means by which he developed and applied grids to his paintings.


The "Orchid Art and the Orchid Isle" collaboration began as an exhibition at Wailoa Center in Hilo fall 1981 of John's orchid watercolors and drawings and Harvey Hess's poems about orchids rendered by calligraphist Janet Alter Wessel. It was followed up in 1983 by this book of the same title. The collaboration was made the more intense by Harvey bringing orchid plants from Hilo when he came to Kona on visits. John was invariably inspired to do drawings and/or watercolors directly from these specimens.


John's most famous collaboration began in Marin County, California in 1969 when Hawaiian singing duo Leon & Malia [Leon Siu and Malia Elliott; Leon was a former student of John's at UH-Hilo] visited his studio and saw several of his early "Boy with Goldfish" paintings. They returned to Honolulu and found themselves composing songs taken from their impressions of the paintings. Eventually they composed ten songs, bringing in Jerré in 1974 to develop them for symphony orchestra. The rest, as they say, is history. The collaboration was launched publicly in 1976 as part of Hawaii's observance of the National Bicentennial with an exhibition of the paintings and drawings and performances with the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra. Details from the paintings were projected at the back of the stage during these performances. The video below is a recreation of those projections. The music went on to be recorded in 1979 by the London Symphony Orchestra using the then revolutionary SoundStream digital technology. The Albany Records CD release became an audiophile cult classic for its wide dynamic range and for the smashy bass drum thuds in the "Tone Poem." [below]

Boy with Goldfish - Thomas paintings and drawings & Tanner Heroic Fantasia for voices & orchestra