Born in Minneapolis one of eleven children, Thomas Paquette grew up fascinated by art and, from an early age, seemed oddly aware that it was to be his life’s work.
He went to college to study painting but dropped out mid-way through his first year to hitch-hike and hop freight trains around the country and as far away as Alaska. After a couple years spent thus wandering, he gravitated back to formal art studies, finishing a BFA degree in Painting (graduating summa cum laude) at Bemidji State University in 1985. With a Full Fellowship offered by Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, he earned a three-year Master of Fine Arts degree in Painting in 1988. He has painted full-time ever since.
Within months of his master’s thesis exhibition, Paquette was awarded a CAVA Residency-Fellowship for three winters in Miami from the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts. He then moved to Maine for ten years during which time he painted the landscape, continued exhibiting in galleries around the country, and completed some large public commissions. When he married his wife Ellen in 2001, he relocated to northwestern Pennsylvania on the edge of the Allegheny National Forest, building a studio with abundant natural light.
Paquette draws inspiration from the natural world by which he is immediately surrounded, but – true to that early vagabond spirit – also from his more distant travels, including long drives around this continent and various sojourns in Europe. He paints on-site only in preliminary stages (typically on a small scale in gouache) and doesn’t consider himself a plein-air painter. A Paquette painting, even if begun outdoors, is the result of much re-consideration and re-working in his studio.
Among several other public and private commissions that he was awarded are four seven-foot-high canvases for the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis; a thirty-two-foot long canvas for Central Lakes College; an eleven-foot painting for the State Office Building in St. Paul; and paintings for the collection of the opulent ocean liner Queen Mary 2.
Paquette was an artist in residence at several places including Millay Colony, McNamara Foundation, USM Aegean Arts and Cultural Exchange, three National Parks and the American Academy in Rome. He presented lectures around Greece when his paintings were installed at the U.S. embassy Athens in 2006, and at other times gave talks at the University of Wales in Cardiff, and at Plymouth College in Exeter, England, as well as a few colleges in the U.S.
His paintings have been featured in several dozen solo exhibitions at nationally prominent art galleries (in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Maine, Minneapolis, Washington, DC) and museums (Georgia Museum of Art, Erie Art Museum, Westmoreland Museum of American Art, Hoyt Institute of Fine Art). His works have been selected to hang in U.S. diplomatic facilities around the world, including embassies in St. Petersburg, Athens, Rome, Vienna, Santiago, and Taipei. In 2007, the book Thomas Paquette: Gouaches was published to accompany a traveling museum exhibition of his gouache paintings.