How to Discover Secrets in Artwork (Mine in Particular)
How to Discover Secrets in Artwork (Mine in Particular)

How to Discover Secrets in Artwork (Mine in Particular)

Ever stood in front of a painting, listening to a song, or read a passage in a book that gave you goosebumps? It’s a chilling experience. One that makes you feel seen in an intimate way. “This person understands!” Art has the ability to connect us without ever having to come face-to-face with one another. We discover little secrets in art that lead us to self-reflect and expand our vision. Discover secrets in artwork through subject matter, style, and life experiences of the artist.

Life Experiences Inform Subject Matter

Self Expression & Identity

Self Portrait in Ink on Paper.

One of the most frequent questions I get asked is “Why the nude ladies?” Well, even though the types of bodies I render are typically perceived as “women,” I started rendering the female form first and foremost because it was my own body. At the beginning of my art-making career, my personal work was exclusively drawn from self portraiture. As artist block pushed me to expand past self portraiture & better resources became available to me, I started painting other people. Thank you Croquis Cafe

ink line drawing of a nude figure with long wavy hair being entangled by a black snake. There are calla lilies and a gaseous planet in the background.
“Ouroboros” ink painting featuring a model from the artist resource Croquis Cafe.

However, my work is very much still personal & a reflection of my own memories, thoughts, experiences, etc. I have a connection with this particular body type, and still lean towards using it representationally in my work. However, maybe its time to break another comfort zone & represent an even more diverse set of bodies. The human experience isn’t only bound to traditionally attractive bodies, and I want to capture the grandiose, variable nature of our existence.

Catharsis in Art-making

The Space In Between

Art-making for the majority of my life has been about symbolizing and processing my experiences into a physical format. My early twenties was a deeply introspective period for me. If you’ve seen my art when I was producing inkwork, a significant portion of them reflect intense psychological struggle, and a battle for control over my life. A keystone event that shaped my work from 2017-2019 was my own personal experience of psychedelic induced psychosis. I’ve been blessed that my life remains stable enough for me to explore the greater picture of the human condition outside my own perception.

Spirituality within the Human Condition

“Okay – but why the nudes?” Well, I have planned an entire discussion breaking this down, but I’ll lend you a small bit of insight. The main reason I paint nude rather than clothed models, is because I want to keep the focus on a universal experience of the human condition. Clothes add another layer of identity/personality that I find distracting for what I specifically trying to say with my work. One concept that has fueled my passion for painting the human figure is:

“We are the feeling, sensory parts of the universe experiencing itself.”

Discover Secrets in Artwork through Stylistic Decisions

Discover Secrets in Artwork lexrthomas acrylic painting of nude red headed person laying in a pond with green water and lotus flowers under grey sky work in progess
Work in progress look at my acrylic painting “Lotus”


The first impression that art makes onto the viewer is related to style. The artist’s style is also referred to their artistic voice. Does the artist choose to create figurative or abstract work? You can carve out an understanding of the artist’s style by looking at the way they lay paint onto the canvas (or pen to page, textiles onto fabric, etc.)

I haven’t really been able to pin down what art movement describes my work best, but for now, I’ve been calling it realistic expressionism. My work is very much figurative in nature, but I like to push the boundaries of color & form. Expressionism at its core is a storytelling device that leans more towards representing feelings rather than rendering a subject exact and true to life. I move away from hyper-realism to explore color and brushwork that bestow their unique emotional quality. What do the colors and shapes in the piece below lead you to feel about what the person is experiencing? I’d love to hear about your interpretation in the comments at the end of the article!

Dissolution | Acrylic on Stretched Canvas | 24×30 inches

Color Choice

Composition and color are the two elements that I have the most fun playing around with in my art. Composition takes inspiration from the pose & the human form. Colors are inspired by nature and botanical elements; however, they are exaggerated to showcase a particular sentiment.

landscape acrylic painting of pink sunrise louisiana swamp moss trees
A different take on the Louisiana Swamp silhouette, with bright swirling colors to heighten the magical realism of our local environment.

Inspirations & Influence

Now that I’ve highlighted all the little secrets in my art that are visible on the canvas, lets dive into my experiences and inspirations that contribute indirectly to my work.


It goes without saying that an artist’s most influential ideas are birthed from their experiences. A lot of artists from Louisiana paint and sculpt images of plates overflowing with rich seafood, colorful peppers, and vibrant spices. Local culture shapes a significant part of who we are – whether we choose embrace or reject it.

Feeling very out-of-place in the area growing up, I was a person who kept to themselves. I spent lots of time outside listening to music where I would think about my place in the world. The introduction to psychoactive plants in my early twenties took this a step further. I became obsessive with learning about the subjective nature of our perceptions. Our brains take the abundant amount of information within our world and transforms it into our own individual stories. This can be a very lonely realization – our entire world fits within the squishy matter within our skull; however, my art tries to unite us together in the ubiquitous solitude.


ink and gouache painting of a crying figure with their hand to their face looking up at a staring eye. The image is adorned with yellow flowers

A crucial moment in time that informs some of the darker tones of my art. In the summer of 2017, I experienced a severe bout of psychedelic induced psychosis. I struggled for a period of months with pseudo hallucinations and a crippling amount of derealization. Fighting with the idea that my entire reality has been made up by myself as a coping mechanism for the oblivion that I discovered within psychedelia. Years of sobriety have granted me a stable place within this world, but my ideas of the wonky nature of our conscious perception. We all have these unanswerable questions about how and why we are experiencing this world as we are. My art both invites the viewer to reflect upon our fragile existence, yet feel comfort that we are all in this together.

Enter My Inner-world

As I was writing this post, I realized why I’ve always stuck to a visual medium to express these thoughts. It’s hard to describe my internal dialogue with words. I hope I’ve done my work justice with this analysis. I invite you to look a bit deeper into my portfolio with this new insight, and let me know how your perception of my work has changed. Thanks for reading!


One comment

  1. Nicole Thomas

    This is so beautiful Lex! I really like the answer on why you paint nudes. It’s so true about capturing the person themselves as raw and natural. It’s the most beautiful thing❤️

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *