Somerville artist, Randal Thurston, says art is what completes him


By Peg Lopata, Contributing Writer 

artist Randal Thurston
Randal Thurston

 Somerville – Living the creative life doesn’t require magic. Just ask Randal Thurston, 65.  

He said, “One of the stereotypes about creativity is that it magically appears. It doesn’t.”  

Thurston should know as he’s been an artist for decades. His most recent pieces have been a mix of public art and large museum-based installations. Though he usually works in paper, he also translates his designs into more durable materials, such as glass, enamel and metal. For example, his most recent public piece is a perforated aluminum mural at a school in Cambridge, MA. He’s developed artwork for the elevators and station platforms at Cambridge’s new Lechmere station.  His most recent cut paper exhibition was at the Art and Museum Center Sinkka in Finland.  


Creativity 101

According to Thurston, what artists need in addition to creativity is commitment and a strong work ethic. 

He explained, “If you can’t combine awareness, curiosity and technical skill with learning how to just put your head down and work, even when you aren’t feeling particularly inspired, you won’t creatively evolve.”

Thurston believes creative ideas only make up for about five percent of the whole process.

The remaining ninety-five percent is the work itself.


Teaching Art in a Pandemic

For Thurston a portion of that ninety-five percent is his work teaching printmaking and drawing at Suffolk University, Boston. He admits these are challenging times for everyone, teachers especially so because they are used to doing in-person demonstrations and one-on-one critiques.

“I focus on evaluating and offering both technical and conceptual insights,” said Thurston. “That’s really hard to do in a Zoom environment.”

But he’s reworking his classes to face this new situation.  

“My personal challenge is to ensure that my students feel a sense of connection and that our discussions combine both learning and empathy.”

It’s also a difficult time for young artists at the beginning of their careers. 
“Some may be scarred or emboldened by this experience,” said Thurston.  “But artistic expression survives wrenching upheaval.  Art will be an important part of how we experience, and, more importantly, remember this moment.”


Guided to give

Thurston is motivated, no matter what the upheaval, to give.  He wants to use his time to do things that matter.  His guiding philosophy?  Pay it forward.

“I believe,” said Thurston, “that the best way to live is to think about what you can do to bring about positive outcomes.  In my experience, that takes the form of sharing what I know.”

And in that spirit, to all artists, Thurston shares this:

“The voice each of us has when we enter the studio is unique.  If you focus on that alone, you’ll make work that is true.”

Learn more about Thurston and see his artwork here:


Photos/courtesy of Randal Thurston

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