After graduating in 1977 from the American Academy of Art in Chicago, Thomas Blackshear worked for a year for the Hallmark Card Company in Kansas City, Missouri. While there, he met the famous illustrator Mark English and became his apprentice for several months. By 1980, he was working as head illustrator for Godbold/Richter Studio. Blackshear became a freelance illustrator in 1982 and has been self-employed ever since.
Known for his dramatic lighting and sensitivity to mood, Blackshear has produced illustrations for advertising, books, calendars, collectors’ plates, greeting cards, magazines, postage stamps and national posters. He has illustrated 30 U.S. postage stamps and a commemorative stamp book titled I Have a Dream. Blackshear has also designed and executed collectors’ plate illustrations for Star Wars, The Wizard of Oz, Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation. In 1995 he created Ebony Visions, which has been the No. 1 selling black figurine collectible for 20 years.
In 2006, Blackshear had a one-man show through the Vatican in Rome. There he unveiled his painting Pope John Paul II for the 25th anniversary of the Pope John Paul II Foundation.
Blackshear’s paintings are displayed at the Museum of Biblical Art in Dallas, Texas, and the Booth Western Art Museum in Cartersville, Georgia. His Western art continues to win awards and find new audiences, and has been featured on the covers of Art of the West and Western Art Collector. In 2020, Blackshear was inducted into the Hall of Fame for the Society of Illustrators, where he joined the ranks of Norman Rockwell, N.C. Wyeth and Winslow Homer.