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. He became a freelance illustrator in 1982.
Known for his dramatic lighting and sensitivity to mood, Blackshear has produced illustrations for advertising, books, calendars, greeting cards, magazines, postage stamps, and national posters. He has illustrated 30 United States postage stamps and a commemorative stamp book titled I Have a Dream.
Blackshear has also designed and executed illustrations for four collectors’ plate series. He is known for his best-selling Christian prints produced for DaySpring’s masterpiece collection. In 1995 he created Ebony Visions, which has been the number-one-selling black figurine collectible in the United States for the past 20 years. He won Artist of the Year in 1999 for that line from the National Association of Limited Edition Dealers and the prestigious International Collectible Artist of the Year Award in 2001.
In 2020 Blackshear was inducted into the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame. In 2019 he won the prestigious James R. Parks Trustees’ Purchase Award at the Autry’s Masters of the American West for his painting Wild West Show. In 2018 Blackshear won the Artists’ Choice Award at Masters and the Best of Show Award at the SLOPOKE Fine Art of the West Exhibition and Sale. His many other awards included Gold and Silver Honors in the 1982 Kansas City Art Directors Club; two Gold Awards and Best of Show in 1986, Best of Show in 1989, and in 1990 two Gold Awards in the Illustration West shows; a Gold Medal in the 1988 National Society of Illustrators’ exhibition; two Silver Awards in the 1989 San Francisco Society of Illustrators’ exhibition; and the Plate of the Year Achievement Award in 1990. His work has appeared in the Society of Illustrators annuals 24, 25, 27, 28, and 30, and in Volume 2 of Outstanding American Illustrators Today. His paintings are displayed at the Museum of Biblical Art in Dallas, Texas, and the Booth Western Art Museum in Cartersville, Georgia. Blackshear was inducted into the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame in 2020.
Thomas Blackshear II is represented by Broadmoor Galleries, Colorado Springs, Colorado; Maxwell Alexander Gallery, Los Angeles, California; and Trailside Galleries–online.