I approached UFC Knockout Art back when KO Lounge started up because the art was incredible, and the “Knockout” part caught my attention. After speaking with Geo Thomson, the man behind the name we instantly clicked – and although there’s a distance, he was immediately claimed as the ‘go-to’ guy for UFC / MMA Artwork. We both finally had enough of waiting and we’re going to get down to the man behind it all and hear his story and where you can find his work!
Jason Przewoznik: Geo! Thanks for finally finding some time for talking with me! Let’s get right on down to the life story part; who is Geo Thomson – where are you from and what got you started with art [especially acrylic drawings?]
Geo Thomson: Well Jason, I started drawing at a very early age. Coming from a big family, a pencil and paper was a cheap way to keep me happy and I just kinda went from there. All through my school years, I was always drawing shit. When I look back, I didn’t ever think of it as a ‘gift’ I was born with or anything like that, I just put it down to practice. I was selling stuff to my mates when I was in high school; Bruce Lee, Rocky, and The Terminator were all early subject matter for me.
JP: Interesting; so during your high-school years, were your drawings more pencil sketches or were the acrylics as you use now? What was it that led from a pencil and paper to the use of acrylics and the ‘unique’ method of your art nowadays?
GT: The last bit of artwork I did before leaving school was a 100-square-foot graffiti mural on the side of the school swimming pool building; one of my finest pieces even to this day! (chuckle)… After leaving school, I went straight into a design studio and worked mainly in high detailed ink drawings. After a couple of years I had my own business up and running by the time I was 18. I wouldn’t even try and actually paint with a brush for another decade and a half.
JP: So what was it like being 18 with your own business? What was your main focus at that time?
GT: My main focus Jason, was the same as every other 18 year old from my town at the time; PARTYING! I ran with a rough crowd and careers were really a thing for other people. I look back and think how dumb I was…. ‘but hey’. My art got put on hold for a few years, I didn’t quit altogether, but it was definitely ‘back burner’ material util about the time I hit 30.
JP: I can definitely relate to that! …ofcourse, minus the talent, haha. Now, fast forward to 30 years old… What sparked the art to come back to life? What was your goal at this point?
GT: 30! Milestone for everybody! I started my chalkboard art company up. After the ‘wilderness years’, I traveled the country plying my unique talent for restaurants and bars, making a decent living, but getting no-where in the process. This went on for a good few years, until one day I woke up and said the immortal words ‘fuck it’…
JP: Haha… So Knockout Art emerged from the wise words, “Fuck It” (lol)? I understand you started working on other sport images (soccer?) and branched into MMA … Care to share a bit about where you started and what came from it?
GT: Yeah. I went in a whole different direction. Soccer paintings became my mainstay of work, but I was the same as any other ‘original MMA fan’ at the conception of the UFC; blown away! I saw one of Evan Shoman’s earliest works of Chuck Liddell and I was hooked!
JP: And I assume this sparked the birth of KNOCKOUT ART? How long ago was your first MMA painting? What was your goal from there? Where did you see this taking off to?
GT: I painted my 1st ufc painting about 6 years ago not thinking it would lead to anything. I wasn’t even sure it would sell! I painted an Iceman (who else eh?) and sold it the same day. It wasn’t the greatest painting I’d ever done, but it showed me that people wanted this kind of art. I started doing more; mostly Chuck, Randy, Tito, etc. – then totally out the blue I get an email from Michael Bisping! …Around about the time he had just lost to Rashad Evans. I was totally blown away because at the time I was very low key, selling bits and pieces on eBay. Mike was after a painting for himself and I was happy to oblige. He’s a super-cool guy and is always willing to help me out! …This is about the time things started to really change for me!
JP: That’s fantastic! People can see your talent worldwide; it’s amazing how quickly your reach has grown, too. So we’ve all seen the marvelous work you do and the ‘fame’ it’s brought you… What would you say is your favorite thing about doing what you do? Any memories with some of the fighters that maybe you’d wish to share?
GT: There’s a couple that immediately spring to mind… The time that Wanderlei Silva visited my studio when he was doing a UK tour, that was totally surreal! He was great, a real gentleman. …But the highlight has to be when I travelled down to England to do a mural for the opening of Ian “The machine” Freeman’s new MMA and fitness centre. I was welcome to stay at his house for a few days… The mural turned out much better than I could ever have expected, but the whole experience was just amazing. I got the VIP treatment from everyone and Ian and his family are now lifetime friends of mine.
JP: That’s pretty awesome man…It must feel great seeing the love from all directions, especially in the fight world. …Now, what is in the future for Knockout Art – what do you think it is that keeps you focused – do you see this going even larger than it already is?
GT: Well, I’m basically an MMA fan who paints. …So I’m just going to keep keeping it simple, but I’ve added prints and t-shirts to my products. I also work as a creative consultant for ‘On Top’, a fast rising MMA Event here in Scotland. Hopefully my name and brand can grow over the next few years along with the sport. There’s a lot of like minded people out there that are doing good things and its great to work with other ‘up and comers’ and see the sport grow; both at home and globally. Just this week I painted for a local amateur fighter from my area and also sent some stuff to a high profile gym in Japan. So basically, I dont forget my roots, but the world’s my oyster.
JP: Did, I ever tell that that you’re my hero? (lol) ….Let’s get into the businessy side then, since you’re so damn humble. Your paintings, your website, and all that good stuff – where can the fans check out your work and purchase paintings and/or place requests?
GT: Well, the easiest place to get a look at my work and say, “Hey Geo, how’s it hangin?” would be my Facebook page ‘UFC Knockout Art’ where there’s always something happening in the world of MMA as well as my portfolio of new and older artwork. It’s nearly hitting 10k fans, which when I started; I never even dreamed of. The place to just go and buy my work is www.geothomson.com which is still a fairly new site, but ever-developing. …I also occasionally twitter at @geokoart.
JP: Great, thanks for that information. We’ll definitely be sure to share and make sure EVERYBODY sees the wonder that is ..Geo! What about your efforts within the community. Does Knockout Art or any of your Art hit the local public/charity scene?
GT: Over the years I had donated bits and pieces to random charities, but it started getting a bit silly and I got stung by a various (how should i word this…) f**kin scumbags. …So I focused all my charity work to the one place, The Prince & Princess of Wales Hospice in Glasgow; an amazing group of people that do an amazing job! Over the past 3 years, I have donated regularly and been involved in fundraising to which my paintings have raised over £20,000 ($32,000) for the Hospice. Something that I am extremely proud of.
JP: That’s a noble thing man… it’s definitely a great feeling when your passion and talent not only benefits you; but others – especially Hospice – who wouldn’t be proud? I’m going wrap this up as I know you’re a busy man. Is there any closing words you want to leave us with? Whether it be a message to the fans or any special thanks to those who support you or have helped you out?
GT: I’d hate to start naming the great people that are part of my painting journey, as there are so many people that are on that list and I might forget to mention someone, but here’s a few notables from the past year; …James Law (best MMA snapper on earth), Ian Freeman (legend and pal), Tony Reid (writer and art lover), Tam Collins (always on top), Tomas Chavez (New Mexico’s finest), TYWC (Ed, Dix and Gaz), and Jason Przewoznik (Persistant Pro). Big thanks to everybody who has supported me and my work, couldnt do it without them! ….’For The Fans By The Fan’
JP: Haha, persistent pro… I can see that! Thanks Geo. I really appreciate you taking the time and I know we’ll be doing some work together in the near future …Once you stop being so famous, of course! I’m going to end this one slightly different by asking you our trademark question as the closer… I feel it’s become established for KO Lounge and now we gotta hear it from the man himself. Who is your favorite super hero and why?
GT: Superhero? I will definitely need at least an hour to think of that one, hahahaha. <Seriously, an hour goes by…> ….Right after much consideration, I will have to with ‘Daredevil’; the reason is… Dude’s blind, ’nuff said!
JP: Hahahaha, said it like a gangster! …Classic. Well Geo, I appreciate your time and we’ll definitely keep in touch and I see much more interaction between us in the future.
GT: No worries mate. Speak soon!
(Above Image Courtesy of Lee Connor – Came out AWESOME!) (http://leedconnor.carbonmade.com/)