PARIS — For 12-year-old Thomas Watson, it was all in a name.

The Paris Elementary School student had his painting, “Graffiti Name,” chosen for the 23rd annual Youth Art Month Exhibition at the Portland Museum of Art. The exhibit and opening celebration March 11 was sponsored by the museum and Maine Art Education Association.

Our art teacher, Mrs. (Samantha) Armstrong, asked us to do a graffiti art of our names, so I did my name,” Thomas said. “I added a little stick figure doing graffiti to my name.”

A classmate told him, “’I like that name, Thoms,’” Thomas said, laughing.

He’d left out the “a.”

So Thomas added the letter after the fact — a solid black “a” tucked between the contrasting purple and green “m” and “s.”


I wish someone pointed it out to me when I had it in pencil,” he said.

It made it unique,” Thomas’ mother, Casey Tanner, told him. “The guy’s spray paint was black so he was just adding it in.”

Thomas said he had no idea his work had been submitted along with works by 91 other students from across the state.

My art teacher was just kind of, ‘Would you like having your art in the Portland Museum of Art?’” Thomas remembered.

Me?” he asked as he held his hand over his heart. “Me out of 600 people? Sure!”

He came home (with an) ear-to-ear grin,” Tanner said.


Thomas aspires to be an artist like generations of his Watson relatives, his mother said.

He can look at ‘SpongeBob’ cartoon characters and draw them to a ‘T’,” Tanner said. His sister, Mackenzie Tanner, 16, can do the same thing, Casey said.

Thomas, a student in the gifted and talented program at Paris Elementary, said he picked up a pencil and pen when he was younger.

I was like a little kid,” he said. “I was around a lot of people drawing and doing art. I was kind of like, ‘I am going try this and see if I like this.’”

When he was 10, he and Mackenzie took a college-level art course from author and graphic writer and illustrator Vance Bessey in Lewiston.

Tanner said her son is his own worst critic.


I find beautiful drawings in the trash can all the time,” she said.

“I can totally see him getting into animating or video game art,” she said. “There is lots of different things he can learn. I just bought him a Bamboo art tablet for digital drawing,”

It is going to be a little rough,” Thomas said. “You have to pay attention not to where your fingers are but the screen.”

I bet you’ll catch on,” his mother said.

To see more of Thomas’ artwork, visit and search “Thomas16811.”

Thomas Watson, 12, of West Paris stands in front of his painting, “Graffiti Name,” which was chosen for the 23rd annual Youth Art Month Exhibition at the Portland Museum of Art.

Twelve-year-old Thomas Watson of West Paris had his artwork displayed on the big screen at the Portland Museum of Art during the 23rd annual Youth Art Month Exhibit. 

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