Magic in the Details

10 May 2024

Angela Trotta Thomas transports viewers to Charleston haunts and more with her detailed works of realism

By Liesel Schmidt

When one views Angela Trotta Thomas’s paintings, the first word that springs to mind is details.

The swirled pattern on wallpaper, the sun dappled profile of a little girl, the light from a bank of windows reflected on the linoleum floor of a café. Details.

As a child, Trotta Thomas never dreamed of growing up to become anything else but an artist, of picking up a paintbrush or a pencil every day and tapping into flow to create whatever was in her mind’s eye.

“I knew I wanted to be an artist from the first grade,” she notes. “Many of my fellow students requested that I draw for them every day in school. It was very early positive reinforcement.”

That positive reinforcement followed the Pennsylvania native as she pursued an undergraduate degree in illustration from Kutztown University and a master’s degree from Marywood University in studio arts and painting. From there, she forged a ten-year career in the commercial realm, working in mixed media for that first decade before moving on to dip her brush in watercolor. It wasn’t until the early 2000s that Trotta Thomas moved from watercolors to oils, after her commissioned clients began regularly requesting it.

Be it in mixed media, watercolor or oil, the artist has proven that she possesses an adept skill and mastery of her craft—and an undeniable dedication to detail

That detailed work has served her well both in her commercial career as well as that as a fine artist. In fact, over the course of her 40 years painting, Trotta Thomas has spent 30 years of them licensed by Lionel Trains to create paintings of their iconic toy trains, capturing the essence of the oldest toy company in the U.S. on the canvas in ways that evoke childhood memories for the viewer and even depicting images of days gone by, when trains played so central a role in travel.

Evoking memories and resonating in the emotions of her viewers is high on Trotta Thomas’s priorities as a painter whose style follows the strictures of realism.

“I love being able to move people when they view my paintings,” she says. “I am always delighted when they relate to a painting that takes them back to cherished memory, and I constantly strive to evoke feelings of warmth and remind people of happy or treasured places from their lifetime. I strive to capture a dreamlike state with my paint application, which more effectively takes the viewer to another time and place.”

As she has spent the last 15 years living in the Charleston area, her creativity has found an incredible well of inspiration in the Holy City.

“I absolutely love depicting Charleston’s charm in my paintings,” says Trotta Thomas, who relocated from Pennsylvania with her husband, Bob. “From the beautiful streets downtown to the bars and restaurants, I find inspiration wherever I go. I have created an entire series of bar and restaurant paintings of local restaurants and haven’t even scratched the surface yet. There is endless reference for an artist in this beautiful city.”

She adds, “My life, my career and my hobby are my art. They are one in the same for me. I have always derived enjoyment in doing things that my subject matter depicts, so living here in Charleston has been incredible. My husband and I have never looked back since we moved from Pennsylvania. We love it here.”

Her appreciation for her surroundings is apparent in the results that culminate on the canvas—captured snippets of life in the city, breathtaking views of architecture of the historic streets, elegant interiors that bring viewers into the rooms of Charleston’s elegant homes.

Regardless of what she paints, however, Trotta Thomas is on a constant quest to learn more about her craft, to better her own skill each day, with every new canvas that she sets upon.

“Each painting is a brand-new painting, with a new approach,” she says of what she, as an artist, considers her greatest challenge. “There is an incredible challenge in accepting this and pushing through the start of a new painting. Still, I am continually inspired by my strong desire to create and to learn something new about painting every day, in whatever form that may take.”

Trotta Thomas is a member of Oil Painters of America (OPA), National Oil and Acrylic Painters Society (NOAPS) and American Women Artists (AWA). Her gallery work is represented by Reinert Fine Art Gallery in Charleston, while the full body of her work can be viewed online at her website,

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