As a color field painter and abstractionist, Alma Thomas was a key figure in the Washington Color School during the 1970's. However, the majority of her work would be produced in the last two decades of her life. Inspired by color field painters and abstract expressionism, Thomas utilized a similar technique to that of Henri Matisse. Swatches of color with spaces of white in between. Her blocked sections of color allow for the vibrancy to breathe throughout the work and highlight each swatch. Partially representational, but mainly abstract, Thomas's pieces focused on the color, very akin to color field painters' mentality.
As an African American woman during the civil war era, Thomas could have easily used her work to discuss social injustices or political motivations. And yet, Thomas wanted to bring something different to the table. In an interview in 1970, Thomas stated, "Through color, I have sought to concentrate on beauty and happiness, rather than on man's inhumanity to man".
The bands of color that were so prevalent in her work are similar to early Fauvism. The Fauves, including Henri Matisse, were a brief group of artists who were also very focused on color theory. Obsessed with swatches of color next to one another, the colors were no longer representational, but used based on aesthetic. What looked pleasing versus what was real. The blocks of color were also surrounded by white sections in order to bolster the color even more. (See below for comparison).
Alma Thomas perpetuated these concepts and techniques, with one major difference. If became even less about the representation and more about the color. The works, as purely abstract, create a solid color theory diagram. Both with her multiple colored and primary color pieces, Thomas accentuated the color, period. Although a devout color theorist, Thomas utilized that color to be an Abstract Expressionist as well. Engaging the viewers' emotions purely based of the vibrancy of her tones and shades.