His paintings depict stories from the Pintupi dreaming. They primarily concern places and events in the Tingari cycle and mens business (a cycle of myths about the ancestors of the Pintupi). His designs are inspired by those painted on the body during ceremonies.
Thomas was born in the desert of Western Australia in the 1960s. He and his family lived a traditional way of life on the near Lake Mackay. They had never come into contact with European society. Thomas and his brothers Warlimpirrnga and Walala have become well known as the Tjapaltjarri Brothers. Thomas Tjapaltjarri began painting in December 1987, a few years after settling at Kiwirrkurra. His cousin Warlimpirrnga had already made a name for himself as an artist and he encouraged Thomas to paint too. Thomas and Walala joined the Papunya Tula artists, and they and Warlimpirrnga eventually gained fame internationally.