“Art is a good, portable skill,” says Tom. “Colored pencils and a camera are easier to
tote around then paints. They’re perfect for hiking, camping or mountain climbing.”
Portability was a necessity of life for the self-described Air Force
brat who was born on an airbase in Illinois and moved constantly
with his family as a child. Success in art came early to him.
“The first time I knew I was on to something was in sixth grade,”
he recalls. “A photograph of a chalk drawing I had done on a school
blackboard, was published in the Grand Forks Herald. I thought I’d
discovered an “in” to something great. Me, an artist, in my plaid
shirt, blue jeans and Roy Rogers belt.”
From his early chalkboard success, Tom’s interest in art continued to expand. In high
school he twice won top honors as the best pencil artist in the nation in competions
sponsored by National Scholastic magazine in New York City.
Tom received a Fine Arts degree in painting from Western Washington University in
Bellingham. Art dominated his academic life there, but world events gripped his personal
attention too, especially the war in Vietnam. Tom was never drafted, but he did end up
going to Southeast Asia, working as a stringer photographer.
Following that were a number of jobs, including skippering a commercial fishing boat
and working in lumber mills. “I learned what I was bad at,” he says with a smile, and
without a shred of regret.
In 1984 he was invited to come to Spokane and start an ad agency, and so with wife, Robin, and family in tow, they moved. Among numerous awards garnered in a career of print and TV were Golden Medallions, Addys by the handful and Emmy nominations. Two of Tom’s work are on permanent display in the National Library of Congress. After 25 years in advertising, with travels in 35 countries and 50 states under his belt, Tom’s interest in landscapes returned. Spokane and the Northwest are now centerpiece of some of his most acclaimed work.
“I love this place,” he says. “It has the perfect balance of city and country. You round the bend and there’s another spectacular landscape- the Palouse, the Columbia Gorge, the stratovolcanoes. Turn off a dusty road in the middle of nowhere and discover a forest of Russian Yew trees filled with bluebirds- amazing!”
“Art, to me, is a God-given gift,” Tom says. “I believe everyone has a gift and for me,
drawing just happens to be mine. It takes time to polish that talent, but, I believe initially
talent is a gift on loan.”