January 18th, 2021
When I decided to revisit one of my previous paintings called, “Heart of Stone”, I had no idea that it would ultimately sell in less than an hour at my closing solo show at Good Weather Gallery in Edwardsville, Illinois.
But that’s exactly what happened and I’m still a little stunned to see it go.
My original “Heart of Stone” painting was done back in the early 90s. At the time, I was doing a combination of airbrush and acrylic which always gave a nice contrast between the two. I had become a fan of Mark Kostabi, a New York artist who painted mannequin like looking figures. So I decided to emulate his approach, creating about 60 or so mannequin like figures all walking toward a giant heart of stone set on a pedestal out in the middle of a desert, set against a purple sky.
The description is probably a lot better than the actual execution.
Having just finished the simplified painting of “An Apple A Day”, I was wondering what to do next and the ‘Heart of Stone’ visual popped back into my consciousness. I went down to my storage area for my paintings and took a hard look at what I had done years ago.
I immediately knew I could do better – but also knew I had to change the venue. I couldn’t do another giant heart of stone in a desert setting. So instead, I decided to put it on its own little island, rising out of a churning sea against a tumultuous sky.
I sketched it out and liked what I had done so I set to work. Initially, there was going to be a couple standing on the rock formation at the bottom left of the painting. In my mind, having a couple staring at the giant heart gave more meaning to the ‘heart of stone’ expression.
I first created the sky, choosing an orangish-brownish palette. Why, I’m really not sure. Next, I started in on the churning sea, creating waves that were crashing all around the island. The couple staring out at the giant heart of stone seemed to approve so I moved on to the rocks at the base of the island.
Painting the actual heart of stone took quite a few sessions. At first, the stone was more the color of the rock base below. But I quickly discovered that color palette wouldn’t work as the stone was blending in to the sky instead of standing out. I shifted to more of a greyish-blue, doing my best to make the stone look a bit ragged as if it had been worn by the elements.
Next came the rock base at the left edge of the painting, followed by adding the couple. Once all the elements were in place, I asked for a few family comments. My wife, Chris, immediately said, “Get rid of the people.”
She said they did nothing for the painting. I always show work in progress on Instagram so I did a little poll and the results were mixed. Some said keep them, others said get rid of them. My deciding factor was when I looked at a few Magritte paintings where he had giant images floating in the sky. No people were present.
So the people were removed and I went in and did a lot of fine tuning to the water, rocks, sky and more touch ups on the stone itself. I completed the painting on a Wednesday, liking it so much that I hung it in our house.
Saturday was my closing show at Good Weather Gallery and I had decided to bring the four paintings I had done since the show opened back in late November to replace some of the sold work.
So that’s what we did and when the show began at 6 pm, Chris told me, “I bet ‘Heart of Stone Revisited’ sells tonight.
She was right. Turns out, the couple that had bought “Ascension” came in to pick up their painting and when they saw this new one, had to have it.
So away it went. Twelve paintings sold from one show was a record for the gallery and for me as well. I now have my first sale for 2021 and the question becomes, “What will you do for an encore?”
That remains to be seen!
As an aside, I’m happy to have eight of my paintings featured in an upcoming group show via B Extraordinaire that will be on display at both locations of the Missouri Athletic Club, February 2-March 31. More on that show will come later.
December 12th, 2020
November 21st was a rainy night during this COVID-19 restricted year that has devastated lives, our economy and the way we live. It was also the Opening Night of my solo show at Good Weather Gallery in Edwardsville, Illinois.
Going into it, I didn't have too many expectations. I knew attendance was going to be down and that was a good thing - we didn't want more than 10 people in the gallery at a time to begin with.
Tom Jr. was going to provide the musical entertainment - which is always entertaining. I had bought a bunch of straws so people could sip their beverages without having to remove their masks.
I'm so grateful to Brooke Piepert, who is the owner and curator of Good Weather Gallery. She took a flying leap of faith in giving me a show - something that other gallery owners that I've approached here in the St. Louis metro area have been reluctant to do.
I'm beginning to think her leap of faith has paid off. At about the half-way point of this show, we have sold ten paintings.
The images you see in the two pics above are the ones that were bought. There are 32 of my paintings on display, so roughly 1/3 of the show has been spoken for. On top of that, multiple prints have been sold - both high gloss and a little more expensive semi-gloss printed on metal.
It's a great feeling. It's a weird feeling. Each painting I create takes several weeks from the initial concept to the time I sign my name on the canvas. You become attached to it. You think about how you could make it better. And then you reach a point where you deem it done.
The majority of my paintings reside in our house. Most of them are in storage, out of sight of even myself. I create the art. Then I share what I've done via social media and after that, it goes into hibernation.
So the chance to have a solo show at an art gallery where my work can actually be seen - and seen as a complete body of work - is an awesome feeling. I love creating surrealistic paintings and I must admit, it's a very surreal feeling to be surrounded by my work.
And it's an even better feeling to know that people really do like the work that I've been doing. I have now sold 16 paintings in 2020, more than any year previously. It inspires me to want to paint more - to use my God-given gifts of creativity and see where it takes me.
I'm not sure what else, if anything, will sell during the course of the show. There are several hanging there now that I will be almost sad if they do sell because I like them so much. Whether they do or not, my actions moving forward will remain the same - paint more and try and get better at what I do.
September 15th, 2020
I enjoy sharing insights as to why I paint what I paint. The painting shown here is called, "Seeing Double" - for rather obvious reasons. My objective was to try and have the moons be close to identical and though they are close, they're certainly not exact.
So what led me to create this painting? Recently, I seem to get some visual idea stuck in my head. So I feel somewhat obligated to pursue it. In this particular instance, I kept thinking of two moons in the night sky.
Why? Perhaps in this upside down world of ours where everything seems to be a little out of whack, two moons make perfect sense.
Regardless, I knew I had to do a painting featuring two moons. So then I tried to think of different scenarios. One was going to be an apartment building roof with a large structure in the middle - maybe the rooftop exit. On either side, I was going to have two individuals staring off at the night sky, each looking at a respective moon. In another sketch, I had a couple sitting out under the night sky, each pointing to a different moon.
Ultimately, I decided on a fairly innocuous couple standing at the edge of a suburban style neighborhood lit up at night. (I decided to give the man a bowler hat just for the fun of it.)
In this version, it's like they're on the crest of a hill, looking out on suburbia and the two moons in the sky. The couple form a sort of triangulation with the two moons and I like the balance of that. It makes it all appear somewhat normal - even though two moons in a night sky are far from normal.
That's kind of how I feel about things these days. There is the semblance of normalcy - yet nothing is quite right, no matter how you look at it. Still, it's a beautiful world and we are blessed to be living in it. If your faith is strong, hopefully, that's as easy to see as two moons in the night sky.
July 27th, 2020
I used to love swinging when I was younger.
Perhaps I should re-phrase that. I used to love being on a swing when I was a kid. I can still remember the swings at Spring Park. They weren't rope swings like the one shown in this painting. Rather, they had metal rungs and a black, leather seat. But they were attached to about a 14-foot base and the key was to lean back with each swing forward that would bring you ever higher.
That's about as deep as this painting gets.
I've been so tired of the seemingly never-ending bad news regarding the coronavirus. The on-going protests in various cities that seem to be getting more and more out of control aren't adding any cheeriness to things, either.
So with my paintings, I have decided to ignore reality and with this particular one, I simply wanted to create something bright, fun and full of joy.
I thought of all the things I used to love to do as a kid and ultimately, decided on the swing set visual. Rather than try and re-create myself, I thought a girl on a rope swing with her hair flying about might be more fun.
I also decided that I didn't want the rope swing to have any real context. I didn't want it to have any frame of reference. It's just her and the rope swing, set against a bright, blue sky with big, puffy clouds.
Granted, her hair does look a little like a Smurfs might look. But ultimately, I'm happy with it.
In fact, I'm pretty darn happy with the entire painting. No, it may not be my best work. But it's a startling visual. And every time I look at it, it brings a bit of a smile to my face.
It's a shame that so few people ever actually see my paintings in real life. Viewing them on your phone or your tablet or computer screen is nice but it simply doesn't have the impact of seeing it in its actual size.
This one is really vibrant with color. Someday, I hope to have a show again. This is my 13th painting that I've done this year. I'm having fun and slowly, I think I'm getting better.
Like the girl on the swing, my objective is to continue to go "Higher".
July 15th, 2020
Take one look at my newest painting and the first thing you might wonder is, "What's a red high heeled shoe doing on a beach?"
That's exactly what I want you to think and beyond that, it really doesn't go that much deeper. With most of my recent paintings, I've somehow been relating them to the ongoing pandemic.
I decided that I needed to break free from that and pursue something - anything - that had no ties whatsoever to the coronavirus. I wanted something that was COVID-free.
Whenever I'm looking for new ideas for my paintings I peruse all kinds of visuals, seeing if there is anything that sticks. For some reason, a shot of a fashion model in red high heels grabbed my attention.
I often wonder how women can even walk while wearing heels that have a 5-or-6-inch lift to them. That is a feat (pardon the pun) that I'm sure would send me tumbling forward. From there, I thought about some unlikely places to wear these shoes and a beach immediately came to mind.
So I decided to try and do a low level view of the shoe in the foreground with ocean waves and a fairly nebulous sky in the background. I intentionally tried to keep the sand, water and sky all somewhat blurry so that your attention goes directly to the shoe.
And why just one shoe?
That's part of the story appeal. If I had put both shoes in the painting, there wouldn't be as much speculation. One might assume that the wearer kicked them both off and was heading for the water.
But by painting just the single shoe perched atop the sand, it creates a few questions or possible story lines that the viewer is free to develop their own scenario on why they're looking at a red high heeled shoe on a beach.
And that's as deep as this painting gets.
July 2nd, 2020
With all that's been going on in the world, I wish I could be as hopeful as the title of my newest painting.
Yes, it's called "Brave New World" which happens to be the same title of the book written by Aldous Huxley back in 1931 that told the story of a dystopian society whose citizens were environmentally engineered into an intelligence-based social hierarchy.
I can't say that the book was the driving force behind this painting. I'm not even sure if I've ever even read it! But I did know the basic plot structure and the combination of our ongoing pandemic and all the recent social unrest got me to wondering, "How would a child view today's world?"
That simple thought led me to the visual for this painting - a young boy in pajamas, looking out his bedroom window at the world which is hovering above the clouds.
It makes no sense. But to me, it makes perfect sense. Because if we could all do a better job of viewing the world through the eyes of a child (one of my favorite Moody Blues songs), we might all see what a beautiful, wonderful world that we all live in.
There's a certain innocence to this painting and to me, a magical quality to it as well. The curtains, the sky and the boy's pajamas were all painted rather loosely but at the same time are very well defined. The back of the boy's head might be my best rendition yet involving hair with a few curly locks and some light highlights adding to his overall look.
A few people have asked if I intended the wooden slits (also called muntin) to symbolize a cross. No, that wasn't the intent. But if that's what one sees, I can't really object.
Technique-wise, I think this is one of my best paintings yet. And conceptually? I can only wish that the magic and wonder of seeing the world from the eyes of a child fits the title a lot better than the Brave New World that Aldous envisioned.
May 28th, 2020
This pandemic has definitely influenced the subject matter of my most recent paintings.
Though it may not be readily apparent, that is definitely the case with my latest effort which seemed to evolve the more I got into it.
I never really know what sparks an idea with me that ultimately leads to a painting. I do know that I'm always looking to create the impossible, or at least, the highly improbable.
So with the coronavirus lurking in my subconscious, I was trying to think of reassuring images that at the same time, could be somewhat threatening.
In one of my earlier paintings, I had a young boy pulling a wagon occupied by his teddy bear.
I didn't have a teddy bear as a kid but I must have some fascination with them as I decided this time I'd have a young girl and her teddy bear out for a walk. My initial sketch had the two walking virtually identical to what you see pictured here - both with their opposite foot up, hand in paw, looking forward.
In that first sketch, they were walking on a path that led into a dark and mysterious woods. The name of the painting was going to be "An Uncertain Future".
I began to sketch out the trees along the path. But as I did, I decided to shift the scenario and get rid of the dark and foreboding aspect. We have enough of that already.
Instead, I created a kind of nebulous sky where the trees almost disappear in the distance. Rather than have the trees be leaf-filled which would block out the light, I opted for bare trees with just a few leaves still hanging on. This created a far less sinister walk in the park - which I further enhanced by pumping up the color in both the girl's dress as well as the brightness of the teddy bear.
Still, I couldn't decide what to call the painting which is a rarity for me. When I was just about finished, I posted the image on Instagram and called it, "Take My Paw". Obviously, that didn't feel quite right. When looking at the finished product a bit more, it hit me - that's the girl's BFF - Best Friend Forever.
Thus, the painting finally had what I consider to be a proper name, "My BFF". I think it's a very positive painting. The two are confidently heading down the path of life, not quite sure what's around the next corner. But there's a certain confidence exhibited that whatever it may be, everything is going to be okay. That's what I hope for all of us.
May 20th, 2020
"The Crossing" is quite unlike just about any painting I've ever done before.
Start with the fact that it has a brown sky. A brown sky? Well, there are hints of white, yellow and red in it so it's not all brown. Still, brown skies are not in my normal color palette.
The land and sea below aren't exactly popping with color, either. There are hints of green trees in the land far below the two precipices but they come out as more dark brown than green. All in all, it's not the cheeriest of settings.
So what's the deal with the people who are literally walking on air?
Those who know my painting style know that I love to paint the impossible, or at least the highly improbable. People crossing from one side of a precipice to the other while walking on air certainly qualifies.
I think subconsciously this whole pandemic has messed with my head (I'm certainly not alone in that regard). This is now the third painting I've done (the third just made its debut a few hours ago) that is somehow connected with the Coronavirus.
My "Social Distancing" painting was a little easier to see the connection. But with this one, the implied meaning is much more subtle.
The painting depicts a range of people - young and old, slightly obese, one even in a wheelchair crossing from one side of a precipice to another. It's kind of my way of saying that you just have to put yourself out there. Take a flying leap of faith that you will get through this.
We're all on our own journey through life. You rarely know what awaits you. But if you have a little faith, you can get to the other side.
Now, how you define what 'the other side' is, is entirely up to you.
May 12th, 2020
The painting you see featured here, which is called, "Salt & Pepper" does not fit my normal surrealistic approach to painting. Of course, if you wander through my http://tom-blood.pixels.com website, you'll see that I like to experiment beyond just doing surrealistic paintings.
Call it my 'artists prerogative'.
This is the fourth in a series of paintings that feature word plays, tied together by an ampersand. First there was "Rock & Roll". Then came "Fish & Chips", followed by "Jack & Coke". Now, I present, "Salt & Pepper".
These paintings are bold in their color palette. The images pop off of the solid background colors. To me, this fits the definition of pop art - not just because the visuals pop but also the play on words are in the popular mainstream.
The visuals aren't always as easy to paint as they might look. There are seven different colors in the red pepper and that's not counting the green stem which has five different colors in it. Trying to emulate the typography on the Morton salt canister was a challenge and though it's not perfect, neither am I! BTW - I used the old time rendition of the Morton Salt canister which featured a much larger version of the girl with the umbrella. The version that is sold today has a much smaller version of the girl and some of the detail has been eliminated.
These paintings are fun to create and offer a bit of a break from my normal surrealistic endeavors. They are fun, playful and when you have all of the paintings lined up in a group, they make for extremely striking imagery.
When I painted "Rock & Roll", it sold about two months after I had created it. I liked that concept so much that I created another version of "Rock & Roll" using a different rock and a different roll.
So now there are four of these and yes, there will probably be more.
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April 24th, 2020
With this on-going pandemic continuing to bring us all down, I wanted to paint something that was totally uplifting. That was my goal as I began to ponder ideas.
For some reason, I zeroed in on a ballerina. I've always been fascinated by their amazing grace and power as it takes great athletic ability to do the many moves they make.
I knew I wanted to paint the ballerina out in the open, set against a blue sky. It was then that I decided to put her in a field of sunflowers and she would be holding two of them in her hands in mid-leap form.
So that was my initial sketch that I worked up.
I spent quite a while on scaling up my small sketch onto the canvas, paying special attention to the ballerina. Since she was the focal point of the painting, I knew I had to get her features correct.
Generally, I don't paint too many faces. I have a tendency to overwork the image until it becomes a muddled mess.
The painting began with the sky. I went from a straight blue sky to working in the cloud formations that you see. Initially, I thought I had overdone the largest cloud and that it would take away from the grace of the ballerina. But I decided to let it be and move on to the flowers. Even now, I can see the shape of a praying mantis in that cloud formation. But that's how clouds are supposed to be - where you can see objects or things that aren't really there.
The sunflowers were more of a challenge than I anticipated. They needed to be defined in the foreground and nebulous in the background. Initially, the backdrop was flat but I thought adding distant hills on the horizon helped to define everything a bit more.
When I began painting the ballerina, her dress was more bluish which I quickly decided didn't work. So I went with more of a plum color and tried to maintain the shape of her legs underneath the dress. I actually painted her face first before I moved on to the dress. I used a very fine tipped paint brush to highlight her features.
Though this painting may not fit my normal surrealistic approach, there is still a hint of surrealism as she's probably about 15 feet in the air meaning she either has enormous power or I'm simply using her as a metaphor for all of us to rise above.
I'm hoping that in the coming weeks, we may all be able to leap into spring. There is beauty everywhere. And it is meant to be enjoyed.
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