About the Artist

ARTIST STATEMENT

My perspective.

The inspiration for my paintings comes from my lifelong attachment to the sea. Dating back to my earliest days, I can vividly recall taking in the vast ocean experience: the sustained roar of breaking surf, the feel of shifting sand beneath my disappearing feet, and the scintillating light amidst churning waters.

I paint from such memories, almost in hopes of soothing a feeling that approaches homesickness.

The fact that oceans have remained in perpetual motion with the ebb and flow of tides for several billion years is as comforting to me as the deep sustaining chords in an orchestral piece of music. The rhythm of distant ocean swells might provide the perfect backdrop for the melodic flight of sea birds in search of a meal. I try to bring this emotional energy into my paintings in hopes of stirring ocean memories of others viewing my artwork.

Using transparent, opaque, and sometimes metallic watercolor pigments in a spontaneous and flowing manner, I find that the medium steers me as much as I steer it. It is nonstop decision making, more reacting than thinking. When this initial effort is thoroughly dry, I typically apply wax and various other archival media in thinly fused layers to create textures rich with “noise.” More representational details are sometimes added later to give the work a greater sense of scale or to make a fairly abstract painting more accessible.

My intent is to create paintings that convey my reverence and awe for the natural world and to express our own fleeting presence and fragile nature on this wondrous planet. Much of my artwork is created in celebration of the diverse beauty existing in our oceans. But, as my appreciation of the timeless mysteries of the sea grows, so does my concern for the health and survival of its diverse forms of life. Virtually all of these species emerged and established their ocean presence long before we arrived on this planet. And today, cumulative impacts of mankind’s exploitive, global activities increasingly take a tragic toll on timeless ocean systems and habitats essential for sustaining life. It is this awareness that most informs my creative process.

ARTIST BIO

Growing up in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, I was fortunate to spend many summers at the family cottage at the edge of Barnegat Bay on Long Beach Island, NJ. Total immersion into fishing, crabbing, sailing, snorkeling and bodysurfing filled my senses and imprinted my mind with salty experiences. These opportunities greatly shaped my life and today inspire much of my artwork. Maintaining two salt water aquariums was my year-round connection to the marine world. For hours at a time I would nurture and observe these fascinating worlds. Annual family boating trips to New England and obtaining my scuba diving certification further ensured my lifelong connection to life in the sea.

These experiences led me to a B.S. degree in biology and then a summer marine science program at the Isle of Shoals located off the coast of Maine and New Hampshire. Then, after just a year of graduate study in oceanography at the University of RI, I left academic endeavors to fish full-time on various Point Judith, RI, commercial fishing boats. Five years working at the edge of the continental shelf offered a lifestyle of extremes through four distinct seasons. Ever-changing weather and a full range of emotions and sea conditions contributed to my growing knowledge of the sea.

Stepping off of the fishing boats for the last time in 1983 to attend a Spring semester at the Maine Photographic Workshops in Rockport, Maine, propelled me into a twenty-year career in commercial photography. Working as their summer studio intern for master classes provided invaluable networking opportunities and advice from hundreds of working commercial photographers. This led to nonstop travel around the country assisting New York-based photographer, Tobey Sanford on editorial and corporate assignments. A year later my wife and I moved to the unspoiled beauty of the Bagaduce River in Penobscot, Maine where we still live today. This served as my base of operations for editorial and corporate assignments. Eventually, when my son was born and I no longer yearned to travel, my focus shifted to self-assigned, locally produced stock photography which was marketed by the The Stock Market, a New York based stock photo agency. That was my pipeline to the world market so I could work close to home and be with my wife, Trina and son, Dylan.

After twenty years immersed in photography, I applied for and was accepted into a six-week artist-in-residence program at the Robert M. McNamara Foundation in the winter of 2003, where I explored seascape painting for the first time. During that gift of time, experimental watercolor techniques shaped my preference to create paintings rich with texture and the free flow of water. Even more so today, I constantly experiment with a growing array of archival media and processes to expand my artistic expression.

When I’m not in my Maine studio experimenting, I can be found fishing in RI, sea kayaking, or traveling with Trina to some salty destination.

-Tom Stewart