A Visit To An Artist’s Studio

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The artist, Tom Leedy, in front of his painting “Horses Aqua”

Earlier this week I got a call from a friend. Fran I’m calling to invite you over to see my artist studio. I was thrilled to receive his invitation!

Here are a few excerpts from my interview with Tom—

Tom:  There were two things I knew when I was growing up: one, I was going to marry and have a family, and two, I loved Art! . . . the most amazing achievement and expression of what humans can do! To me there is nothing better than making a good piece of art! I built this space two years ago and I am thrilled with the studio!

Tom has his bachelors in fine art and was a professional artist for many years. He concentrated on stained glass because it was big in the 70s.

Having four children is a lot of mouths to feed so Tom went into the computer industry. He thoroughly enjoyed his work in the corporate world traveling to Japan among other countries.

Tom is a well-rounded individual with many passions; sports, all sports, but running daily and playing tennis two to three times a week, reading, traveling to Hawaii and excursions to see his grandchildren just to name a few.

Fran: Tom, I see a photo of your dad. Did your father’s love of art influence you to be an artist growing up?

Tom: I suppose it did subliminally. I remember looking at a portrait my father did of my brother Dave and I thought, I’m going to do that when I grow up.  I was interested in all the things boys are interested in growing up: sports, rockets, cars, but I knew that art was my thing!

Tom has been painting throughout his life but when he retired he started a routine of painting every afternoon.

I will never forget the date I retired, May 31 2013, etched in my memory forever as a very Happy Day!

I couldn’t wait for the time in my life when I could be doing art every day. I realized one day talking with Martha that we could survive without a corporate salary. Then I did it. Kids were raised, out of school and on their feet. I was then free to go back to my first love and passion. I felt liberation, freedom to return to that! I feel like a kid in harmony with the world.  I am grateful.

Now my days are my own –I take a run either up here in the hills or down on the beach. I think about painting and inevitably images come to mind that I want to capture on canvas. Then I come home, have my lunch and head out to the studio in the garden.

The creative process —If you could only do one thing to leave a piece of art, that is great, that would be Success! Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great to be a businessman and build corporations -–awesome achievements in the business world, but great art. . . !

The struggle–I am maybe too much of a perfectionist to look at one of my pieces and say WOW, that’s it! The danger is that you are so examining of yourself that you overwork it! Not to leave it soon enough, know when to stop.

Tom has this quote on his wall from author John McPhee:

People often ask how I know when I’m done – not just when I’ve come to the end, but in all the drafts and revisions and substitutions of one word for another how do I know there is no more to do?  When am I done?  I just know.  I’m lucky that way.  What I know is that I can’t do any better; someone else might do better, but that’s all I can do; so I call it done.

 Tom: I love that one by McPhee.  Especially the part about knowing that he can’t do any better even though someone else might; I find that very liberating, very helpful in accepting one’s own work. I try to remember that!

Lately Tom has also started sculpting again. He is trying something new, carving in granite.

Fran: It seems to me Tom, that you are not afraid to start new things, to jump in with both feet and start something new.

Tom: It’s not scary for me to start a new process because I’ve never done it before. I am not afraid because it’s just for fun and to learn something new. I have confidence that I can draw and make forms and shapes! Can I do it again for a painting, to me, is the struggle because painting for me is the foremost form of art. I am a painter before a sculptor, a drawer before a painter, less scary to mess with sculpting. Like almost easier to excel when your expectations are lower, not so high.

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“The Wave” in Granite

Tom: I carved a wave in stone – I find this amusing, cracks me up. Stone has seams and stuff like that.  The process of working in stone is almost delicate in a way, even though it is granite! When you start to do something new you know how amazing it is and the amazement for the people who do that kind of art goes up! Blows me away!

Fran:  Who are your mentors?

Tom: The guys who could refer to the real world not just the mind. I respond to it. Nobody touches Matisse in color, line and expression.  Vermeer is a sheer marvel and Goya to name a few.

Tom’s studio is large, organized and light filled. He has photographs of people and relatives whose beauty or differences inspire him to paint. He has several pictures of his beautiful wife and his daughter. Look, wasn’t she a beautiful woman?! Tom exclaimed as we looked at a photo of his deceased mother-in-law.

Pressfield says it well:

Steven Pressfield, author – If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist? chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.

Tom: What I like about Pressfield’s statements is that they reflect the almost compulsive love artists must have for their work – something they can’t not do, regardless of how hard or scary it gets for them.

Tom: I am free again, back in my own skin and I am in the journey, I am starting the run. I think people who can do it well are amazing!

I came away from the morning with Tom totally inspired to get back into my own studio! As I left I couldn’t help but notice this inspiring quote on his studio door:

Art is not a thing. . .it is a way~! Elbert Hubbard

Bye for Now,


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The artist in his studio

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