If you ask Tom Gardner what inspires his beautiful oil and watercolor paintings, you’re not going to get a specific answer. He paints whatever strikes him, and he never knows when or where that will be.
“When something stops me in my tracks and I say ‘Whoa,’ that is when I do my best pictures,” he said.
Of course, for an artist who paints predominately landscapes, living in the Finger Lakes region is helpful because of the abundant natural beauty. Tom said that he will be standing in one spot painting and he’ll turn to his left and find another great picture. He continues turning and finds scenes all around him that are worth capturing.
“I could keep spinning all day,” he said.
Forget about a schedule for this artist. He is “driven by inspiration,” so he works in spurts. Some days, he will paint from sunrise to sunset, forgetting to eat. Other days he doesn’t want to even look at a paintbrush.
“Sometimes I’ll erupt like a volcano, painting two or three pictures in one day. Other times it will take me two or three months to finish one.”
For Tom, painting is full of emotions that are translated into his work subconsciously. He tries not to think too hard and just react to what he sees.
Even as a young adult, Tom preferred feeling to thinking. In grade school and high school, art was the only thing he was good at. Tom described himself as shy and introverted; the art room was his sanctuary. Today, he assists students who also find sanctuary in the art room. He teaches painting and drawing at Corning Community College, an experience he has found quite useful. Tom said that as people get more proficient in any profession, they sometimes struggle because they forget the basic techniques that got them to where they are. Teaching refreshes his mind and helps him get back to those basics.
“It’s just as valuable to me as it is to them,” he said.
Tom’s most recent work will be on display at the West End Gallery in Corning from May 5 to June 3. He will be speaking at the gallery on May 13 from 1 to 2 p.m. You can also check out this work online at www.westendgallery.net.