Originally from Toledo Ohio, Tom Smith has lived in the Milwaukee area since 1981.
His art training consisted of lessons at the Toledo Museum of Art in 3rd through 5th Grades and then in High School. After one class in college in 1977, he essentially stopped painting.
He went on to earn a Master of Music Degree after moving to Wisconsin and became a professional cellist. He plays in the Milwaukee Ballet Orchestra and has been Principal Cellist of the Festival City Symphony since 1985. He also taught 1st Grade for 15 years in Wauwatosa.
In 2012, Tom began oil painting again after he left his teaching career. Three years later he began painting “En Plein Air”, which is painting outdoors, “on site”. He has since participated in many plein air events in Wisconsin, won awards, and was instrumental in planning the League of Milwaukee Artists first “West Bend Plein Air and Paint the Market” competition which was held in August of 2018.
He is a member of many art organizations, including: The League of Milwaukee Artists, The Wauwatosa Artists Workshop, Fine Art Montage, The Rogues Artist Group, WIPAPA (Wisconsin Plein Air Painters Association), and The American Impressionist Society
He has exhibited his oil paintings in many local venues and had several solo shows including at the Wauwatosa, WI Public Library, North Shore Presbyterian Church (Shorewood, WI) Bridgetowne Gallery (Wauwatosa, WI), and Art and Soul Gallery (Milwaukee, WI).
Awards have included:
2015 WAW Fall Show Honorable Mention
2017 LMA Winter Show Honorable Mention
2017 WAW Winter Show Award of Merit
2017 Cedarburg Plein Air Competition 2nd Place Award
2017 LMA Fall Show Honorable Mention
2017 Plymouth, WI “Paint the Towns Plein Air” Honorable Mention
2018 Arbor Place (Menomonie, WI) Plein Air Competition 2nd Place Award
2018 Jerry Goldstein Foundation Artist Merit and Achievement Award
2018 New Berlin (WI) Plein Air Honorable Mention
Fusion.art 2nd Season Quarterly Art Exhibition 4th Place Award
Juried Exhibitions and Plein Air Competitions have included:
“GALEX 52 National Exhibition and Competition”, Galesburg. Ill 2018
“The Modern Landscape” at Redline Gallery, Milwaukee, 2018
Taliesin Plein Air 2018 (Invitational)
“Water Works” 24th Annual Juried Exhibition, Plymouth (WI) Arts Center
In my childhood, there were dreams. I would paint. I would make beauty. Always present though: a shadow. Even my name was hateful to me.
Then, childhood passed. There would be no beauty. There would be other things, though. Wonderful things: love, children, a career. Yet hiding in that shadow would be the art, the beauty.
There was a crash. I was unmoving. I was lost in the darkness. Until slowly, emergent, it finally came: the art.
You see, I have suffered from severe anxiety and depression for much of my adult life. The shadow blocking out the beauty. Then the finding: Asperger’s. Mild but present-and that knowing brought light.
One of my favorite quotes is by writer James Agee: “…and who shall ever tell the sorrow of being on this earth, lying on quilts, on the grass, in a summer evening, among the sounds of the night.”
Life was for a time, for me, full of sorrow. A sorrow I wanted to end; tried to end. Painting brought me out of this darkness. When I was in the hospital, the one book I brought along was about oil painting. When I returned home, I began to paint. Therapy, one could say, but also a renewal of my childhood dreams.
I began to realize that I love “being on this earth” and knowing that I am a part of its wonder. Yet I also know, like James Agee, that time is fleeting, and so I try to capture the beauty of this world in paint.
I hadn’t painted much since I was young, but now I began to see it as a way to a new life. I wanted to be an artist, and so I painted, painted landscapes, painted our Earth.
I found other artists, I joined art groups. I painted.
Being a painter has brought me into the light in so many ways. Sometimes being in it can be hard for me. I still struggle, I don’t know how or what to say. But painting has saved my life. I can look and say here, that’s me. My name is Tom Smith, and I am an artist.