Saturday, December 17, 2016

Tom Sawyer, Visual Artist, Tells His Story

Every Sawyer family must have a Tom Sawyer! I have gleaned so very much from that name: Tom-foolery, Tom Terrific, Tom Tom the Piper’s Son, Doubting Thomas, Tom Slick, Uncle Tom, Tomcat, Tomboy  … And I paint much more than fences!

My earliest memories are of colors, light, lines, textures, and shapes. While my siblings watched cartoons for their comedy and story-line, I watched for the vibrancy of the palette and interaction of drawing and form. Being born into a family of artsy types—my father taught Graphic Arts and owned and managed print shops, he and his father both dabbled in drawing, my uncle designed and built totem poles, my sister spent hours perfecting drawing the face—my bent was noticed and my parents provided special projects to involve my fascination for art. I also have intense interests in electronics, chrome, and glass.  In third grade, my teacher singled me out and made me the art director of a major class project. I began private lessons beyond school about age 11. My dad once asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up; I responded, “I’d like to be an artist, but you only get paid to do work you don’t like to do.” After laughter, I knew I had his support, but really he wished I’d have something else to fall back on—maybe my perception wasn’t so far off!

College would have been even greater if I was allowed to take only the art classes at the University of Georgia. Eventually I set out for art school, never dreaming I would be completely transformed into a whole new artist. I enrolled at Ringling School of Art and Design in 1983 with the dream to be the best realist artist I could be, a serious contender in the field of Photorealism through a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. During my first year, my detailed pencil drawings defined my signature style.  In response to the strength of my realism drawings I often encountered the question, “Why the need for art school?” My quick reply was always, “Pencil drawing isn’t the best medium to compete with other Realists. I need to paint. So my single purpose in coming to art school is to better my skills as an oil painter." I had targeted my needs and thus created a solid plan focused for success as a Realist painter. 

Bob Dylan, pencil and paper

My professors supported my passion for Realism art, but felt it necessary for me to study other artists and art movements opposite my style. After a year and a half of assignments and many reluctant studies of ‘crazy abstract painters’—artists well outside my pursuit and scope of Realism art—the overload of these undesirable assignments and pressure deadlines ultimately gave birth overnight to a rebel artist…a new artist named m o t.

Andy, Angry -- Acrylic on Canvas

Just as my pseudonym is the backward spelling of my name, m o t  creations were also the polar opposite of my realistic, aesthetic, and artistic aspirations. The m o t  style is wildly filled with energy, flair, and symbolism. Coping with a sudden duality was difficult.  At first, I treated my new self, m o t, as a satirical clown, a comic relief to the assignment stress at school. even decided to let m o t  take on my class assignments. I was not only totally unprepared for the about-face change inside of me, but also incredibly surprised by the favorable wave of support m o t  art received. Viewers didn’t see the carefree joke behind m o t  art the same way I did. Their eyes saw some something of value was yet too blind to see.

I credit the talent and inspiration within me as a God-Shaped-Gift given with purpose. The growth of m o t  became seemingly unending and out of control. It took a prayer to God for a choice to be made.  I agreed to feed the m o t  styled art as long as the gift kept flowing. “As soon as the ideas dry up, I’m back to my Realism art,” I would say.  The gift kept on giving. My perception of my new self, m o t, eventually became a strong positive. I saw how m o t  art could reach a new audience by communicating with a subjective voice. … A new tone never before experienced through my realism art.

Godhead -- Logo in Acrylic on River Rock

m o t,  over the years has matured into its own style and entity. My professional backgrounds in Graphic Design (Tom Sawyer Studios) and Photography (signed rey-was-mot) (Dad’s “fall back” plan B) have played a major role in shaping the core of my m o t  style with m o t  being the product hybrid of Fine Art & Graphic Design. Several series have spun from the m o t  signature including the zany, whimsical menagerie of animals called m o t - z o o.

    mot-zoo Virtual Gallery

Many of my m o t  pieces draw from my own processing of tragic or monumental events and the application of my faith to those events: Chernobyl (Chernobyl Bill), the Challenger explosion (John), the Cold War (Angel), the Japanese Tsunami (motzilla), Columbus Day Quincentennial Celebration (Columbus & Isabella), the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting (20 Angels). I have applied the same faculties toward celebrities and personas.

20 Angels

My latest series of designs take on a more abstract than representational portrayal of subject matter, more about colors and patterns than recognizable stories and forms. These can be translated to canvas for gallery exhibits, printed onto textiles for use in the fashion industry, fragmented onto multiple independent pieces for interior design. Color, texture, and scale have the possibility of limitless variations. Art has an interaction with people beyond the drive of the artist to produce pieces. Art is an internationally interpreted voice. I hope what is conveyed though my voice is more than decoration, but the substantive meaning pouring through the art, whether it be the identification of a struggle or crisis or conflict, an adoration of virtues like love or joy, or even a description of God Himself.

Plexigrid, Virtual Gallery

This is Week 49 of 52 Artists in 52 Weeks. Thank you for reading and sharing Tom's story today. To connect with Tom and see more of his work, please visit the following social media links:

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