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The Art of Tom Shepherd- part two

As promised…here is part two of my interview.

The Red Door by Tom Shepherd

Which artists have influenced you and your work and why?

To compare our work now you might not think it but my first great influence was the artist I mentioned earlier, Drew Brophy.  Not only was it his use of the paint pens, his style of artwork and his approach of being able to paint on pretty much anything that was so influential (canvases to guitars and much more); but it was also the general encouragement that both him and his wife would give on their websites and blogs to anyone wanting to pursue a career as an artist that was hugely influential in giving me the confidence to decide that this was the path I wanted to take, and that it was possible.

The Other Half by Tom Shepherd

So although I have never met them and only spoken to them briefly via email it’s their openness with their advice and own experiences, good and bad, that were a huge inspiration to me in the earlier days, and still are now!!

It was also through Drew’s work that I discovered some of my other favorite artists of the skate/surf art and music poster art genres.  Artists like Rick Griffin and Jim Phillips to name a couple.  My work has moved in its own direction now but these people remain personal heroes, not only for their artwork, but also for their approaches to life and the different ways in which they have chosen to carve out their own paths as artists.

Fire Fruit by Tom Shepherd

My mentor Trevor Waugh has of course been a huge influence to me and my work.  His work still stands out above most others to me and his guidance and teaching, when I really needed it, created a major turning point for me and my painting.  As I mentioned earlier it allowed me to take it in a direction it really needed to go and gave me the confidence to get out there, get on with it and get the ball rolling.  It’s now up to me to keep that up and see where it takes me, which is exciting!!

The Holy Three by Tom Shepherd

I get constantly inspired by seeing what other artists are up to, whether it’s online or in galleries. Although it is a bit of a balance between getting inspired but trying not to let it alter my own work too heavily.  I was always taught to go back to source when studying other artists work.  For example rather than try to emulate a current (or past) artists ‘style’ etc.  I was taught to go back and look at their influences and beyond, and look at what they were trying to achieve and why.  Basically taking a good look, whatever it is, that gets you going about someone else’s work and try to trace it back to its rawest form, then move forwards from there and make it your own.  I would say this helps me to move forwards whilst still allowing me to learn from past and current masters.

Country Light by Tom Shepherd

I’ve found that very rarely is the answer in any particular material, a fancy method or a certain bit of equipment but it’s more to do with a certain mindset like ‘keeping it simple’ or ‘eliminating unnecessary detail’;  or a basic principle and  main focus such as ‘capturing the light’.   Other times it might be more method based.  For example when working with oils, starting off with a loose thin under painting and moving towards thicker chunkier paint at the end in selected areas;  just as they did right back to the Renaissance and further.

Vegetables from Ecuador by Tom Shepherd

What’s so interesting is that you can take these findings, interpret them as you will and instantly apply them to your own work in whatever way you choose, then seeing where it takes you.  Looking back is always a great springboard for jumping forwards and kick starting new ideas.

Many of the artists I was taught about and have studied have been a big influence too, and I will always turn to for a boost of inspiration.  Artists such as William Turner, Joaquin Sorolla, Velasquez, John Singer Sargent, Arthur Streeton, to name just a few, have all become very important to me and they stick with me whatever I get up to.  As with the other artists mentioned above it is not just their paintings that inspire, but also reading about their lives, why they did what they did and how they made it work.

The Green Lady by Tom Shepherd

Lastly, for me, inspiration has always come not just from painters but many other areas of life too; whether it’s a quote from a film maker or actor, or reading about the life of a musician or listening to music and somehow relating a certain musical idea to painting.  It all crosses over and gets mixed up in one big melting pot of inspiration and ideas, gets filtered through and comes out on the canvas at the other end.

Your technique with painting was great to watch! Could you explain a little about how you create your pieces? I remember that you also take photographs too.

Moroccan Oranges by Tom Shepherd

I like to start with a very rough under painting that’s done quickly, the main aim being to get the general composition working and to find my way into the painting.  This first step, whilst very loose and changeable, is very important for me as it’s about capturing the overall feeling of the scene or subject in big broad brushstrokes. I really like this under painting to be full of movement and energy.  The challenge, quite often, is in trying not to lose this initial burst of energy as you move the painting to a finish.

Mountain Gold by Tom Shepherd

I was always taught to regularly step back and think about the marks I’m making and NOT to get caught up ‘fiddling about’ in one place too long.  So I just keep working the whole painting, with the overall impression being the most important thing.  In this way the painting slowly emerges. If there’s a problem area that needs resolving but it won’t quite happen yet, I move elsewhere and go back to it a few minutes later.

Working in this way feels very creative and freeing.  It feels like I’m just letting the painting evolve naturally, not trying to force it to a finish to early.  Then at some point it suddenly all starts to come together and before I know it those finishing brushstrokes are going on.  It is an exciting process as most of the time I do not have a fixed idea of how a painting will end up.  Even I if I do, I try to remain completely open to the fact that it may well become something entirely different.  For me this approach gives plenty of room for experimentation and also gives me freedom to make mistakes which seem to be when the most significant breakthroughs happen.

Highland River by Tom Shepherd

I take a lot of photographs as I work from these for most of my paintings. I quite often have a few reference photos for one painting as there are usually little bits from each one that I like,  if needed I will pad out my own reference with images from books and online sources too.

Rather than copy, the photographs simply serve as a starting point to the painting, after a while the photos are dropped and the painting takes on a life of its own.  I may go back to the reference photos to help workout a particular area or if there’s something I definitely want to include in some way.

Open Studios is a great chance for artists to showcase their work, such as the event at Coughton Court. Do you enjoy letting people see you working first hand and allowing visitors access to something so personal?

Three Kings by Tom Shepherd

The Open Studios Event is a great opportunity to show work, finished and in progress, and to talk to people about it.  A great chance to give them a glimpse into our little worlds.

It’s only been within the last couple of months that I’ve been painting in front of people at all.  At first it was a little strange and a bit nerve wracking but now I really enjoy it.  The idea of your work being judged before it’s ‘finished’ was a funny one, especially when as you said it’s something so personal. I got over that really quickly as people are generally very interested in what I’m doing, and also very respectful, even those that don’t necessarily like or relate to it.

The Herder by Tom Shepherd

I enjoy chatting to people about what I’m doing and about painting and art in general.  I’ve just started renting a space in a new gallery/studio in Leamington Spa.  There are five of us and growing, with artists in residence painting every weekday.  The public and the other artists are around all the time so I’m currently spending most of my time painting in front of someone else.  Again it’s great to meet people on a daily basis and, as many others have commented, it’s a nice change from being tucked away by yourself day after day.

After being immersed in painting for so long I tended to forget that a lot of people who do not paint have no idea what goes into a painting or how it’s done.  Many people will have never seen a work in progress.  I know for a longtime that was the case for me, just seeing the end result hung on a wall somewhere.  There’s so much more to it than that but at the same time it isn’t some great mystery, so it’s great to show people that, and for them to be able to see it and ask about it.  Bridging this imaginary gap is really exciting for everyone involved and I think that’s a big part of what the Open Studios and the Artist Residence Gallery is about.

Curiosity by Tom Shepherd

The other side of it is chatting to other artists whether beginners or more experienced.  So many people have been generous with their knowledge and advice that it’s great to be able to pass that forward and share whatever useful knowledge or insight I can with others.

Where do you see yourself in the future? What new projects lie ahead on the horizon?

Getting stuck in at the Arts Trail Gallery is proving to be very fun as it’s a really great place to work.  So this will be a big part of what I’m doing for the foreseeable future.

Up High by Tom Shepherd

I’ve got a few different series of paintings that I’ve only just begun to explore, so I am going to try and focus on those for a while.  There are no major projects in the pipeline although I am always looking for new ones and it’s amazing what can suddenly pop up out of nowhere.

It’s always good to be working towards a show or exhibition too.  The Open Studios being one and there are various exhibitions throughout the year with local Art Groups and societies.  I also want to put on an exhibition towards the end of year, but that’s very much in the early stages as I haven’t decided how, what or when yet!

Summer Field by Tom Shepherd

I would also like to do some more travelling very soon, and painting and travelling go hand in hand brilliantly.  It’s always inspiring to see new places and see different cultures so I want to make that a big part of things now and in the future.

I hope that I can continue to make a living for myself as an artist. So far it has been a very interesting and exciting path and I’m sure it will continue to be so.


Wow, a big thank you to Tom for answering all my questions, I’ve really enjoyed discovering this amazing work. There is so much talent out there, and it’s great to be able to find out more about an artist and their work.

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