Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Animal Parameters at Valkarie Gallery!
For the third year in a row, I'm excited to be part of a fall show at Valkarie Gallery!

Animal Parameters is coming soon, and my works will join the amazing art of
Please click on their names for links to their sites and more of their art!

Here's a little preview of a few of my works which will be in the show:
For folks who like fantastic creatures, here's a Lava Monster! A few illustrators and I were discussing how to create a stone creature who oozed lava from cracks in its hide, so I tried my hand at this fellow.
I love owning sketches by artists, so I make many of mine available to collectors. And I gotta have a few Cranky Birds in every show.
My animal works are most often images that spring from real animals but end up imaginary creatures.
And dragons are animals, right?
So I hope you will join us for Animal Parameters!
Here are the particulars:

 And be sure to check out Valkarie Gallery's current show Elements and Curiosities, featuring the works of Valerie Savarie and Sharon Eisley!
Also, Innate Tapestries: The Endless Stage--a 96 page book full of my paintings and sketches--will be available for purchase at Animal Parameters. I hope you will grab a copy!

 Thanks for reading, and for supporting us artists!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Origins and Processes
 A Meeting, detail crop. 
Toned paper, plus (in order of use) Verithin colored pencil, Pentel Brushpen, Uni-Ball Signo white pen, Maica Pilot Hi-TEC-C pen, transparent acrylic inks).

Visitors to my studio often ask from where my ideas come. They come from many sources; books I have read or am reading, past and current experiences, conversations with fellow illustrators, and dreams. This one definitely came from a faceless voice--in a otherwise forgotten dream--that exclaimed "We meet ourselves!" Kept hearing that in my head all the next day
 so I started sketching the alligator-like creature, and the rest of the drawing emerged. And yes, I know that the image is weird as all get-out.
Didn't take the time to take many in-process shots, but you can see
 the red Verithin pencil under-drawing here. At that point I put the drawing away.
Had a bunch of acrylic paint that I'd used for a previous painting. Not wanting to waste it, I sketched out a similar image onto a cradled hardboard using charcoal. Refined that using a brush and black acrylic, then painted this version (detail crop).
But the previous drawing kept calling to me, so I returned to it and finished it after a lot of cross-hatching :)
Here are both artworks for comparison. Other than creating pieces based upon a dream-exclamation, I'd wanted to explore the effect of light shining from within. In this case it was coming from within the creature-tail. 
They're each 8" x 10", and will be among many works for of a three-person show at Valkarie Gallery this October! More about that soon.
Thanks for reading!

Monday, August 21, 2017

Alice on Stage
Detail crop from the painting, Alice on Stage.
Alice Liddell was Lewis Carroll's muse for the two "Alice" books that he wrote. I've done many works based upon Carroll's other characters, but finally chose Alice as the subject. 
A photograph of Alice Liddell.
 While I used the dark hair and hairstyle of Alice Liddell as a jumping off point (I am no portrait artist) there was probably a bit of Ramona Quimby and Lucy Van Pelt in my mind as well.
Interestingly, Carroll wanted Alice Liddell's personality in his heroine, but chose Mary Hilton Badcock as the model for her looks. 
 He sent this photo of her to Sir John Tenniel, who firmly rejected using any model for his drawings.
Before I began to paint Alice on Stage, I sketched many Alices. This is the one I finally chose for reference, and then decided to break with traditional Victorian-children's fashion and make Alice's coat very fancy for the painting.

Been resting up from a hard push and many paintings over the past six months. After some sculpting and other "relaxing" forms of art, I'm back at it--and enjoying the evolution of the new work. I will post some soon.

Thanks for checking out my blog!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Memento Mori
Detail from The Hermit

I tend to place a lot of tiny skulls within the borders of my art. Skulls fascinated me as a little kid, and continue to do so--even more as modern culture preposterously tries to refute aging and death.
Detail crops from Sir Baffle and the Dragon

But in the past, images of death in art--memento mori--served to calm the frenzied life. They were reminders that existence on earth is finite, and motivations to spend lives honorably and in meaningful pursuits that had little to do with the acquisition of money or power.

"Memento mori is Latin for “Remember death.” The phrase is believed to originate from an ancient Roman tradition in which a servant would be tasked with standing behind a victorious general as he paraded though town. As the general basked in the glory of the cheering crowds, the servant would whisper in the general’s ear:Respice post te! Hominem te esse memento! Memento mori!”--“Look behind you! Remember that you are but a man! Remember that you will die!”

Now more than ever, it seems that political "leaders" and the super-wealthy could use this kind of reminder.  Maybe a lack of any spiritual belief--or inheritance laws allowing their swollen bank accounts to live on for their families--somehow allows them to forget The End?

Hard to know. But nonetheless, many of them live as though their earthly life is infinite. Rather than seeking liberty and justice for all; revenge, money-grubbing, and ego-stoking are their top considerations. That's pretty bizarre for anyone, but especially for people nearing the end of their lives.
It's not my business to teach anyone anything about the mysteries of death, or an afterlife. But the philosophy and art tradition of the memento mori is much appreciated. And as stated above, I like drawing skulls.
Plus, there's something exhilarating about facing the fact of the death we all will share. It frees one up to work at leaving the world a better place for others.
While many images of Death are warnings, I'll leave you with something different...

Saint Francis of Assisi reflected often on the mystery of death, and referred to its personification as "Sister Death". She is the one who comes to deliver us from life's suffering. In this sculpture (artist unknown to me) the placard she holds reads:
"To die with the sacred joy of not having done harm to oneself nor to a single soul.”

Thanks for the visit!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Voyage of the Aeolus: A Process
The Voyage of the Aeolus, detail

I really like pen and ink, crosshatching, costumed characters, and theater sets (the look of toy theaters in particular). And I like looking at other artist's processes. This post shows all of that, and my own methods for this type of colored ink artwork.
For this piece, my interest centered around a voyage. The first thumbnail sketch was a rudimentary one featuring a top-hatted figure who quickly evolved into a pirate with his bird-buddy. I like to start these types of works with a red Verithin pencil, and then use a Pentel Brushpen for the varying width outline. My favorite paper is Kona Classic because its tough surface takes many layers of hatching without shredding, and is a great surface for water-media too.
In this case, a Pilot High-Tec C pen was used for the crosshatching, and I'm never without a Uni-Ball Signo white pen for highlights.
Sorry, this is the only photo I have of the initial pencil drawing (had to yank it off of a Facebook post).
Obviously I changed the look of the pirate--a younger face better-suited the fantasy-like atmosphere, and for this final piece I used Acryla white gouache for the highlights.
Once the highlights and values are finished, I give the piece a coating of UV blocking acrylic gloss spray. Then the color is added with watered-down, transparent acrylic inks. And that's about it!

It's a fun process--feel free to comment or email me with any questions you might have.

Thanks for checking this out!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

 A little fellow--a tiny detail from The Wizard.
Helikon Gallery's director and fellow illustrator Cayce Goldberg suggested we produce a book to go along with my exhibition, and I was blown away by his creative approach to book design. Filled with full color paintings, the book features many close-ups and details!
 Bringing the reader's attention to the details within the artworks was only one of his ideas--and it was a lot of fun! As we worked on the book, Cayce searched the paintings for small, interesting components, which he then added to individual pages.
Here's a shot of one of the interior pages. The skull is a detail from the painting, The Hermit.
This is the back cover of Innate Tapestries: The Endless Stage, with cut-out details from The Hermit, and other complete paintings within the book.
 Detail crop of The Owl and the Pussycat.

For me, a great deal of the enjoyment came from revisiting my own paintings in a new way. Studying the details close-up is not what I'm used to--often, painting is a process that's sort of unconscious working, so I'm not always totally aware of what's going into the artwork. That sounds strange, but it's true.
Detail from The Voyage of the Aeolus.
Combing the works for details led to some pleasant surprises about how my hand works with the media, too.
Here is a blown-up detail of the cricket from the painting, Pinocchio...
 ...and the complete painting in the book.
I hope you found checking out the details enjoyable--thank you for visiting and supporting my art!
 The signed, 96 page, limited edition book is available here:

Thanks again!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Two Big Nose Breaks (from painting)!
 Preliminary sketches for The Man in the Moon sculpture (below).

 After making all the pictures for Innate Tapestries, I needed a break from painting. Had a chance to be in a "Munny" show at a neat little shop/gallery called Cooper and Dash in Downtown Denver. They provided the blank white Munny doll (upper left).

I really like the Commedia del Arte masks with their giant noses, so approached the Munny as a mask built out of Sculpey. Into the oven it went (top center). Had some glass eyes I didn't have use for, and then painted the fellow using acrylic washes and matte black acrylic to sort of hide the body (I'm not very fond of the way Munnys look).

The show featured 12 other sweet Munnys that were painted and sculpted by local artists and illustrators, and the reception was a lot of fun!

The Man in the Moon 

A fellow artist at Helikon decided to decorate his studio by building a giant sculpture of a face using cardboard. It is amazing! Then he challenged me to do the same. Upper left shows my rudimentary armature. On top of that went instant papier mache, which I built up in layers.

I ordered more glass eyes and used Sculpey for the teeth; painted the whole thing with a greenish, acrylic wash, and then used successive acrylic washes (thinned with matte medium) for the color. Lower middle shows the moon-head paint prior to the final wash of sienna brown.

Thanks for checking it out!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

A Exhibit Preview and an Artist Interview!

Humpty Dumpty, one of many pieces created for The Endless Stage

Cayce Goldberg, Helikon Gallery Director, created this nice artist interview with me for my upcoming solo Exhibit, The Endless Stage:

Thank you Cayce Goldberg

Hope you can join me at Helikon for the opening reception this Wednesday, June 14th from 6-10 pm!

See a preview of the show here:

Thanks for checking this out!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

My Solo Show and Book Release at Helikon Gallery
My first ever Solo Exhibition is coming up soon--on June 14th!--and I'm excited to be showing a variety of works! Plus the gallery has published a limited edition, 96 page book filled with my paintings, sketches, process works, and a few of my thoughts.
 Here's the link to the book (and you can pre-order!):
 From the book:

The theater’s stage begins and ends at the imagination in this 96 page treasury of paintings, drawings, sketches, and process work spanning 3 years. Tom’s distinct style of art casts a suite of lively characters from the familiar to the fantastic, inhabiting lusciously illustrated settings with a unique, humorous magic. This unprecedented collection of artwork represents the first major retrospective of Sarmo’s beloved artwork.
Here's a detail crop of one of the nearly 40 original works in the show...
...and there are some original landscape-y ones too!
Included in the exhibition are many of my sketches and preliminary drawings with insights into my techniques and processes.

From the gallery:
Helikon Gallery is pleased to present two exhibitions opening June 14: 'A Modern Baroque' in the main gallery and 'The Endless Stage: The Art of Tom Sarmo' in Gallery 101. Along with the two gallery shows, our retail shop will feature a new Shop Showcase with new art by Kayla Edgar. All shows will open with a free reception, with complementary food and drink as well as open artist studios.

Here's the link to the exhibition:
The Endless Stage

I've seen preview work from A Modern Baroque , and it's an exciting show--plus I love the fresh work of
 Kayla Edgar !

In addition, Helikon's Studio Artists will be there with open studios and much art to enjoy.
 If you are in Denver--even anywhere near--you won't want to miss this event!
Here are the particulars:

Helikon Gallery
3675 Wynkoop Street
Denver, CO 80216
Opening is Wednesday June 14th from 6 - 10 pm
First Friday is July 7 from 6 - 10 pm
If you can't make it to the opening, the show runs from June 14th to July 22nd.
For hours:

I would love for you to join me and Helikon Gallery for this event; free and open to everyone!

Hope to see you there--your support of my work and the work of all artists is much appreciated!

and thank you for reading!

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