Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Charcoal and Paint: Tom Barlow

Tom Barlow doing some charcoal work

An interview with Tom Barlow

Some of Tom's work
Some of Tom's work

Tom Barlow painting
Tom at work

Artist: Tom Barlow
Medium: Charcoal, oil, acrylic, pencil, sculpture
Location: South East corner of Union Square

Tom Barlow is a multi-faceted fellow. Initially from upstate New York (near Buffalo) Tom is a renaissance man – or at least artist – working in a variety of media including silkscreen, acrylic, oil, watercolor, pencil, charcoal and sculpture. If you’re asking how a man becomes so skilled in so many things (and his work is quite good, especially the charcoal), Tom explains that he was always good at this sort of stuff and it just became his career. He did go to school for art, though, at University of Binghamton and the fine arts school in Buffalo.

Tom does “a kind of new realism, it’s not connected with photography, it’s all done from space with three dimensional space.” He says that he enjoys this form of art because it’s more challenging than working from a still life. The scenery is always changing, the light is changing, even your perspective is changing. Moving a few feet can completely alter a picture or inform a new idea on how to change the piece. Furthermore, Tom likes the street. “I’m used to it and I find it very stimulating, it really forces me to focus despite everything that’s going on…I find it incredibly dull to work from a photo or work in a studio all the time.”

Although not a native city-dweller Tom is quite inamorate of the place. He came down from upstate some 12 years ago for a friend’s wedding and just decided to stay. “It’s very conducive to the arts, people will pay for good art. It’s a little hard making sales upstate.” But it’s not all about the money, New York is just a great city, and Tom should know. He’s been commissioned to work in London, stayed over in Paris and outright lived in Montreal, working from life on the street in all places, of course. Of New York Tom says: “I find New York easier. There’s more elbow room, it’s bigger. Europe, everything’s tight, and small, more constrained…I noticed, after I came back from London how nice and roomy it is here, freedom.”

However, Tom isn’t uncritical of the city. He dislikes the way New York is changing – the gentrification, the abandonment and gutting of old buildings and the work being done by the newer architects. “I don’t care for it…I don’t think they’re doing a good thing.” As we were speaking, Tom pointed out that the building behind me, in fact, was being gutted and it’s decorative pillars capped to serve as a condo in a high land value area. While he feel this detracts from the character of the city he admits “it’s probably a natural process, so what can we do?” And it’s not that Tom is reminiscent for high crime and grittiness but he did say “the 80s were great.” And, with a chuckle, revised it to “yeah, good for art and crazy life…things were cheaper and a little scarier. In the subway you sometimes felt threatened. But it was beautiful in it’s own way.”

Tom is primarily known for his architecture work and, if you’re looking at the picture above, you’ll agree his Wall Street silk screen is quite taking. But he also does sketches on the subway noting that it’s “pretty intense. It’s like going to the zoo, you get to see specimens in their natural habitat.”

Like a true New Yorker Tom leaves the following message: “We’re running out of space here, stay where you are.” I can only assume he forgot to add: “I’m talking to you, tourists, learn how to swipe a metrocard.”

Influences: Fan K'uan from the Sung dynasty, Van Gogh, Hokusai, Hiroshige and other print makers, the impressionists, the renaissance, the medieval ages – you name it.

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Anonymous said...

i knew Tom as a kid - incredibly talented artist at a very young age.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone have any contact info for Tom Barlow? I'm interested in his work. Thanks.

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