Production + Design Portfolio


As an artist, one of the most difficult tasks is to create a confined resume that pinpoints any particular set of skills or concentrated direction.

I am fueled by inspiration.

This often drives me to learn a new craft or research a topic which I might never have thought to pursue.263473_2243243241035_1222528_n

Consequentially, I find myself in a constant state of learning.

I have an insatiable desire for knowledge and my work has always weighed heavily on concept and research.

I grew up in the historic district of a small island in Florida. I was fascinated by old homes and objects from an early age and spent a great deal of time in a magical antique shop just off the main street. The shop was called Harbor Lights and smelled of old books and adventure. During--31-S.-5thThe owner was an artist and carefully explained the relics which caught my attention. This interaction and appreciation for the past sparked a lifelong enjoyment of vestiges from the past.

When I was in my early twenties, I was given the opportunity to restore a large Victorian building constructed in 1888. I spent six years on the project. I had dabbled in carpentry, however it wasn’t until this time that I really began to appreciate the beauty of fine craftsmanship. I researched antiquated construction techniques, architecture and palettes. I met a blacksmith who taught me how to forge wrought iron fencing and weld on-site, as well as a brickmason from Trinidad who assisted me in laying a classical herringbone designed patio with salvaged brick.

When the building was complete, I transformed the downstairs into a small european cafe and jazz parlor.

I fell in love with the idea of working with a three dimensional space and the ability to create in a controlled environment with limitless possibilities and an interactive world that transcends time.

I explored the concepts of light, palette and sound which trigger sensory induced journeys into past, present and future…


Historically Correct “Eight Flags of Amelia Island”


The Bar at Trader Tom’s Island Java









As a lifelong surfer, I am also fascinated with the history of surf culture and specifically the evolution of surfing in the Southern California of the early 1950’s.

I began to play with the idea of creating a surf company based on traditional board manufacturing techniques. There were only a handful of artists shaping traditional longboards and even fewer of them utilizing the lost art of pigment dyed fiberglass resin.

In the old days fiberglass was not perfectly clear, so any color added to the board had to be mixed into the laminating resin. Today, boards are simply painted on the foam and fiberglassed, but the beauty of an original California board built in the 1950’s and 1960’s is still unparalleled.

I spent the next twelve months covered in polyurethane foam.  I built traditional boards and designed a wood silk-screened printing press to emulate every detail of Southern Californian style in the 1950’s.

I started to receive e-mails from legends like Bing Copeland. People connected with the idea of returning to a simpler time…

As much as I loved building surfboards, I always felt like it was an under-appreciated “fine art”.

Even though these were ten foot sculptures to me, they were still only a sporting good to be thrown in the back of a truck and enjoyed for a relatively short period of time.


Our Iconic 1964 Econoline and Classic Surfboards


Detail of a Traditional Surfboard with Hand-Crafted Keel Fin

I longed for a more permanent form of expression and going back to school for Fine Art seemed the natural progression.

I enrolled as a sculpting major, but during my core classes I rediscovered my love for drawing. When I began a introductory course in oil painting, I knew this was my path.

With painting I could push the boundaries of two-dimensional expression…

I studied thirty thousand years of art history and for the first time, really began to understand the long history of the world.

Things began to make sense and I could visualize the evolution of style and concept with the changing tides of humanity. I spent three years in art school and grew and excelled beyond all of my expectations. I graduated proudly with a Bachelors of Fine Arts, cum laude.


Oil on Canvas 24″ x 36″

After graduation, I was ready to tackle a new business.  I had learned the camera for shooting references for my paintings and I fell into photography. I was offered a contract with the Ritz Carlton shooting family portraiture on the beach and formed a small company called Portraits of Amelia. We quickly grew into a high-paced production studio. The following year we signed another contract with the Omni Corporation and the company grew even further.

This experience taught me about business and maintaining working relationships, as well as the importance of time sensitive deadlines and managing a crew full of creative people.

As an artistic outlet though, the portrait business began to feel very structured and limiting to my constantly spinning brain. I wanted something more and knew I had the experience and talents to seek a more fulfilling career.


Portrait on Amelia Island, Photograph

I began to compile a list of knowledge and the skill sets I acquired over the years.

I spoke with many successful friends and decided to take a month off and backpack around Costa Rica to gather my thoughts.

A clear path began to emerge, one that felt much different than my previous experiences.

Everything I had worked towards my entire life started to make sense and I knew my path was in production and design.

I believe a designer isn’t something someone can aspire to be, but something we become through years of experience.



That is why I decided to create this blog.

To try to explain on paper in a few words my credentials to work as a designer would be impossible.

I believe I can only illustrate my talents through my own story; my past, present and unwritten future.

I am a master carpenter, constant researcher, atelier oil painter, plumber, electrician, draftsman, sculptor, designer of furniture and textiles, color theorist, philosopher, historian, mathematician, writer, etc.

I am a perpetually smiling human.


Handcrafted Conceptual Frames Custom Built

I like working with large teams and alone in a creative studio…

I love the outdoors, but get lost in the catacombs of freshly discovered antiquity.

To explain oneself in writing is a daunting task…


Tools of the Past (re)Created to build Traditional Surfing Boards

I thrive in social interaction and much better enjoyed in person!

Thank you for reading this very long introduction. Please free to ask questions and I would be honored to meet with you.

Please see the photos and video below for a detailed view of my portfolio…

Thomas M. Stillwell

Craftsman Series of Short Films for the Sacred Craft Film Festival in Del Mar, California

A Series of Short Films Experimenting with Time-Lapse Photography

A Photographic Portfolio of My Work 2001-Present


Precision Craftsmanship at the Lotus Earth Factory


1950’s Style Pigmented Resin + Pin Stripes


Custom Logo Keel Fins


Custom Built Cherrywood Fin + Sustainable Logo Bamboo Wetsuit


1950’s Resin Panels + Custom Cherrywood Fin with Fiberglass Halo


Screen Printed Rice Paper Logo in Resin


Accolades from Mr. Bing Copeland


Fiberglass Shop with Custom Designed Racks at Lotus Earth


Wooden Screen Printing Developer


Detail of Processing Screen and Graphic Design


Original Wooden Screen Printing Set-Up with Organic Ink


First Press Run of Organic T-Shirt- Marketing


1950’s Style Baseball Caps with Lotus Earth Patch- Riveted

A Recent Promotional Video for Go Yoga Amelia Island


Curved Oak Bar Section- First Carpentry Project


First Project built on a perfect 4 degree slope per A.D.A. Regulations


Design Concept: 1960’s Southern California


Custom Built from 100 year old Florida Cypress- Mop Sink


Detail of Mop Sink + Fantastic Color/Texture Variation in Sunken Cypress


Detail of Backsplash


First Run of Samples- Lotus Earth


Painting with Custom Framework and Studio


Building a 1967 Schwinn-Twinn Tandem Bicycle


Completed Project- 7 days, Every Part including lacing new Spokes…


Marketing Shot- 1960’s Surfing Style


Freshly Lettered 1964 Ford Econoline- Matte Lettering with Drop-Shadows


Style Piece- 1966 Honda Black Bomber


The Bar at Trader Tom’s- Original Milk Fridge 1940’s + Gaggia Grand Espresso Machine


Style- 1954 Volkswagen Single Cab at Trader Tom’s


Graphic Design- Original Retro Logo


Graphic Design- Alternative Logo

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Studio Shot- Designed in respect to Wyeth’s Studio 1920’s


My First Charity- Free Surfing Clinic, 400+ Participants




Body + Frame Removal- Mechanics


Fully Striped Chassis Ready for Welding + Rebuild


Custom Designed Screen Printing Press- Lotus Earth


One of many completely restored Volkswagens- All Work Performed by Thomas Stillwell


Automotive Interior Restoration- Thomas Stillwell


Before + After


Before + After


Before + After


Before + After


Finished Restoration with Bing’s Logo 1966


Graphic Design- Retro Logo


Fiberglass Lamination Logo- Lotus Earth


1 of 4 Large Murals Completed at the University of North Florida, Hand-glazed Tiles


Restored 1967 Tandem Bicycle + Custom Trailer Built from Recycled Materials


1960’s Style Board Cover, T-Shirt and Hawaiian Wooden Alaia Surf Plank


Hand Surfing Planes for Go-Pro with Custom Bags- Recycled Materials


Razor Sharp Craftsmanship


Glassing Studio at Lotus Earth


Custom Built Sink from Rough-Sawn Reclaimed Florida Cypress


Traditional Whipping and Sisal Rope for Custom Suspended Shelving







Custom Juice Bar with Running On-Demand Hot Water and Power


Mobile Art Studio- 1964 Ford


Photography- 7 Exposure HDR Palette of Blues


Photography- Macro Shot

Goodbye and Thanks For Viewing My Portfolio!!!


Thomas M. Stillwell


Summer Portfolio

Figure “Drawing”
2011 Summer Portfolio
University of North Florida


“The Cookie Jar”

22” x 30” Pastel on Cotton Rag

A voyeuristic scene experienced through an open bedroom door.  The viewer could be a wife walking in on her husband with another woman or simply a peak into a private world.  The crisis stems from the viewer’s perspective.  We experience this scene as an un-welcomed visitor who is a split second away from being noticed. 

I chose wheat cotton rag paper which gave the image a nostalgic feel and soft pastels for a dreamlike quality. 

The scene is rendered in a Hopperesque style with a bright fixed light source.

My initial inspirations stem from John Sargent, Edwin Lord Weeks, Gustave Caillebotte, Degas, Hopper and have evolved to the Bay Area movement of the 1950’s-60’s…  Artists like Elmer Bischoff, Richard Diebenkorn, David Park and Henry Villierme.

I strive to create fast work with bold brush strokes and a spontaneously chosen palette.  I seek to capture the moment “I” experience, rather than the moment as it actually occurred.

I like large portraiture and powerful, life size images.  I seek to understand and utilize psychological color to subliminally nudge the viewer towards conceptual meaning.


“American Dreamland”

22” x 30” Gouache on Grey Cotton Rag

American Dreamland is a commentary piece on society; the more things change, the more they stay the same—the insatiable human desire.

The concept is based on a Brett Easton Ellis novel, “Less than Zero”.   The inspiration styling stems from the pulp fiction magazines of the 1950’s-60’s with hints of the Bay Area Movement of this same period. 

The landscape has a bright surrealistic wash of sunlight which is literally rising from below and devouring the scene, meanwhile the figures maintain a dark moonlit illumination.  This is a nod to the contradictions commonly found in perception and reality.  The words, “Disappear Here” (Less than Zero) are carved into the background.  A man dressed in a business suit stands in front of his castle stoically surveying the horizon for more material wealth.  His beautiful wife, house and pool dissolve into the background.  They are symbols of previous battles won and consequentially worthless trophies of the past.

“The Caterpillar Catastrophe”

22” x 30” Gouache on Cotton Rag

I like to use imagery which draws the viewer closer to the scene.  Last year I did a painting of a subject in a bathtub filled with a red substance which appeared to be a suicide attempt.  Upon closer inspection the subject is merely taking a bath in J-ELLO and anxiously waiting for it to congeal with a large spoon.  I found this image humorous, but also telling of things not always being as they appear.

This painting portrays a figure sewing a potentially mortal wound while holding a stop watch. Again there appears to be a red substance, an open wrist and a bathroom.

This time the subject is sewing a wound versus slitting his wrist, which I associate with a close-call and new beginning or rebirth.

“What the caterpillar sees as the end, the butterfly knows is only the beginning”

The red thread is used referencing the Chinese legend, The Red Thread of Fate.  In  this legend there is a mythological being who sews the souls of the world together with a thin, nearly invisible red silk thread…we are one, we are all connected.





“Political Theology”

30″ x 69″ Gouache on Cotton Rag

Political Theology is a triptych of vertically composed 22” x 30” sheets of gray cotton rag.  Uniformly the sheets make a large American flag in the background and three Presidential portraits in the foreground.

The sheets represent the major political changes from the 1970’s to the present or what could alternately be interpreted as a lack of change.

To me this work is more about the viewer’s experience and reaction to the figures than my own political views.  I think of politics on the same lines as I do religion.  The majority of our population is so programmed from birth to believe what they are told without questioning the validity of these justifications that any other view points are readily dismissed.

The images I have chosen are iconic and nearly stereotypical.  Nixon and Obama represent polar opposites, yet maintain a relationship such as kindred spirits. 

These figures flank an almost smirking Clinton who I intended to act as a balance or fulcrum point.

Nixon stands grinning ear to ear with his standard issue peace sign salute, while Obama huddles for cover under an umbrella…

Recycled Foam Handplanes with HD GoPro Camera Mount




I like a nice flat rocker in my board designs, so I usually end up with extra foam sections from the nose and tail.  Over the years I’ve watched these pieces pile up and have often wondered of a fun way to re-appropriate the byproducts.

A friend of mine stopped by the shack with an old handplane from the seventies and I had noticed some recent interest in the sport, so I decided to shape a few.

I’ve been testing them out and super stoked on the speed and control achieved when using these tiny boards for body surfing!

With an integrated HD GoPro Camera mount in the nose you can capture some amazing barrel footage even in the tiniest surf!  great fun


What’s Going On…

I have spent the past eight months at the University of North Florida studying paint in the College of Fine Art. 

Classes resume tomorrow.

I wanted to share a few photos from the the Fall semester & the latest from Lotus Earth over the holidays.

Fall Portfolio
Oil on Canvas



University of North Florida Gallery
Oil on Canvas

Shaping over the Holidays-
9’6″ Traditional Log


Coke Bottle Green Resin Tint:

I was brainstorming new design possibilities with my friend Kevin when Little Tom walks over with this Dixie cup. What can I say, the kid has some great style.  I created a logo around his suggestion which took this board and Lotus Earth in a fresh new direction.

Mock-up of the new design-

The beauty of having a background in graphics, here is the actual board with the laminated logo under fiberglass cloth-

Glassing some custom artwork with an entirely new approach to composition and aesthetics-




California Sunrise – Artist’s Statement

I remember the years differently now. 

In the beginning memories were clear and the order which events occurred was easily placed in a chronological sequence.

Its all a blur… 

Memories exist like paintings hanging in dark hallways.  I glance up from time to time and recall the memory and the moment, but the manner in which things really happened is too distant.

I realize this does seem rather extreme (even for me), but this is simply how my mind operates. 

I reinvent myself every few years and the old me seems to quietly fall asleep and die.  I retain the experiences from these past lives, but my new self doesn’t fully connect.

Last night I watched *Lost in Translation* and I was telling a friend I loved the movie, however I could not relate to the characters.  I think I’m too old to remember what it was like to be in my early twenties and I’m too young to connect with a middle aged man going through a mid-life crisis. 

I did however connect with the reality of doors shutting which can never be opened again and how the decisions we make in *this* life are infinitely more permanent than ever anticipated.

Time is so relative and surveying thirty-thousand years of art history this summer further enlightened me to the fact that our lifetime is just a blink of the eye to humanity.

Life is everything and nothing. 

The more we love life, the more precious it becomes. 

Maybe that is the answer? 

To simply wait and anticipate a better day in the future may add some reciprocal value to our current life, however this seems like a false and temporary version of happiness.

We all have an insatiable desire to *lose* ourselves in a moment.  Through music, dancing, adrenaline, surfing, sex, yoga, meditation we lose ourselves in the experience and capture an eternal moment which would have been forever lost.

I seek to paint *these* unbelievable moments, moments which go far beyond all imaginable feelings and are indescribable in any language.

Tonight I am working on a painting of one of my kindest friends.  Scott has a unbelievable gift with music and we had a nice jam session on the ukulele the other night.  Scott’s portrait captures the moment he loses himself in song and in a very real facet this truly feels as if I am painting his soul.



I believe these are the portraits I am here to paint and these are the images of life which make *me* feel alive.  Models needed, apply within



Photographed the D-Fin on the beach this morning. 

Surfed for about three hours all by myself and stoked about the stability of this board on the nose.

Ten-Foot-Oh, 60/40 Rails, Custom Rainbow D-Fin, Sweet Cream Cut-Lapped Pigment Dyed Resin, Built-2-Glide with mind boggling noserides