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.
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. The 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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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
A Recent Promotional Video for Go Yoga Amelia Island
Goodbye and Thanks For Viewing My Portfolio!!!
Thomas M. Stillwell