Artist Interviews 2023
By Johnny Otto
Tommy, you've been painting for 23 years, despite becoming quadriplegic in 1985 from a Mountain Bike accident. How old were you when that happened and what drove you to become an artist?
I was 24 the time of my accident March 10, 1985. I was always very creative since I was a child and I was interested in being an artist since I was five years old, but I was always told that it
was a hobby not a career by my school counselors, teachers and parents. I took a lot of mechanical drawing classes in high school then went on to take a few architect classes at junior college.
Then I went to school for restaurant management business so that I could get involved with doing fancy food art, which I did for quite a while. Then I broke my neck and after 19 days in intensive care I went to the rehabilitation unit
for the next six months. At the end of 1999 I created my first two paintings with a wheelchair and my dog walking through the paintings.
Loving that experience I continued to paint until I had 32 paintings completed and did my first solo show in 2005 at Bernard‘s Gallery in Calabasas where Joaquin Phoenix purchased two paintings at the opening night,
which motivated me to continue marketing myself and getting shows all over the country. I have been very blessed with quite a large collective base of musicians, actors, and creative people as well as every day
people who just love art and bright colors and the feelings that my paintings bring them.
Who are some of your influences?
Some of my influences came from childhood and a family vacation to Italy 1976 but I got to see a lot of the works of the masters especially in all of the beautiful cathedrals. Michelangelo, Monet, Van Gogh and many others. After discovering the work of a local artist Ed Moses I fell in love with his technique and bright colors. And of course one of my favorite artist is Risk well before I met him in person I just ordered enjoyed his use of color found objects and recycled items in his work. Luckily our weekends are you good friends with Risk and I have the luxury of spending many hours at his studio watching learning and creating alongside of him.
Have you been showing your work and what has the response been?
Yes I have been showing my work since 2005 thank God response has been pretty well received and because of the technique of fair amount of publicity has been generated through the media.
Does music influence your work, and if so, who do you listen to to get motivated or inspired?
Yes absolutely music is played a big part of my heart as well as some quiet moments a lot of my early paintings were created while listening to Eminem eight Mile record as well as praise and worship music, rock ‘n’ roll a lot of my childhood music influences all the way down to the beach boys there’s other days I’ll put on some jazz.
Tell us about your process, materials you use and kind of take us through the journey of creating a new piece of artwork.
My process is fairly simple being that all of my paintings are created with the tires of the wheelchair were they have full tread half dread bald sometimes using just a rear wheels and other times it’s only the front tires as well as big pieces creating with all four tires it is a lot of fun because I am working and such a large bass that I get to really have the freedom of movement as if I was on a big wave or drifting in a sports car. Mixing in creating different colors with layer upon layer that really work well together and hopefully speak to the heart when they’re hanging from the wall.
Are there artists you'd like to collaborate with and if so, why?
Yes collaborating is one of my favorite things to do I have collaborated with Risk a few times with the help to collaborative anymore, would have loved the opportunity to have created and collaborated with Ed Moses . I’d like to create collaborate with the my friends that I have build friendships over 20 years or so specially sound that met online during clubhouse spaces over the pandemic such as Sabet, Eddie Gangland, Foodmasku and of course my friend Lefty @Leftyoutthere. And a few others.
You are also selling your work as NFTs, is that right? How and when did you get into that?
I have sold some of my art as NFTs which at first got introduced to anthem beginning of the pandemic win the app Clubhouse was private invite only and I would be on there for 17 hours a day Sundays talking to hours from all of the country as well as all over the world. I was fortunate to get it on the BAYC NFT purchase and establish a lot of friends with some long lasting friendships. I also painted 1000 24”x 48” boards creating a 20‘ x 400‘ painting with the intention of being an NFT in the near future
Where do you see yourself in 5, 10 years, as an artist?
Upcoming goals include a future for the 20‘ x 400‘ that would include NFTs as well as traveling show for that piece. Actively looking for a full-time manager that I can focus on booking any shows so that I can focus on the art. That is the five-year goal 10 years from now my dream is to I have my art in the hands of many people from all over the world And are now motivated to chase their dreams