I have always been sensitive to my surroundings. Memories of being a small boy on our old farm in Pennsylvania and later years in Arizona, Oregon and New Mexico have left indelible images of contrasting landscapes in my mind. From stifling heat to frigid cold, bone dry to moss wet, muted browns to vivid greens, open cloudless expanses to small spaces under brooding skies, these abrupt changes have fueled my imagination and my desire to paint.
Spending time in these settings has made me more aware of the many ways in which light and atmosphere impart mood and drama in the landscape. I am able to approach potential subjects with a fresh eye, where I am aware of what is not in a particular landscape as well as what is. When I am hiking the Arizona desert, I notice that it lacks the intense greens and abundant water found in Oregon. When I visit Pennsylvania, I am aware of how the rolling hills and trees obscure the great vistas seen in New Mexico. Having these frames of reference helps me identify what is special about a particular landscape and use it to dramatic effect. Discovering a hint of vivid Oregon green in the brown New Mexico desert and placing a small addition of that color in my painting enhances the “feel” of an arid environment.
Finding the right words to describe my oil paintings often eludes people who try to define the subtle effect they see in my work. “A touch of fantasy,” “visionary” or “spiritual” are a few examples suggested. Although I don’t consciously begin my landscape paintings with the goal of creating this effect, the fact that it is observable in my completed works can be partially attributed to living in regions with vastly different geography and climate. Whatever words are used to describe my paintings, it is the sheer beauty of the Southwest landscape that inspires my creative impulse, and it is dramatic lighting and atmosphere that are identifiable features of my work.
Tom Blazier’s early interest in art was kindled from observing his father's cartoons and creative projects, as well as trips to museums in Pittsburgh, PA. By junior high school, glimpses of his talent became evident, and friends and teachers witnessed flourishes of his creativity, if sometimes in inappropriate settings. A seventh grade music teacher once nonchalantly snatched a portrait Blazier was drawing of him during a lecture and crumpled it in his fist. Another teacher reprimanded him for drawing during science class, sending him home with a note to his father. An art teacher once accused him of tracing from a photo on a homework assignment, which was disconcerting at the time, but served as a backhanded compliment.
Blazier’s formative years were punctuated by changes in residence between Pennsylvania and Arizona. The contrasts in environment and culture were a source of creative inspiration as evidenced in his art class painting assignments. Colorful depictions of the Southwest desert, created from memory, were exhibited in a display case in the school hallway. These were something of a curiosity for eastern kids and teachers, most of whom rarely ventured beyond the green hills and rivers of Pittsburgh.
As a young adult, Blazier attended Northern Arizona University, where he received a BFA degree in studio painting in 1981. Soon after graduating, his paintings were exhibited by the Westside/ Magadini Gallery in Phoenix. There he was part of a group show and his paintings received a favorable write up in the Phoenix Gazette. He also entered various juried shows and won awards for his colored pencil drawings.
In the early 1990s, his work was represented by Wolfwalker Gallery in Sedona, where his watercolor landscapes were well received. His paintings sometimes sold within minutes of delivery to the gallery.
In 1994, Blazier took a hiatus from his fine art career to attend graduate school in journalism at the University of Oregon, followed by work as a researcher at Project Vote Smart, a national non-profit voter information group based in Corvallis, OR. During those years, he sustained his interest in art by working as a freelance illustrator and designing editorial art for news and arts magazines, including In These Times, Minneapolis City Pages, Cincinnati City Beat, the Eugene Weekly and Extra!
In 2000, Blazier began an 8-year stint as a travel editor at the Daily News-Sun in Sun City, Arizona, where he continued using his artistic skills to design and illustrate features stories.
Blazier returned to his first love, oil painting, in 2009, pursuing landscape themes inspired by the American Southwest. He divides his time between outdoor studies and studio work at his home in Albuquerque, where he lives with his wife, Suzanne. His work is represented by InArt Santa Fe.
In addition to his academic art education he attended workshops with various artists, including Irving Shapiro, Ted Goerschner, Ned Jacob, Matt Smith and Cody DeLong.
Many painters, both past and present, serve as inspiration for Tom’s work or offer valuable lessons and guidance on technique. The writings of John Carlson, Charles Hawthorne and other 20th century artist instructors provide an understanding of the painterly craft and approaches to landscape painting.
Like many contemporary landscape painters, Blazier has rediscovered and gained a greater appreciation for the works of 19th century landscape painters and the foundation they laid for present-day painters. Romantic painter Casper David Friedrich, American artists J. M. W. Turner, Church and the Hudson River School painters, Albert Bierstadt and George Inness are a few of the painters from this period who sought to convey a deeper meaning and emotional or spiritual connection with nature. Exposure to the works of these artists has given Blazier a better sense of his own artistic identity. “Whether we are aware of it or not, their exploration of light, mood and paint application has contributed in a large way to the aesthetic sensibility of contemporary landscape painters,” says Blazier. “Advances in scientific understanding of the natural world and a changing culture continue to influence new ways of seeing and artistic expression, but the core appeal of nature continues to be is its awe factor, mystery and mood. This is what I attempt to convey in my work.”
Plein Air Painters of New Mexico (paintout coordinator)
Rio Grande Art Association