Meet Tom Adair – one of our favourite artists of 2021. With deep roots as a creative talent in both fashion & furniture design – he made the leap of faith to go out on his own in 2018 with his first ever solo exhibition, leaving behind his job that he loved at Jardan in Melbourne. Meshing a keen photographic eye with the patience of an airbrush, he brings a depth and vibrance to natural landscapes, that he likes to call his CMYK paintings.
We have known Tom since his Jardan days – working with the furniture brand on featuring a selection of our artworks in their studios and recently stumbled across his work as a solo artist through our good mate – Trent Knox, Founder and partner of the infamous running group the 440.
“We loved his work so much, I splurged and bought one for my discerning husband Uge for our 10th wedding anniversary. It hangs proudly in our home near our dining room table and brings me joy every time I look at it – a nice memory of all we’ve pulled off in the past 10 years.”
We love your work Tom and think this is just the beginning for you – we can’t wait to watch your future unfold.
Tell us a little bit about you – your career history and how you became an artist?
I’ve been creative since I can remember, but I never thought of art being a career or understood the gravity and power of being an artist. I’m formally trained in fashion and after a failed clothing label I moved into home textiles in a product development role for a luxury linen brand before moving over to product design and buying at Jardan Furniture. Over a 17 year period I spent time in the street art scene until an unfortunate incident (retrospectively a blessing in disguise) turned me to a studio practice for my creative outlet.
I had my first official solo exhibition in 2018 and had to make a hard decision between my job (which I loved) and following a journey to becoming an artist. Art won and I’ve never looked back. It has been thoroughly fulfilling and forced me to learn a lot about myself personally and made me more at peace with myself. It’s not lost on me how fortunate I am to do what I love everyday, I hope one day I can contribute positive change in the world through stimulating conversations through my work.
How did you come up with your style of painting and technique?
In year 10 art-class I saw a documentary on Howard Arkley, the same year he passed away (1999). I was mesmerised by his use of the airbrush and bright vivid colours he used to create his paintings. Ever since then I’d wanted to use an airbrush but never knew how. When I moved into the studio environment I found aerosol cans too clumsy for the style of painting I wanted to do so I enrolled in an Airbrush course. After the course I was hooked – I loved the refined spray, the control and the softness of the marks that the airbrush made.
Back in the studio I saw some dots from a stencil that were on a section of a canvas I’d painted and it clicked – I could paint dots with the airbrush. I started in a monochrome and after a few years I started experimenting with multi-layered and multicoloured paintings. I call them CMYK paintings as it is and commandeered offset printing technique I paint by hand.
How long does an average artwork take?
For small studies (approx 45x60cm) I can paint them in 1-2 days, for a mid-sized painting (90x120cm – same as yours!) its about 40 hours, and for a large panel (150x200cm) they can take up to 120-150 hours.
It can be quite meditative, it’s a long time to be painting dot by dot but relatively quick compared to how long some oil painters have to spend on paintings of the same size. I pass the time with podcasts, audio books and good music.
What inspires you?
Travel, reading, good art, exceptional people doing good things for the world/society/community. And my wife Nikki, she’s always at the heart of my creativity and ideas.
What’s next for Tom Adair?
I’m working through a long list of commissions and currently starting to develop new work for my next solo exhibition that is pencilled in for December 2021 at Nanda\Hobbs Contemporary in Sydney.
Words: Debbie Tan