One in an occasional series of posts on people and businesses that I admire.
“This is the house that art built”, Tom Killion told me with pride as we admired his house in the redwoods. There’s a big jump between art as a hobby and art as a business that pays the bills and supports the family. Tom Killion has made that jump and he’s a good example for other folks who would like to find a way to turn what they love into their fulltime job.
Tom Killion is a man of many accomplishments. He’s a Fulbright Scholar with a PhD in african history from Stanford University. He has worked in refugee relief in Ethiopia and he has published several successful books. But it is his art that brought me to his home near Point Reyes, California.
Tom’s specialty is woodcut prints of the California landscape done in a Japanese style. You can click here to get a look at his work: Tom Killion. I fell in love with his art when I first saw his book “The High Sierra of California”. My wife arranged for me to visit Tom in his studio and select a print as a birthday present. I could go on and on about how great his pictures are but this is a business article not an art review
As we went through the prints, Tom told us how his art had evolved from when he was a student at the University of California Santa Cruz until now. He’s primarily self-taught although he’s had some great mentors. He’s built up a mailing list of interested customers and exhibits at small shows. Enough to sell out the limited editions of many of his prints.
It takes hard work a discipline to succeed in a fickle business such as art. We were there on a Sunday morning. He was up early, had already finished a mountain bike ride with a friend and was going to spend the rest of the day working a new series of pictures. He was prepping for a show several months in advance.
I admire Tom because he has been able to blend his love of art and his love of the outdoors into a successful small business. Plus, having met him, he’s a really good guy too.