Thomas Arvid was born in Detroit, MI in 1964, and always wanted to be an artist. His parents, having an understandably practical concern for their son's financial stability, encouraged him to get a degree in art and become a teacher. Thomas had other plans and after working for sign painters and printers, left for Atlanta where he lived in a large loft downtown and taught himself to paint with oils.
Unencumbered by the social obligations of a large friend and family network, he was able to explore many different styles and refine his technique late into the night. On a trip to Europe Thomas and his art historian girlfriend Vanessa began to discuss how important it was for an artist to have an organizing principle behind their work if they ever wanted to be more than just a good painter. When they returned, the large open spaces of Tom's warehouse loft allowed his work to grow in scale as he set about painting a series of images focused on red American icons: Converse high top tennis shoes, Campbell soup cans, Radio Flyer wagons…and red wine from Napa, CA.
Thomas Arvid at Vinings Gallery
While painting in Atlanta's popular Café Tu Tu Tango in the early 1990's it took Thomas three tries to finish the red wine piece because the canvases kept selling off his easel. It quickly became clear that he was on to something big. An admirer of his work commissioned him to paint a bottle of Silver Oak cabernet but insisted Thomas drink the bottle first, opening his palette to the world of fine wines for the first time and embarking the young artist on what would become his life's work.
The first art fair where Arvid displayed his wine paintings a gallery bought the entire collection. The first time he went to Napa to find gallery representation the paintings were sold by the time he got back home to Atlanta. The gallery owner called and said, "Quit your job, I can sell whatever you produce!" It soon became clear that he could not keep up with demand by simply painting originals, so he and Vanessa (now his wife) scraped together their life savings to get a booth at the biggest art expo in the country and produced a small series of limited edition prints. These too sold out at the show and they had multiple offers by publishers who wanted to represent Thomas' work to the greater art world, but the Arvids had different ideas. They declined the publisher's offers in order to maintain control over every part of Thomas' career and ensure the high quality standards that the artist prides himself on.
Thomas' favorite part about that first bottle of expensive wine (expensive for a struggling artist anyway) was sharing it with Vanessa and their friends; it is this element of the culture and ritual of fine wines that imbues his work with meaning to this day. There is a shared, universal appreciation of fine wines that goes beyond the product itself and overflows into the unique memories and associations we each hold for the events surrounding a particular bottle or evening. It is these connections the artist highlights and strengthens with his collectors.
And then there is the work itself…the formerly blank canvas that when complete and proudly bearing the Arvid signature somehow opens up into a multi-dimensional room with seemingly impossible detail, depth and light. The reflections alone are enough to stop a passing observer literally in their tracks and look behind them as if checking for a mirror. Over time Arvid has refined his technique with very small brushes, dedication to improving in every painting and vast amounts of patience so that his work now rivals that of past masters. The difference lies in the scale and perspective.
Arvid paintings have very little in common with traditional still life. In fact, the artist considers himself more of a landscape painter whose subject is the landscape between two people or the terroir of an evening. There is almost never a straight-on composition or a line that doesn't run off the edge of the canvas. The images are intentionally cropped to lead the eye outside of the frame and let the mind wonder what else the room holds…invariably the observer fills in that space with their own memories and their personal connection to the piece is sealed.
Admirers and collectors of Arvid paintings have reached a certain level of sophistication and success in their life, and are themselves Arvid's favorite part of his profession. Most become dear friends and his frequent travel for gallery shows is now an extension of his social life. The heavily attended gallery events across the country grow every year and Arvid is never at a loss for an invitation to share a glass of wine or take a boat ride or stay an extra night in someone's guest house.
Traveling with his ukulele, ready smile and watercolor kit so he can work on the plane, Thomas has become a familiar site at fine art galleries across the country, but can't wait to get home to his wife Vanessa and their two young boys. His upbeat personality coupled with brilliant work that ignites passion with his collectors has resulted in steady growth since that first trip to Art Expo New York in 2000. At any given time one can find Arvid work hanging in close to 50 galleries worldwide. His editions continue to sell out and even the retrospective hardback book "Arvid: Redefining the Modern Still Life" is a highly sought-after collector's item. In the fall of 2012, while still at the midpoint of his career, Arvid will celebrate his first solo museum exhibition at the Marietta Cobb Museum of Fine Art. In a fickle industry, Arvid's continued success is a testament to the allegiance and enthusiasm of his collectors, and also to what is still possible in America when hard work and positivity meet talent and passion.
This remarkable career can perhaps be best encapsulated in one of Arvid's favorite phrases:
~ "Life without art is like dinner without wine. Why bother?