SCULPTING WITH PAINT

BY JEFF HAMPTON

It’s 2 p.m. on a Tuesday in Preston Hollow and artist Tom Hoitsma is soaked with sweat. A damp towel sits nearby on a messy counter covered with acrylic paints and brushes. He grabs for it to wipe his neck in between the sweeping brushstrokes he makes on a giant canvas. Jackson Browne plays in the background. He has two more hours of painting ahead, and that’s fine with him. Hoitsma is having a moment, one that from all indications is on its way to stretch into a career game changer.

“The goal is to change the air in the room,” he says of his work. It’s a feeling he achieves by layering paint on canvases as big as 96 by 75 inches and stretched over 4-inch-deep frames. The literal depth of his work gives each piece a sculptural quality. “It stands out from the wall almost like a relief. It gives it a weightiness, another dimension, and that’s the whole point,” Hoitsma says.

The artist’s “deconstructed landscapes” are each inspired by his earlier paintings. “Each painting I complete has specific qualities that inspire the next composition,” he says. “The paintings are quite literally ‘offspring’ of earlier works.”

Recently added to the curated stable of artists at the lauded Craighead Green Gallery, Hoitsma’s large-scale works recall his personal inspirations, Franz Kline and Frank Stella. With the last year yielding four solo shows, including successful runs at Dallas’ Wall Gallery and Kristy Stubbs Gallery, his abstract expressionist paintings are hitting all the right notes with collectors.

“Abstract painting is a lot closer to writing a poem than it is to writing nonfiction or reporting the news. It’s all based on intuition and a tactile, visual experience. It takes many, many hours but eventually each painting will finally come together visually and feel right. And that’s the thing that I chase—that lyrical sense,” Hoitsma says. “It seems that this particular series of work I’m doing now is really resonating with consumers and galleries. I keep being told that it is filling a void in what they are showing. Nobody is doing this large-scale, vibrant, bold, colorful stuff.”

As much physical energy goes into the work as mental. “When I’m done painting, I am soaked from head to toe,” he says. “Honestly, I believe one of the reasons you don’t see much painting on this scale is because I don’t know if I could do this if I wasn’t as tall as I am. It’s really physical work.”

Raised in an artistic family in New Jersey—all of Hoitsma’s siblings are musicians and his mother is a novelist––he graduated with a degree in sculpture from Skidmore College and soon after found himself working in the art world in New York City. He and one of his best friends, Stuart Regen, the late Los Angeles gallerist, worked with the highly respected Barbara Gladstone at her namesake gallery in SoHo. Hoitsma came to Dallas in the mid-1980s at the invitation of a friend and began producing corporate video while continuing to paint. Today, he is the creator and executive producer of The Texas Music Scene, an award-winning music documentary series hosted by Grammy Award-winning Texas music legend Ray Benson and featuring Texas musicians such as Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson and Robert Earl Keen.

Hoitsma considers his TV show a gift to musicians, as he knows how hard they work for their art. “Because I’ve been able to get traction with this documentary music series, I’m able to help a tremendous number of artists,” he says. “That’s a nice feeling—to be an artist and to help artists.”

Jeff Hampton is a freelance writer based in Garland, Texas. Find out more at jeffhamptonwriter.com.