About the Artist
photography by: Kevin Vannicolo | 01.26.14
Thomas ("Tom") K. O'Brien began drawing at the age of four after posing for a portrait drawn by his mother. "Watching my mother draw my portrait was magical. Her ability to capture my likeness on a piece of paper was amazing to me." Inspired by his mother, Tom began his art career drawing storybook characters. His interest in the Walter Foster books gave him his first lessons in observational skills and artistic methodologies. He spent his teenage years studying art history, taking a special interest in the Philadelphia Art Museum. During this time, Tom began his formal art training privately with instructor Isa Barnett in Broomall, Pennsylvania. While still in high school, Tom began studying drawing at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia under instructor Gene Feldman.

Tom had the particular privilege of studying with prominent painter and educator Arthur Decosta at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, earning a Certificate of Fine Arts. Tom was also highly influenced by Lou Sloan and Homer Johnson. All three instructors had a lasting effect on his career. In combination with his studies in the fine arts, Tom earned an Associates Degree at the Art Institute of Philadelphia studying commercial art and illustration.

After a career working as a technical illustrator and elementary art education teacher Tom returned to formal studies in 2003 taking classes at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and at Studio Rilievo School of Classical Painting in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.

At Studio Rilievo, he studied drawing, painting, and composition with instructor Neilson Carlin. Through Mr. Carlin, Tom studied painting techniques intensively and can directly trace his educational heritage to the Ecole des-Beaux Arts of 19th century France.

In the summer of 2008, Mr. Carlin selected Tom to apprentice him in the execution of four, grand-scale, multi-figure commissioned paintings for The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, WI. Tom assisted on another commission, this time a mural designed for the ceiling of the Epiphany Catholic Church, Normal, ILL. In the winter of 2009 and 2010, Mr. Carlin asked Tom to apprentice him in the execution of a full size reproduction painting of "Adoration of the Magi" painted by Murillo in 1640.
Tom has won a variety of awards. Most recently Tom received 5th place for a self portrait at the Portrait Society of America's annual conference in 2008, the Board of Directors Award for a Self Portrait and Honorable Mention for a Still Life at the Wayne Art Center in Wayne, Pennsylvania (2008 & 2011), the Cristina Zucker Jordan Memorial Award for Still Life, and the Rubenstein's Art Prize for Still Life in 2010 and 2011 at Artist Equity in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Tom is the inventor of a new and innovated artist palette that provides a patent-pending 3 anchor point design for absolute balance and comfort. The product is manufactured and marketed by New Wave® Fine Art Products (www.newwaveart.com) who offers the design in a variety of options for diverse subjects and all technical methods of painting.

Tom is a member of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts Alumni & Fellowship Organization, the Portrait Society of America, Artist's Equity, and the Philadelphia Water Color Society.