THE ARTIST SPENDS part of most days in his McClellanville, South Carolina, studio/gallery, totally engaged in one aspect of his work or another. He starts by flipping through his stack of pho-tographs, searching patiently for that spark of inspiration that will send him inexplicably to his easel, or instead, he chases a fleeting memory that suddenly reemerges from his subconscious and begins making its way to the tip of his paintbrush. The artist mixes his colors and begins to paint, heaping layer upon layer of thick oil paint onto his canvas, each liberating stroke an expres-sion of his creative spirit unbridled by reason or logic. Once the whole painting finally appears, he steps back, a cup of coffee in hand, to evaluate and adjust, adding a bit of color here or a layer of texture there until that moment arrives when he knows his work is finally com-plete. That’s the artist’s life, according to Tommy Beaver.
Always humble and so very Southern, Beaver’s slow Piedmont drawl never betrays the frenetic pace with which he completes his work. “I paint fast,” he says evenly, though the underlying implication is that when he finally takes up the brush, the time for contemplation has passed and the action takes over. Maybe he’s making up for lost time after ignoring his muse for so long, for avoiding the paints, easels, brushes and canvases to pursue a career in construction, with a lengthy stopover in furniture design and sales. His family was in the furniture business—some family members still are—so it was really good for a while.
Beaver has always been familiar with the tools of the artist, sitting for hours during his youth watching his father paint with watercolors and oils. “My father painted as a hobby, but he was really good,” says Beaver, who was originally from High Point, North Carolina. “Watching him is how I taught myself how to paint. He painted in the same impressionist fashion I use, but my paintings are a lot looser than his were. When I started 15 years ago, I tried to keep the paintings as real as I could. But I finally decided that wasn’t where I wanted to go with my work.”
Beaver admits he’s driven by the use of color. “I want the colors to be just right,” he notes. “That’s a big key to the whole thing for me.” His ability to capture both dawn and dusk in his streetscapes, and to distinguish sunrises from sunsets in his landscapes, are proof of his passion for color and the skill he’s refined from studying the works of other artists and chalking up thousands of hours behind his easel.
After moving to the Charleston area a dozen years ago, he wasted no time photographing and painting the historic city’s streetscapes. It has remained a favorite subject. But choosing what to paint is also about whatever catches his eye as he travels between the city and the small town where he now lives and works. “I love to paint cityscapes and landscapes; I do a lot of marsh scenes and ocean scenes, even agricultural fields, like cotton. But painting Charleston and the Blueridge Mountains, where I go frequently, remain my favorite subjects,” the artist says.
Up close, Beaver’s impressionist paintings are intriguing, with the mixture of colors and the impasto effect of the oils revealing his passion for the process. From five paces back, Beaver’s paintings take on a different dimension, stunning in their wholeness, inviting viewers to interpret the myriad details through the eyes of their own experiences.
Tommy Beaver Fine Art is proud to show among the more than 30 award-winning artists whose work can be seen at Lowcountry Artists Gallery located in Charleston’s famed French Quarter. The gallery features glass, paintings, sculpture, jewelry, pottery and photography. It is Charleston’s oldest artist-owned gallery and shows hundreds of one-of-a-kind pieces daily. The selection is ever changing so the gallery is worth visiting often.
Beaver’s McClellanville studio/gallery is open to art lovers and collectors by appointment only. The view overlooking the marsh from his studio is its own work of art, so Beaver urges those making the day-trip from Charleston or Myrtle Beach to plan for plenty of time to experience the pristine Lowcountry, as well as the artist’s life in small-town South Carolina.
Patra Taylor is a full-time freelance writer who lives in Mount Pleasant.