& NATHAN ACOSTA HELPING TO TELL THE STORY DIGITIALLY
WHY SMALL ARMS AMMUNITION IS NATHAN'S FAVORITE PAINTING
Small Arms Ammunition, 2017, 5 1/2" × 10 1/5," watercolor on paper private collection.
"I've wanted to paint this since the 1980's and finally got around to it," said Tom.
This is the first still life painting that Tom has ever painted in color.
A NOTE FROM THE EDITOR
I'd like to thank everyone who was patient enough over the weekend to allow this project to transform and grow. Sharing my perspective is something I've wanted to do for a long time. I have access to -- let's just say "a very large number" of my father's paintings on my computer and phone going back to the 1970's. It's tempting to want to tell the story on all of them sometimes.
On this piece, I'm focusing on the time I've spent most intensely working with my father: since 2012. How does one summarize the last 8 years in such a short time? The challenge is precisely that -- challenging, as I am a artist of words, not brush strokes. The boy in the rainbow t-shirt is me in a 1992 study for "Find I Am," -- one of his most renowned works of all time. We've been sharing my father's art online for more than 7 years, but this is the first time we've published that study featuring only me. The final work will be released in print very soon for the first time. Releasing some of those thoughts and offering perspectives for the first time to everyone can be more difficult than I was anticipating. But I am very glad you are here to learn about some of my journey.
I'd also like to make it very clear to anyone who may not know, I am actually one of two painter's sons, and my brother Andrew was very much involved in helping this project come together. We may have a future #ThePaintersSon edition, possibly with some differences in format as this is an experimental-beta project and I've invited him to think of what he might like to say.
When you got to the end you'll find the social media links & one to contact me - I'd very much value your feedback.
It started with a very strong dose of faith.
And then it never left.
This is my father 150 feet
in the air with no rope.
We went up to the top of the mountain. The Welch, WV airport is there and was the site
hosting the "Arts on The Runway" the following day. I had not been in WV for a week and there was already something to be successful at. I had to use a mic on stage to direct
people where to park. That was my intro to Wild & Wonderful West VA. I live in Denver,
CO now, where there are a lot more airplanes and fewer art festivals on the airport runway.
SUNSET AT SPRUCE KNOB
WEST VIRGINIA'S HIGHEST MOUNTAIN | NOVEMBER, 2013
Just prior to this rare trip to clear our minds and gain some respite, American Realism by Tom Acosta underwent the most significant marketing and branding re-launch in its history. Starting with the first logo redesign in more than 25 years, Tom's art was available to be seen online for the first time ever. I scanned things until the scanner broke. We ran out of ink a lot. It was a lot of that kind of stuff to reignite the brand and that passion. When you're self-employed or "Dad" is your boss, you have to get so serious about structure.
In our downtime, we looked at the "Ritz Carlton" of galleries and I examined exactly how the artists already there were positioning themselves. We would get there. We still haven't got quite there and we're not going to give up. I still have the first week's to-do list. Why would I ever throw it away?
How we first decided we could do this & became a hard-working team for the long haul
My interpretation of the music he played that day. (*from SoundCloud user pablo570)
I don't know how else to describe it: we went on this fantastic summer's day drive from McDowell to Greenbrier and the Greenbank Observatory. Neil Armstrong had just passed, and there's a photo of me holding the newspaper with that news in the headlines.
We never set out to go to outer space but we both knew what you can accomplish in this country and there was no reason we couldn't. This is going to sound so silly but it is how I can best describe it: has anyone seen that video where Tim McGraw and Faith Hill are in the Jeep and they decide, "yeah, let's be the biggest country stars in the world. Well, Tim's "Somethin' Like That" was the most played song on the radio in the 2000's. They have an island now.
Our goal is to go from Little New York to
New York City. That's not to say we look down on Welch -- heck, the man painted nearly HALF of downtown almost brush stroke by brush stroke. I've painted on brick. It makes your arm so sore. That's why when he ran for office the second time, I came up with the slogan "Isn't it time to vote for someone who's already done something?"
My father needs a paintbrush and canvas. I need a monitor and a good country song, like my Uncle Mike. (He can't work a lick without some country and I'm nearly the same way.)
Now, I can't say I'm the only one. There were times even before 2012 when my brother was the major contributor, not to mention our uncle Angelo has also been inolved, too.
Every single scene in this video is in this video is iin McDowell County, West Virginia, one of the poorest places in one of the poorest states in the United States. If you haven't seen the Emmy-nominated film Hollow, Tom (he's at the end), says everybody should be proud of where they're from. He is. I am.
Would you know I go all over Denver with a WV hat and a WV mask on? People love it because I'm not from Texas. No offense Texans - that's on them! I was maybe 12 when this song came out. I still love it. It was filmed at Red Rocks, just a 20-minute ride from me but closed or "mostly closed" due to
WHAT IS TOM'S ART LIKE FROM NATHAN'S POINT OF VIEW?
It is hard to imagine living a life with my father's art not a part of it, because it always has been. The painting Find I Am (click link to view full size & contact to request more info!) on the top right was painted on the very same drawing board that two decades earlier I climbed the shelves on to reach the last bit of fudge-stripe cookies as any 5-year old would do. The paintings on the newest paintings page -- they were painted on the same one. Except now, that drawing board has mine and my brother's phone numbers etched in one corner and it says forever loved.
Regarding the upcoming print releases -- I think anyone in our position might feel a little bit of anxiousness when seeing their child self in a stack of prints. I could always see my father's art, but as I get older I'm able to grasp the true messages in it. I'm also the subject in Aviators. There might always be a part of me that wonders did I live up to everything? Did I do it right?
If his art inspires someone or helps or encourages them to make a positive change in their life, then I think that's wonderful.
In both Find I Am and in my brother's painting The Offering, which one could say is an equivalent painting, senior McDowell County, WV artists Pete Ballard and Ward Nichols are or were fascinated by that piece, by the way. I'm so happy about that.
Did you know my father almost stopped painting when I was young? Here's how he explained the situation at a show at the Beckley Performing Arts Center in September, 2018:
After painting for 20 years, I felt my painting had no meaning or purpose. I almost stopped painting entirely in 1991. At this time, my father because of his sickness and coming passing, I felt like I needed to take my work more seriously if I was going to continue painting, so I started painting my life. I had two small sons at this time. The painting Aviators was the transition painting that started a new fire within my creative spirit.
To Mom With Love features both myself and my brother and is my father's longest-running and possibly best selling print.
We sold one in Ohio just the other day.
CAN YOU PAINT LIKE YOUR FATHER?
Reference material for "Aviators"
He’s spent more time than I’ve been alive perfecting that talent. A lot of people ask me still ask me, however “Can you paint like your father?!" The answer is, well rather bluntly: no. Can Lisa Marie Presley perform like her father did? Nope. To try to paint something like My Brother Michael, which took 24 hours exactly to finish after the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster, and has hung at the Russell Senate Building at the United States Capitol for several years now, -- now that would be an impossible task, not to mention an incredible dishonor to the men that gave their lives that day. It would, I believe, would be an effort in vain. I would not try to do what he does on a professional level at all. That is his domain. That’s is zone entirely and the whole family knows when he’s in the studio, he’s right where he wants to be.
One unique perspective I and a very few others have are the first sneak peaks as something is coming along. He’ll tell me what he’s thinking of doing to make a tree or something stand out. The only thing I can think of which I suggested and was implemented into the finished painting was the feather in Just Home, which also inspired the title. We made it into a spring mailer and he sold more paintings than any other year before, which was right after his third heart attack. #BLESSED (That may be an upcoming story in a future edition: "The Worst Day").
On the other hand, he doesn’t like to tweet very much but I can find someone almost anywhere to start a conversation with at the very least. My father's customer's usually don't buy his art for "the name or the frame." It’s not just a pretty picture, but we dont' care if you're only buying it because it looks pretty. Some paintings have deeper meanings than most. But they almost all have a story that’s real and complex and a statement one can’t deny. We’ve sold paintings to collectors in several states like that.
My mother played an extremely important yet somewhat indirect role in all this -- it was never planned this way, that I would work for him, as an adult. However she committed herself to help me get the education and skills I desired to break through an ever-growing world of noise and without her support, I wouldn't know how to be a marketer of any kind.
Also, I think this is a good time to say for perhaps the first time in some official capacity, I wasn't the first one to do this. She was. While I was flying paper airplanes and posing for pictures, she was fostering relationships and making a 5-hour drive to Williamsburg, VA when he realized he needed a special painting. Did the newspaper compare his work to Norman Rockwell all on their own or did she lean them in the right direction? She didn't know Photoshop or HTML (HTM what?) and Mark Zuckerberg was a dork in middle school during that time. It was her I was sitting next to each other may years later, in a hotel room in Atlanta, the night before he had his open heart surgery. He didn't feel calm until he heard her. She's simply the best. And so is Gerri.
My father wishes we could do so much more, believe me. I think every artist has about 10x as many ideas as they get to actually produce. But tires need changing and water tanks need fixing. Or paintings aren't selling and we revert to doing [extremely high quality] sign work. It’s those things that make it frustrating at times.
DO WHAT YOU CAN.
WITH WHAT YOU HAVE.
WHERE YOU ARE.
What's Tom Like With Tech?
I can't even remember how we did it before the night we got home and unboxed this machine. We just utilized every bit of processing power my Windows phone had, I guess. Actually there was an old machine there already. It was getting old when I was in high school and wasn't up for the job beyond simple printing and very light duty web browsing. We ran online with almost nothing but dreams.
When my father got an iPhone, that was a big game changer, too. He really liked using its camera. He still uses the traditional digital cameras also, and is getting more comfortable with new technologies all of the time. I think I've won him over on cloud storage - so when he takes a photo in Southwest Virginia, he can bounce it over to me and have something zoomed and returned in less than 10 minutes.
In the early 1990's, he drove 3 hours away to NC State University to learn how to operate the Corel Draw software. I didn't know that until maybe 2012. I admire him for that -- for going that far to do something maybe he wasn't as excited to do as I would be. He's learned a lot since he got that iPhone and we teach him new things at a pace he's comfortable with.
Machines, particularly of the Apple variety, always remind me of my Uncle Angelo. He was the first person I knew when I was very small to have an Apple. My father has always looked up to his little brother for computer info. That's what brother's do - they look out for each other.
One thing we all do have in common is that eye for graphic design. We've been talking about signs and logos and color schemes ever since I can remember. He's given me a lot of free reign on his logo. I'm proud of that. Oh, and when Angelo saw the photo of the subject in The Hope, he immediately saw the painting for Old Saints - skipping right from the study to the real vision. Some of us are like that. Old Saints is going to knock your socks off, by the way. Andrew helped lay the canvas for it. This is a story with a lot of Big Apple ties, plus its just going to be a really amazing painting. Keep an eye out for this one.
THE FIRST NIGHT WE GOT A NEW MACHINE
Uncle Angelo's Magazine!
Uncle Angelo is an amazing digital sign producer but in recent years invested more time into art publishing! Art Gallery in America is another arts offering from the Acosta family. Check out the website and definitely like & subscribe on:
He's Got the Whole World In His Hands
what's it like now being two time zones apart?
We've been able to function not too poorly being this far apart. My brother Andrew helped us dial in on our first Zoom and Skype calls. Recently we've changed over cloud systems and that's went fairly smoothly.
Dad knows wherever he happens to be, I can usually send last-minute adjustments of print jobs to Staples whether he's in Carolina or Philadelphia. I've already got the Portland, Maine Apple store programmed in his phone just in case he has an emergency only Apple geniuses can fix.
However, the hardest part about distance of course is distance. My mother lives across the pond in a land that looks like the Rockies but that's where the similarities end.
The difference in time zones never goes away and that can really wear on you. That being said, one has to realize we are very much a 21st century American family and like to see each other as often as we can.
MY EASEL, PAINT, & BRUSHES
I CAN'T PAINT
BUT I CAN
SEE IT, SHARE IT, MAYBE EVEN BUY IT.
COMING SOON TO TOMACOSTA.COM:
POSSIBLE NEXT TOPICS ON A FUTURE EDITION OF #ThePaintersSon:
The Best Day Ever
The Hardest Working Day Ever
The Worst Day Ever
I value your feedback on this 1st edition of #ThePaintersSon: Why Small Arms Ammo is my favorite. Please feel free to send me an email with your thoughts your share using the buttons on the left, and use the buttons on the right to connect to all American Realism by Tom Acosta social media: