A Walk in the Woods

The name of the town where artist Tom Potocki lives, “Hollywood,” isn’t indicative of his life or style. Tom is someone who has lived a successful, stimulating life as an artist and has traveled extensively- although you wouldn’t know any of this unless you asked him. Quiet, grounded and contemplative, Tom has found tranquility and comfort in a woodsy, serene neighborhood with a misleading name. Tom and his Golden Retriever, Blue, led us down a leafy path behind his house to the place where the magic happens- his studio. The converted garage is naturally lit, spacious and filled with works-in-progress and sources of inspiration of past and future ideas. Among them are found object “shrines” and a large pixelated self-portrait. A true Renaissance man, Tom’s artistic talent is not limited to painting, but he excels in photography, classic figure and stencil drawing as well. These mediums overlap in his work- as components of photography are often used in his paintings and visa-versa. The result? Dynamic art that demands more from the eye than just one glance. His art might be abstract, energizing and seemingly spontaneous, but with Buddhist motifs decorating his home and natural peace at the core of his being, Tom’s personality is very different. As he said himself, “I’m a hippie!”

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Q: Your paintings vary in color from natural, serene to bright, saturated tones. How do you decide which direction you are going to go?
A: As to the color choices, I usually start with a basic color scheme – could be warm colors or cool. I wash and splash colors on the canvas to activate the surface. I keep the surface wet to actually let the colors blend in a random fashion. This beginning flow begins to suggest what direction the painting will take – or take me. I try to avoid thinking about an image at this point and let the process itself set a direction. Whatever accidental color blending that occurs, creates some interesting possibilities for further color choices.
Q: What do you like to do when you are not painting?

A: When not painting in the studio, I’m usually still thinking about art projects. Can’t really escape it, once you take the idea of making art seriously, it becomes how you relate to the world around you – everything become art – or has the possibility to become art. Of course, when my dog lets me know he needs a walk, he pulls me into his world for a while.

Q: How does living in the woods influence your mood and art?
A: Living in the woods for me is the only place to be. I grew up living in a rural area and have always felt drawn to a place where you are surrounded by more trees than people. Being closer to a natural environment charges me up more than an urban setting. I actually lived in New York City for a few years, and it does have a unique energy, but for me it’s too artificial and contrived – think of the song “Tiny Boxes”.
Q: You have done your fair share of traveling. How has travel influenced you and your art?
A: I traveled a lot when I was younger. I think I got it out of my system, because I don’t feel the need to do any major traveling. As a developing artist, I needed to see all the art in Europe – sort of retrace art history. I actually lived for a year on a Greek Island. So, I have all that experience that I’m sure influences me today. Now, I’m happy to just get to the studio and start creating.
Q: What is your favorite part about living close to Charleston?
A: My favorite things about living in Charleston are the people, places and things – always something to do – the galleries, restaurants, music, and all the wonderful creative energy.