We caught up with the brilliant and insightful Thomas Flynn II a few weeks ago and have shared our conversation below.
Thomas, thanks for taking the time to share your stories with us today Do you wish you had waited to pursue your creative career or do you wish you had started sooner?
I’ve been painting since 2011 – so over 11 years and I graduated from The Savannah College of Art and Design with a BFA in Painting in 2016 – but I didn’t commit to my art as a full-time artist until late 2021 when an unexpected job offer moved my wife and I to Austin. It was then that a now-or-never moment dawned on me, and I decided to take the plunge. The last 7 months have been a whirlwind of trial and error building a sustainable business model, while staying true to the artistic integrity of the work and myself as an artist. While starting sooner would’ve been great, I truly believe that everything that I learned working in the contemporary art galleries, as well as the luxury interior design industry, are an incredible asset to the work I am doing today. While in the luxury interior design market of Dallas, it was so important to me to build relationships with key decision-makers and get a first-hand look at what their concerns and goals are when acquiring objects and artwork for other people. While working as a registrar in the contemporary art gallery, I got to see the value of galleries in a way that perhaps would be hard to see as an outsider looking in. So much of the commercial movement of artworks is based on relationships and connections built over years – and the art gallery is an institution dedicated to building those relationships. I’m sure many artists who don’t have gallery representation just want to jump right into the first one that falls into your lap, but I think it requires a much more careful courtship to craft a partnership that is mutually beneficial and long-lasting. I think if I didn’t have the exposure to see the progression of artist/gallery relationships (both good ones and not-so-good ones) then I could be led to believe that they are all created equally. I will also share the observation that it is incredibly hard to be an artist while working in an administrative role in the art world – at least for me. The trap I fell into was thinking that “working in the art world” was the same as being “in the art world”. Talking to clients and putting on openings for other artists is rewarding, but very much not the same as doing those things for yourself. All in all, I wouldn’t take back my time spent there, but I’m also very happy to be putting time and effort into promoting myself and my own artwork.
Great, appreciate you sharing that with us. Before we ask you to share more of your insights, can you take a moment to introduce yourself and how you got to where you are today to our readers?
My name is Thomas Flynn II and I am a Texas-based painter creating acrylic paintings based on pattern, color, and time. My painting journey has taken a few twists and turns over the 11 years of painting. In art school, I excelled in painting hyper-realistic figures in oil paint – a path which I continued for a few years until an acute onset of an allergic reaction to oil paint became too big to ignore– which was certainly a bummer. At around the same time,I also developed chronic aura migraines – which I later found out is a genetic response to stress. These aura migraines present themselves visually as afterimages of every object/ light source that increase in intensity and duration when I’m stressed. This was incredibly disorientating and a source of pain and nausea for years. Through meditation and mindfulness, I’ve been able to minimize them, but they persist in my everyday life. Since then, I’ve rebuilt my painting practice with acrylic and I have turned this once monstrous occurrence into a teacher. While incredibly disorientating, the color relationships that occur during these episodes are illuminating to the layering of color and how my body perceives visual information. I have come to think of this state as similar to sleep paralysis, but in everyday life. Imagine suddenly being thrust into this state where visual information is delayed and layered, what starts as a trickle becomes a visual waterfall of lines and colors that pushes you far away from where you are. In my paintings, I explore this idea of being in every place and time at once. In this patterned landscape, the past is actively seen in the present which sends you to a place that is definitely neither. This idea of a place of limbo is persistent in my work and influences. The space between sleep and wakefulness is akin space to the one described above – as well as the mystic symbolism that is found in dreams. I’m interested in an ocular color understanding of dreams, pulling color relationships from this space between the eyes and the world. My work is ever-evolving, but driving itself forward with the purpose of making sense of the senseless, keeping still what is always moving – the attempt to understand oneself by actively perceiving yourself in the action of seeing the world around you.
How can we best help foster a strong, supportive environment for artists and creatives?
I think at the most basic level, we need to support our artists and creatives in any way that you can. Acknowledge accomplishments, share the content, tell your friends, and if you can financially, support the work by purchasing it. In the creative community itself, I love to see community over competition – there is more than enough space for all of us. I am always here to give advice to those that need it. I happily share my sources of product with people who ask, and I pass along names of those who I think would be better suited to certain projects than myself. It is my hope that we can all help each other be better and more of an asset for society. The troupe that artists thrive in solitude is overplayed. Creation often happens in solitude, but art is visual communication, and communication should be seen and supported. In summary, hear what the artists are communicating and pay them for it!
Do you think there is something that non-creatives might struggle to understand about your journey as a creative? Maybe you can shed some light?
I think the idea that money isn’t everything. As an artist-run business, that presents itself as staying true to artistic integrity and saying no to commissions that aren’t a good fit, while holding out for the commissions that will propel your work forward. The biggest struggle is finding the right audience and connecting them. It’s not easy, and I guarantee you the algorithm cannot pinpoint it exactly, but I will tell you that the right people find you if you consistently put out work that is true to yourself and what you are trying to accomplish. As counterintuitive as it is, artists don’t make work for other people. We make work for ourselves with the hope that other people can connect and relate to it – and the shocking thing is that they often do.
THOMAS FLYNN II BIO:
Thomas Flynn II is a Texas-based painter working primarily with acrylic and traditional inks focusing on the space between sleep and waking life. His work has been included in the SCAD permanent collection, on the cover of the inaugural issue of New Visionary Magazine, featured as a directory artist on Visionary Arts Collective, Musik Curatorial, and Visual Space among other publications. He has exhibited in Texas, Georgia, and curated into virtual group and solo exhibitions internationally. Flynn received a B.F.A. in painting and a minor in art history from the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in 2016. Flynn is currently living and working in North Austin, TX.
- Website: www.thomasflynnii.com
- Instagram: www.instagram.com/thomasflynnii
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thomasflynniiartist
- Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tflynnii/
All images cited to Thomas Flynn II www.thomasflynnii.com