Having spent time producing a family, completing his National Service within the British Army, going around the world by sea, living in England, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Gozo, Tom has progressed a lifelong talent for painting and sculpture and steadily developed the technical side of his artistic abilities.
After being caught up in the worst storm for 21 years, in the Tasman Sea, between Australia and New Zealand, he has a huge respect for the power of the sea and this is shown in his paintings. During his years in Canada, he developed a strong sense of design and went, by accident, into the field of signage, a very popular and fashionable art form with the business fraternity. This resulted in several commissions in both signage and sculpture from the Canadian Government, the Canadian Armed Forces, the Vancouver Stock Exchange, the Hyatt Regency hotel in Hawaii, corporate emblems and plaques for large boardrooms, shops and even a commission to carve pink giraffes for a children’s restaurant in Vancouver! His painting also developed and took off when he exhibited his original of the “Bluenose II” in the VIP lounge of the Nova Scotia Pavilion at the 1986 World Fair “Expo ‘86” held in Vancouver. The “Bluenose” is the ‘ship on the dime’ in Canada and is famous throughout the continent. Berthed in the marina at that time were the replicas of the “Bounty” (built in New Zealand for the film “Bounty” starring Anthony Hopkins and Mel Gibson), the “Golden Hinde” (built for the Drake Society of San Francisco and used as the Black Ship in the television series “Shogun”), and the “Bluenose II” (built in Nova Scotia as a copy of the famous Grand Banks fishing schooner which won the Fisherman’s Trophy in 1921).
Faced with such beautiful Tall Ships Tom made himself known to the crews, scouring their decks and mentally making notes, laughingly saying to the owner of the “Golden Hinde” that, if he ever fulfilled his dream and produced a print of it then he would give him a copy as a gift. Years later, after losing touch with him, Tom was exhibiting at the 1993 London International Boat Show, when he heard a voice declaring that he owed him a print, looking up Tom was delighted to see his old friend – even if it did cost him a print!
Whilst in the Expo ’86 Pavilion he sold his original of “Bluenose II” to the Bluenose Foundation and it was collected by the Premier of Nova Scotia on Nova Scotia Day. This resulted in commissions from as far away as Australia. With an idea for a series of five famous ships to represent “500 Years of Sail” Tom returned to the best place to study ships- England and once he had found his artist studios he set about the task of producing and printing yet another dream. The five ships chosen for this beautiful series were the “Bounty”, the “Golden Hinde”, the “Santa Maria”, the “Thermopylae” and the “Resolution”.
Maritime Art and sculpture has played a large part in Tom’s life in the form of boardroom plaques, signs, boat transoms and one off sculptures. A couple of unusual commissions have provided a little light relief from the normal work, one from the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, to carve a replica of the figurehead of “HMS Daring”. This presented Tom with yet another challenge, as the museum already had the original on show! He spent periods of time, over the next year, demonstrating carving inside the museum and “Dan”, as the figurehead has affectionately become known, has traveled to many shows with Tom and always causes a stir or rather a ‘pat’ as most people just cannot resist touching him (Dan that is!). The other was for the National Trust celebrations at Claremont Lake in Surrey. Out in the open air, underneath the trees and beside the lake, for a few, warm, summer evenings Tom once again demonstrated the art of carving – this time with a live model!
Over the last few years Tom has spent most of his time painting on the island of Gozo, producing oil paintings of historical events and battles, specializing in Trafalgar, Nelson and in particular the Battle of Trafalgar. After accurately researching the subject he then transforms the canvas into breathtaking scenes of bravery and daring, providing an historical snapshot of the past. Although he has never been professionally trained in fine art all of his marine paintings carry his unmistakable hallmarks of stunning seas and skies. Battles, seascapes and of course, classic ships of all shapes and sizes – the list is endless and very beautiful.
Artist Profile of Thomas J Burnell, Marine Artist.