| Painter Thomas
Nash Makes Music
Thomas Nash in his Roswell Ga. Portrait studio
Long time friends and collectors of the work of Portrait
painter Thomas V. Nash can rest easy that he hasn't decided
to quit his day job after thirty-five years in the profession.
The recent release of his first music CD, "Portrit"
Paintin' Blues does not mark a change in his focus
or dedication to portraiture. 'Painting, and portrait
painting in particular have always been my first love
and will continue to be,' says Nash.
So how did someone who usually is holding a paintbrush
find himself in front of a microphone and piano? Nash
tells us that it was the convergence of two things; his
interest in music and his participation and support for
various art organizations. Nash has long played a major
part at the national portrait painting conventions and
conferences. He will usually be found giving a painting
demonstration, a slide presentation or answering questions
from the hundreds of portrait painters who attend from
around the world. In the evenings, after the programs
are over it is not unusual to find Nash and his fellow
artists congregating in the convention center lobbies
and lounges to swap stories and talk shop.
It was on these occasions that Nash often regaled his
fellow artists with his own musical compositions about
the art world while playing the hotel piano. He was doing
just that in May of 2004 in Boston when Portrait Society
of America Chairman Gordon Wetmore asked whether he might
be willing to entertain the entire group at the 2005 Conference
in Washington D.C.
Tom with artist friends in Boston 2004
Those that know Tom well could have predicted what happened
next. Whether painting a portrait or any other activity,
Tom always believes in doing more than is expected, besides
he says, ╬it's a lot more fun that way'. When he was a
child when others had newspaper routes, Tom decided to
publish his own newspaper. So it was no surprise that
given an invitation to play his music for the convention,
Tom would take it a step further and record a special
CD for the conference participants.
Tom in the recording studio
The three songs are each different. The title song,
Blues is a tongue in cheek look at many of the
typical challenges that face a professional portrait painter.
Clients may change their clothes or hair after the painting
is started, want it 'fast' but expect a masterpiece, or
just don't like what they see in the mirror to begin with.
Nash informs us that a line that refers to 'something
wrong with the mouth' is lifted from legendary portrait
painter John Singer Sargent. In all of his years of painting,
Tom has never had a portrait rejected, so in reality,
the 'portrit' blues haven't been too bad, and he can still
smile through it all.The second song on the CD is titled
"Nursery." Tom felt strongly about this song. It reminds
us that artists who are also mothers were once little
girls with big dreams just like little boys. Raising a
family adds an additional challenge, but someone who has
literally 'brought life to life' knows that she can do
anything she sets her mind to. 'Many of my teachers along
the way were woman and I see what they have to do to pull
it all together.'
The third song, Three
Sticks of Luscious. refers to sticks of pastel.
This is meant to be a fun song, a ╬fictitious one' Tom
is quick to add. He spent his very early years in the
portrait business on the streets of places like Gatlinburg,
Tennessee and Provincetown, Massachusetts. where he created
hundreds of pastel portraits and met many interesting
So how does he feel about his first foray into the recording
studio? 'It was fascinating, I was very fortunate to have
a great producer, David Leonard. He and I worked together
very well. We finished just in the nick of time to get
the master to the company to reproduce it. When I arrived
at the conference it was literally hot off the press.
Had I started sooner I would have done a few more takes.
I don't consider myself much of a vocalist. In fact I
had intended to call it 'The Painter/ Songwriter, to underscore
that I consider myself a painter first and also that it
was mostly about the lyrics. I decided against that to
avoid confusing anyone that it was an instructional painting
So what does the future hold musically for Thomas Nash?
'For the time being I plan to spend all my time in the
painting studio. I have some wonderful paintings I am
working on right now and some great clients who waited
patiently while I did my music. I am still writing songs.
Eventually I know I will return to the music studio and
put all my artist songs together on one CD. It would even
be fun, being a visual person, to make a music video to
accompany some of them.'
Nash knows there has long been a strong connection between
art and music. 'Not only were many famous artists also
musicians, (Sargent himself was considered a very skilled
pianist) but there are parallels in how one thinks about
the two art forms. Harmony, rhythm, intervals, emphasis
and even color are part of the language of both.'
Today some of Nash's better-known commissions include
official portraits of former Speaker
of the House Newt Gingrich, which hangs in the U.S.
Capitol, Zell Miller
as Governor of Georgia as well as portraits of Senator
Sam Nunn and former Atlanta Mayor Ivan Allen Jr.
interest in music is well known, but in 1997 while posing
for his portrait in the artist's studio Tom learned that
the Governor was also a songwriter. At that time Nash
had dabbled but never completed any songs. That this busy
person had found the time to do so inspired Nash to apply
himself just a bit more in his attempts to tell stories
Tom has said, 'As soon as I started writing about things
I really knew about, it started to just flow out of me.
It's been a lot of fun."