“When I paint murals, I like to think of myself as being shrunk down,” says Denver artist Tom Ward, digging for just the right shade of red for the tropical flower he's painting on a mural at Tommy’s Thai on Colfax Avenue and Cook Street.
Ward started out designing the mural on paper as part of an application for the Urban Arts Fund. While he did not receive funding, he could not let the idea go. He persisted in searching out a location and money to create his project. Through crowdfunding and support from local shops Botanical Interest, 12 @ Madison, Sweet Cooie’s and Annie’s, Ward received the backing he needed.
The Thai rainforest scene he paints is a lush, vivid breath of life. A water buffalo looks at the viewer with soft, well-deep eyes; a gecko, birds, flowers and a number of insects buzz across the wall. Ward has an affinity for insects and has focused on them in this piece; he's concerned about the plight of pollinators in the world.
Ward's process from conception to completion is simple: He creates the concept art and then imagines himself miniaturized within the world of the painting, each stroke that was a slight flip of the wrist in the original sketch now a full arm’s reach on the twenty-foot-high, forty-foot-long wall.
The whole mural will take him about forty hours total, a rapid pace to complete a work on a 600-to-800-square-foot wall.
Ward honed his technique and craft at California College of the Arts and studying with master painters like Quang Ho, Dave Santillanes, Ramon Kelley, Andrew Lucas, Craig Nelson and many more.
“I’ve been painting my whole life,” says Ward, recalling creating murals as a kid in his parents’ house. Whether he’s been working as a graphic designer, a freelance illustrator for print publications, an assistant to the curator at the University of Denver School of Art and Art History or exhibiting in galleries including Abend, AUM, Wildflowers and Tri-Lakes Center for the Arts, he can’t stop creating.
And he has no plans to.
When it comes to his future, Ward says his goal is “to do more of what I’m doing...and travel.”
Learn more by visiting Tom Ward online.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.