Specializing in detailed pencil illustrations and watercolor paintings of people, pets and places. To “Consider An Original” contact willstom01@gmail.com for current pricing.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

No. 368: Don Vito Corleone: Lucky Accidents

No. 368: Don Vito Corleone by Tom Wills, April 2017
"But I'm a superstitious man. And if some unlucky accident should befall him - If he should get shot in the head by a police officer, or if he should hang himself in his jail cell - or if he's struck by a bolt of lightning, them I'm going to blame some of the people in this room, and that I do not forgive."

Gray. Old. Man.
I love The Godfather movie trilogy. I’ve grown accustomed to the back-and-forth timing of Godfather II and find the Vatican intrigue of III entertaining. I even named my German Shepherd “Corleone.”
German. Corleone. I have to explain that one a lot.

Before the wine, and the chair.
I decided to draw Don Vito after a particularly rainy weekend of Godfather marathoning, during a lull in paying art work.
It became a work of lucky accidents.

Early version of Marlon Brando's face.
First, I had a nice wooden frame with a mat that I had painted gray, specifically fit for a wedding picture I have done.  But the groom hated the frame, wanting something less heavy.  So suddenly I had a large and heavy, dark frame on hand.

Vito's vino.

Sinister happening.
Second, the film frame from Godfather I that I chose for the drawing had a real problem: The camera seemed to catch Marlon Brando’s saggy and shadowy eyes in left to right motion.  I could not really discern where the iris and pupils are. Someone else had painted the image and had him looking to the wine bottles, but it looked wrong — too much white in the eyes. So I guessed and made him look to the right, away from the wine bottles. The result is …

Be a man!
Sinister Godfather!

In the movies, particularly the first one, Don Vito comes across as much less of a badass than he is in Mario Puzo’s book. Sure, people got artfully whacked on the big screen.  But in the book the whackings were much more heavy.

Working on the shirt and pants.
So what we now have is an aging and sinister Mafia don glaring murderously from a frame originally reserved for a bride in white, who was looking lovingly into the eyes of her husband.

He's no bridesmaid.
For love or murder, I hope you think this piece looks killer.

I will sell this piece if you should make me an offer that I cannot refuse. Find me on Facebook or email willstom01@gmail.com. We can work something out peacefully.

Monday, March 13, 2017

No. 365: I Know You, Rider

No. 356: "Captain."  Watercolor, March 2017

I find horses heavy beasts — steamy, shining and aloof. Not huggable, like a hairy dog is lovable.

Aloof. Not huggable.

Have had a few dogs, but never a horse. I have, however, come to know several very dedicated, very educated horse women.
It is quite a bond of love and money. Horses demand real estate, investment and maintenance.
There is something very fine about a woman and controlled equine power.

The beginning sketch, to be painted over.

This, “Captain,” is my fourth horse painting, and there are another nine horse drawings. So I have had plenty of time for studying them, and for getting to know their riders.

Washing in the initial watercolors.

“Captain” is slightly different from the others, however, in that I have not yet personally met his owner, who lives in a Columbus suburb. She ordered the painting after seeing one that I had done for my cousin, a friend of hers. We are now planning a meet and greet, as well as a picture exchange.

Washed in the trees.

The painting mimics a photo that I was emailed, and though the horse was prominent in the image, the rider was not; nor was she well-defined.
That made this painting difficult, as did its depth: The horse and rider in the foreground, kicking up dust; and the track and woods behind the fence.

Trees and grasses in their unfinished state

I wanted the light on the horse and rider, but wanted the light to show through the darker trees. This was accomplished by trial, error and a few layers of paint — the trees got painted three times (no small ordeal with watercolors).

In fact at one point I despaired that I’d ruined the painting.

Still working on the trees and the dusty hooves

But what did result is a painting that suggests a lot of things, such as the rider’s face, and those tree leaves and branches. Distance betters the illusion: From a few steps back, the trees look realistic, and horse and rider capture the sunlight.

Finished, with trees and dusty hooves lightened up and smoothed put.

I’m not quite a confident painter, not really there yet. The point where I know whether things will work, or not, isn’t as clear to me as it is with my drawings. But the sense of relief is greater upon completion.

I know you, rider. Or I will soon enough. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

No. 364: Hello It's Me


  1. inspiring great delight; cute or adorable.

It's a real adjective!  And all of my wordy, literate friends hate it! And they despise overuse of exclamation points! I'm told they bastardize the English language!

But people, let me testify: This. Is. ADORBS. (!!!)

This child, Karter, is my brother's granddaughter.  And this picture was a rush job, crammed in between other projects and finished in four days to have it ready for her first birthday party. 

Now, she'll never remember anything of this picture, her smash cake or her gifts. First birthday parties are really an adult excuse to get the family together over fried chicken, beer and snacks.

But this portrait now hangs in the family's dining room and will watch over many more future gatherings. Some memories are meant to last.

If you wish to Consider An Original, contact me at willstom01@gmail.com, here, or on Facebook. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

No. 361: A Very Neat Idea

Isn’t it great when a friendship has deep roots? These two women -- yes, two (though there are four in the picture) --  have been friends for more than 50 years.

Here's how this project got started:
“A little history: Sal and I have been friends since first grade. We are now in our sixties,” wrote Dawn, from Texas.
She wound up working with me to bring this commemorative piece to fruition.  Sal is in Ohio, near enough to my town. 
I was emailed three photos:  The ladies now, and the girls in high school.

So I wrote back: “This could be really special and unique. I could draw the two of you as you are now, with your high school selves looking on much lighter in the background.”
And that’s exactly what happened!

Dawn and I talked about what to leave in, and leave out.  And we had a good late-night phone conversation about cheeks, which was kinda fun and productive.

Also, this is the first time that I took my work outside and photographed it in natural light, rather than the shadowy florescence of my basement art room.  I'll use this method again.

This piece showed up at Sal’s house this week.  Surprise!

Watch it happen ...

Friday, February 17, 2017

No. 360: In Lieu of Flowers

No. 360: Marvin H. Gordon 1922-2017

I read a lot of stories in my newspaper job about war veterans and their exploits. Lately the stories have been more of their passing, especially the World War II servicemen. And I always think the same thing: "What balls!"

This fellow, Marvin Higgins Gordon, 94, didn't get a story.  And truthfully, he got an obituary in a competing paper.  He was born Dec. 8, 1922, in Windham, in Portage County, Ohio, and died Feb. 9, 2017, at St. Joseph Warren Hospital.

In lieu of flowers,  a friend of the family commissioned a portrait of Marvin in his Air Force bomber jacket and garrison cap, also known as a "piss-cutter." He was a nose gunner serving in World War II.   A nose gunner is a crewman  who operates a machine gun or autocannon turret in the front of the warplane.  Dangerous, badass stuff.

Turns out Marvin wound up a prisoner of war for one year and 17 days in Germany.  He came away from it with a lifelong fear of German Shepherd dogs, I was told.

He married the former Marjorie Fae Sutliff on Feb. 22, 1944, and enjoyed 72 years of marriage. He worked near Windham at the Ravenna Arsenal  42 years,  and enjoyed farming and spending time with his dog, children and grandchildren.

A solid man, but he didn't get a newspaper story. That family friend, however, made sure he got a portrait, which is now with the family in the Newton Falls, Ohio area.  Newspaper stories are fleeting. But No. 360 helps to preserve a memory, and it was an honor to do this piece.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

No. 359: Marilyn's Big Brim

No. 359, "Marilyn," by Tom Wills, February 2017

I never knew much about Marilyn Monroe and I’ve never seen her movies.
But I know what an icon is, and she is that.
Her image, widely known, is the symbol for sexy.

I cannot imagine that my oldest daughter knows much about Marilyn, either — other than that sexy thing. But she wanted a big Marilyn face in a black frame to hang in her bedroom, so here she is.

There are hundreds of Marilyn images out there but we chose this one, with the oversized hat. There are dozens of versions of Marilyn in the hat with the flowers, taken in June 1958 by Magnum photographer Carl Perutz in New York for a magazine article that never happened.

Read and see more here:

In reading about Marilyn, I learned that she routinely played a dumb blond onscreen — roles she despised. But in reality she learned to act, eventually impressing studio heads, critics and fans. She amassed enough influence to break out of the old-school studio system and form her own production company, giving herself greater authority in how The Marilyn Machine was marketed.

She admits to sleeping around and not wearing undies. There are pics of her nude (raising not only eyebrows in the ‘50s!) and she cavorted with politicians, singers, studio bosses, coaches and writers.

We can agree, she sure was beautiful. And in the end, troubled, anxious and depressed. It appears she overdosed on barbiturates in August 1962, only 36 years old.

It’s a complete coincidence that No. 359, Marilyn, follows No. 358, Judy Garland, another product of the studio system whose life also ended in a barbiturate haze, though unintentionally, at 47.

Sad conclusions to icons, both, whose sounds and visions stay with us in film and music. And, sometimes, on bedroom walls.