My first introduction to Thomas Ard or TomTom as everyone calls him was an Instagram post before the January 2017 AmerciasMart. I was following along with my dear friend Natalie Chang as she was preparing the Lifeguard Press booth for another amazing show. She posted an in progress photo of TomTom painting a wall in the Lilly Pulitzer section of the booth. I was completely and totally drawn in. It was a short video as they are on Instagram but I must have watched it six times. Something about his technique spoke to my creative side immediately. It was “lighthearted, whimsical and happy” as he describes his work. The video showed him so effortlessly painting a palm print in shades of blue. I had to know more about this incredibly talented man.
Fast forward a week and I had the pleasure of meeting this talented artist during market. He immediately walked up and said hello and we were friends, it was just that simple. There are so many things I have come to love about Thomas in the short time I have known him and I know that list will multiply as our time together grows. First and foremost he is just as kind as he is talented. He is funny and warm and truly has never met a stranger, truly a Southern boy through and through. Living in Charleston he calls himself a traveling artist since he does a lot of work for brands and individuals and most of that work includes travel. When I asked him about his desk or creative space he laughed and said, “Well Honey that would be the trunk of my car”. Armed with a palette and a crate of supplies he is always ready for the next adventure. Thomas shared with me that he always takes a piece of his last location with him to the next creatively. I love that is office is always changing, there is something so fun and creative about it.
Thomas’ art is well known among retails shops and the gift industry. He has designed collections for stores such as Belk, Bed Bath & Beyond, Hallmark and more. Although he is still licensing and collaborating with companies he made the decision in January of this year to take a leap of faith and pursue TomTom and Company as a brand and lifestyle company. He says the demand for his personal products (paintings, stationery, prints and tabletop) has grown so much in the past two years it was time to pursue it as a full time job. As you continue to see photos of his work you will immediately agree with me this is a fabulous step for him as an artist and a business.
I was absolutely thrilled when he agreed to an interview, I could not wait to hear all about his journey!
First of all, tell me about Thomas. Where did you grow up and how did your childhood influence your career?
I grew up in a small town in Southeastern North Carolina, Lumberton. Spending most of my childhood by the coast, I developed a love for the easy breezy, relaxed style with lots of color. On the last day of school for summer break, we’d have our luggage packed and ready for the beach as soon as school let out. My grandmother would buy me fresh art supplies every summer and that’s what I would do… paint, design, paint, and design, ALL SUMMER! I hold those memories dear, and reflect on them often. I think that’s why I find so much inspiration in Palm Beach design.
How did your path to Tom Tom the artist extraordinaire begin?
Well the name TomTom comes from my sister Brittney. Thomas was a very hard name for her to pronounce. TomTom is what came out when she tried calling my name, and it has been the name that most children call me. I have painted my entire life. We Joke that I was holding a paintbrush before I could hold a pencil to write my name.While in college, I painted a piece of furniture for my baby sister, and it was a huge hit. Very whimsical and light hearted. I loved it! Training to be a “professional artist” this style did not go over well with my professors, and wasn’t considered “real” art. That’s when I decided to split identities. I would paint what my soul longed to paint as TomTom, and what the professors wanted me to paint as Thomas C. Ard. I’ve always had this feeling that TomTom was bigger than Thomas C. Ard. Eventually the demand for TomTom took over, and it has snowballed ever since!
Anything you wish you had done and didn’t do?
Absolutely not! Everything happens in its own and right time. I love where and what I’m doing right now. Anything else would have change the journey I’m on.
Share two people who have inspired your career and why?
Oprah… Her outlook on life, positive thinking, mindfulness, and zest for life inspire me daily. All of my friends will attest, her book “What I Know for Sure” is always playing when you are riding in my car. I could be distracted by doubt and my own insecurities if I let my mind go there, but I always use her positive thinking to find my center.
Kelly Shatat (Moon and Lola)… I met Kelly when I was fresh out of college. I met her ambition and drive long before I meet Kelly. I knew I wanted that same creative drive. Since that first encounter we have become friends, and I know her honesty and ability to “keep it real” comes from a wonderful heart. If I need someone to give me a real answer when it comes to business, I can call her!
What inspires you to create?
Knowing that I have the opportunity to make difference with a smile. The number one goal I have when creating is to make the viewer smile. I want my happiness to be seen through my artwork.
Do you have a favorite thing to paint?
At the current moment, I would say anything Chinoiserie! MORE MORE MORE, I can’t get enough of it. I’m always changing with seasons, and seem to always find away to make Chinoiserie adapt.
Do you have a favorite color?
BLUE… Its such a traditional man color for such an nontraditional man. I love blue. Even when I paint traditional paintings, I always have a blue undertone to my pallet.
Favorite item in your traveling creative space?
UE Boom Speaker… it travels wherever I go! Great sound and unlimited music for my creative days in the studio. Music is a must for me to create.
What is your favorite way to unwind?
Bourbon with a splash, Steve Tyrell on Pandora, and in the kitchen cooking! Sometimes I wonder if I should have been a chef instead of an artist. Cooking is my favorite pastime. If I’ve had a rough day… This is how you will find me!
Five must haves.
As you read his interview you will see why I am drawn to him as an artist and a friend. We share so many things we both love, the bourbon, candle and music while you create alone would have made me swipe right for a new friend. There is something about his story and his summers at the beach with his grandmother that resonate so well with me. His art is reflected in this creative time as a child and that passion can be seen in every single stroke. I am confident that TomTom and Company will be a household name before his one year anniversary.
You can follow along with Thomas and order anything he paints on his Instagram account until his website launches. I have already snatched up two little paintings and have a few other goodies on the way to me as I know you will want to do as well. His talent is quite addictive!
Thank you Thomas for the interview and the friendship. I am proud to have a side row seat to watch you grow this year as a brand and business owner. I have no doubt you will be a smashing success and I will be there to help you open a brand new bottle of bourbon to celebrate!
Personal Quote …
“Dare to dream the impossible dream, and once you’ve dreamed it… LIVE IT!” –TomTom