Meet Tommy B. McDonell, Ph.D.

In grade school and high school, my teachers told me never to paint or to go into art. They said my colors were too bright and that things didn’t look “real.” At that time, I hadn’t taken any art history classes and I believed them. After high school, I took English Literature courses and studied Art History at Lindenwood College in St. Charles, MO. During January studies, I took wonderful ‘art-related’ trips with my English Literature professor, Jim Feely. And in my senior year I took classes in African Art. In 1979, I moved to New York City where I joined multiple museums and spent as much time exploring them as possible. I was drawn to the galleries of the impressionistic art that I had always loved, but I learned to tolerate and later to love abstract art.

In my early fifties, I saw a sign about Watercolor Classes with the words, “You need not be able to draw.” I signed up, and soon fell in love with watercolors. I spent an entire weekend learning to paint one petal. In between grading college and graduate papers, I painted. A teeny palette sat on my unused radiator and a small flower-shaped table from Target held water in coffee cups. I was so hooked!

Little did I know that I would move later to Pinehurst, NC. I had always been active, and I was not prepared at all for retirement or for disability. Diagnosed with MS at 43, I found that in my mid-fifties and, even more so, in my sixties, it affected my cognition, and that I even had trouble reading, which I loved so much. There was also had a lot of pain. Being engrossed in something seemed to help me. That’s when I turned to art, movies, and kayaking. Sharing my work has become an important component to what I do. I often donate my paintings to many 'not for profit' groups, including the following: Penick Village, Bethesda Presbyterian, Habitat in NC, and Yes! Beat Liver Tumors in Canton, TX.

At the Artists League of the Sandhills in Aberdeen, NC I took an alcohol ink class with Karen Walker of Sanford, NC. I loved the bright colors of the inks, the ability to be spontaneous, and I loved that a mistake might become a plus. However, somehow my mind kept going back to my college trips, and I began to explore mixed media. I took workshops with Sterling Edwards, Kathie George, and Linda Kemp along with online classes with Jodi Ohl and Alexis Bonavitacola. I found myself making images of churches, arches, and stained glass windows.

And, I even found myself incorporating memories of Caribbean Art and African Art. I worked with stencils, molds, and mediums, too many to mention. This was when I found that I could layer my work, both with acrylics and alcohol inks. And, I also began to dabble in encaustics, oil pastels, and more.

Somehow, without my really knowing it, I drifted closer and closer to my version of modern or abstract art. I had never liked contemporary art in NYC; however, in NC I edged closer to it. Colleagues at the League helped me to recognize the importance of values. And I learned to understand that an object wasn’t necessarily a chair, but instead it was that shape that made it a chair. This is where I am now in my art.


Sign up for our newsletter
No thanks
Customers rate us 5.0/5 based on 8 reviews.