Real-Life Canvas


Courtesy of Tom Hughes

”I’m an old-fashioned painter, is what I am,” says Tom Hughes of Alameda. “Back before people decided they could only do one thing, I liked doing everything.” Hughes’ subjects range widely from a lobster boat crew, to snow-covered woods, to bricks and pots in his driveway. Working in his studio beneath the sign of the former Sunshine Biscuits bakery in Oakland, he paints portraits, as well as figurative and landscape pictures, in watercolor, oil and acrylic.

“It’s a visual thing. I’m not trying to make a statement or a point about pots,” says Hughes, who has hundreds of paintings in his portfolio, many hanging in galleries from Truckee, Calif., to the village of Trôo, in central France. “I find a really intense kind of beauty everywhere. I don’t think you really see it until you take it out of its context, and put some of these boundaries around it like I do with pictures.”

Although one of his dealers suggested “it would be better if I did paintings that contained a minimum of plastic water bottles,” Hughes paints what he sees, whether he’s working from life, sketches or photographs. When he paints a nude in her bathroom, the tableau includes the commode. “That’s going to be my great contribution to the art world,” he jokes, a reference to “Fountain,” Marcel Duchamp’s avant-garde porcelain urinal.

When it comes to the canvas, Hughes does it all, but disproves the aphorism about the jack of all trades. His painting “Low Tide, Stonington” was just included in the book Watercolor Painting: A Comprehensive Approach to Mastering the Medium (Watson-Guptill, December 2012), by Tom Hoffmann. Hughes also teaches plein-air oil and watercolor painting classes.

For more of Hughes’ work: Contact him at

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