Artist Spotlight focuses on interesting artists, upcoming exhibitions, and articles about art and those who love it or create it.

Discover new ways to stretch your imagination, be introduced to new artists, their exhibits, and books to read about them. Expect to excite your mind. Comments are very welcome! -- Rosemary Carstens

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Tom Killion—Elegant Detail with a Classic Japanese Influence

I’ve always enjoyed the spare, stylized art of such classic Japanese artists as Hokusai and Hiroshige. Imagine my pleasure when I discovered the art of Tom Killion, born and raised in Mill Valley, CA—as he puts it, “on the slopes of Mt. Tamalpais”—who employs these traditional techniques in a fresh, contemporary manner. He combines two of my favorite things—amazingly skilled craftsmanship with a Japanese influence and the dramatic scenery of the Big Sur, Marin County, Northern California landscape. I have spent many wonderful days meandering among these scenes over many years and never tire of them. To see them in Killion’s art is so appreciated. I thought a post about him and his art to be the perfect way to start off the new year!

From an early age Killion was drawn to making landscape prints using linoleum and wood. While studying at UC Santa Cruz, he was introduced to fine book printing by William Everson and Jack Stauffacher. He found that these two niches fascinated him, could be combined creatively, and never failed to inspire him. In 1977, he founded Quail Press after traveling extensively in Europe and Africa. His sketchbooks and travel journeys in these countries provided the basis for many fine works (as can be seen on his website).

Killion carves his images into cherry, all-shina plywood, Amsterdam linoleum, and other block materials using Japanese hand tools. He prints his images on handmade Japanese kozo papers using oil-based inks and a German hand-cranked proofing press. He relates the labor-intensive details of how he moves from concept to completion on his website and it makes for fascinating reading! His skillful blending of oriental style with Western and African themes and craftsmanship has developed a unique and compelling body of work.

The artist’s limited editions frequently sell out and he produces monotone as well as multicolored images, and has produced or illustrated numerous handmade books. Many of these master works are in rare book collections of major libraries.

Tom Killion has a snail mail list you can join. What a thrill for me when a card arrives with one of his new images! Check this artist out—you’ll be glad you did.

In the meantime, I’m wishing everyone all art all the time in 2010—

-- Rosemary Carstens
Carstens Communications

(Images: top, City from Yellow Bluff; left, Bolinas Ridge; right, Tom Killion)


Melanie Mulhall said...


A creative use for linoleum! Imagine that! Seriously, Tom's work is stunning. Thanks for sharing it with us.

And I love the "all art all the time" theme. I'm going to remind myself to think of life in that way, every day.

Melanie Mulhall

Kathy Kaiser said...

Like you, I love the Japanese artists Hiroshige and Hokusai. Seeing Tom's work was like having the two artists resurrected in California.

THanks for letting me know about him. I hope to see more of his work.

Verna said...

Hi Rosemary! I'm browsing blogs this morning and when I scrolled down to this image, I got a little thrill of delight. I love knowing about his work. It's beautiful and moving and seeing that vision expanded this day. Fantastic! My tulips are in bloom and now this! Thank you.