I attempted to contact Tom DeMint at least six weeks ago when I saw his beautiful painting in the Miller Juried Show in Sturgeon Bay. I think I know almost all the artists in and around Door County and if I don’t know the individual, one of the artists I do know will know the person. Actually, as you will read, this was the case. Tom called me several days ago and we scheduled a telephone interview that was wonderful. Tom is another person living in Door County that has a fascinating background and a wonderfully interesting life.
Randy Rasmussen (RR): Tom, where were you born and raised?
Tom DeMint (TD): I was born in Wisconsin in 1936 in Wisconsin Rapids. My father was in the military and we moved, with me becoming the classic “military brat.” As a child I remember amusing myself drawing endlessly. At a young age, I won a drawing contest with the Washington Post newspaper.
RR: What is your link to Door County?
TD: My wife Judy and I were living in Chicago and we started coming to Door County for summer vacations. The entire family loved the water, the trees and we decided, if possible, we would like a place to build someday. We ended up doing it.
RR: In our initial telephone conversation you said you were always drawing. Can you elaborate?
TD: I wrote and drew all throughout my education at a Jesuit high school. I learned discipline and I think my drawings also improved.
RR: Did you develop an appreciation for art growing up?
TD: Both my father and my mother encouraged me in my creative endeavors. My father had a friend, Stan Ekman, who was an amazing illustrator who did covers for the Saturday Evening Post and Collier’s, two popular magazines at the time. Stan set up an interview for me with JWT advertising in Chicago and I was there for many years, eventually becoming senior vice-president. JWT became the world’s largest advertising firm.
RR: When did you start painting in oils?
TD: Only after I graduated from Saint Joseph’s College in Indiana. When I went to JWT, I was a copywriter. I had always done cartoons and in the last few years at JWT, I started cartooning and sketching again.
RR: I had some difficulty locating you. I have seen and enjoyed your work in several shows and it is consistently good. How often do you show your work?
TD: I don’t get to shows often. I was but no longer am in a gallery in Lake Forest. I am in the Paint Box Gallery in Ephraim. I usually send some of my paintings to various charitable fundraising events.
RR: Your work, which I find distinctive, shows your appreciation of light and value. Have you had workshops with any instructors our readers would recognize?
TD: I did paint with a woman who was very talented, Cathy Barry. I haven’t had any other formal instruction.
RR: How would you describe your work?
TD: I think it is impressionistic realism. I try to remember three things from my career in advertising: surprise, relevance and emotion.
RR: Who are some of your favorite artists?
TD: Frederic Remington is wonderful and the portraits of Jim Ingwersen are amazing. I also like the work of Rob Williams and William Doyle, both who are local artists.
RR: Both are friends and both are exceptional painters. What do you think makes a good painting?
TD: In my opinion it all goes back to the three previously mentioned things.
RR: Tom, you and I have both seen a lot of changes in the world. Where do you think fine art is headed?
TD: That is a difficult question. I know the current generations do not have the interest in fine art that older people have. Only time will tell.
RR: How often do you paint?
TD: Maybe once a month. I draw, I am writing a play, and I do work for four charitable organizations in Chicago. My life is full and I enjoy every day.
RR: Thank you.