Clanton man puts life into painting

Published 10:06 pm Thursday, June 18, 2009

Thomas Hobbs would draw airplanes on his notebooks in school, proving that he always had an interest in art. But what ultimately led him to a lifetime of painting was a random good deed.

Hobbs was a superintendent over appliance service with Alabama Power. While checking an appliance for a customer, he found that the problem was in the wiring. Hobbs later called the electrician and told him not to bother the woman with a bill.

Two weeks later, Hobbs’ sales manager brought him an original oil painting of a mountain stream. It was painted by “Miss Billie,” the customer he had helped.

“I put it in my office, and I thought, ‘I believe I’ll try that,'” said Hobbs, who lives in Clanton with his wife, Beverly.

When the Hobbs family moved here in 1986, he immediately began taking lessons from local artist Scarlet Teel, who taught him the basics of drawing and oil painting.

Hobbs soon started helping the late John Zed King, a well-known painter who owned a studio in north Chilton County. King taught him watercolors, framing and mat cutting.

Later, when King became ill and unable to cut frame boards, Hobbs helped him make several hundred frames.

Hobbs, who suffered from severe symptoms of Crohn’s Disease in the 1970s, could relate to King’s pain.

“I’ve learned what it’s like to hurt a lot and to bleed a lot, so I tend to help people all I can,” he said.

Hobbs has painted about 100 pieces using various mediums — graphite, acrylics, watercolors and oils. He is especially fond of mountain scenes and has established contacts in the arts and crafts community of the Great Smoky Mountains. This has resulted in several friendships.

Hobbs’ origins in Clay County allow him to claim the region as his own.

“By being born in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, that lets me sell things in the Smokies,” he said. “If you’re born on this side of the (Coosa) river, you can’t do that.”

Even though Hobbs paints as a hobby, one could argue that it reflects his life’s philosophy. Being able to appreciate a work of art despite its minor flaws could reflect one’s ability to appreciate people in the same way.

Still, there remains the importance of detail.

“Artwork causes you to look a little bit deeper at things,” he said. “You don’t just take a scene for granted, for instance. You look at the darks and lights in it.”

That delicate balance is offset by the brute strength of the hands that cut frame boards — the same hands that weld and work on automobiles and appliances.

“I’ve always made a living with my hands,” Hobbs said. “Normally, artists are perceived as being delicate people. I’m not a delicate person.”

Considering how he got started, Hobbs considers his artwork to be the return on an investment — a return that has allowed him years of enjoyment.

“God has been so gracious to us. He has blessed us,” he said.