Altamira Fine Art Scottsdale is pleased to present new work from R. Tom Gilleon in "Nine Little Tipis", starting January 21, 2019.


Please join us for a reception Thursday, January 24th from 7-9pm at our Scottsdale gallery location. Meet the Artist and see his latest work in a unique installation.


To call R. Tom Gilleon a master colorist falls far short of the dramatic complexity that builds beneath his portraits of tipis. The scenes are best described as cinematic and poised for action. Look closely and his compositions begin to unravel rapturously: abstract shapes and unexpected colors surface, as do strange configurations and layers. As always, boldly-hued horizons seem to sigh into oblivion. The paintings are allegorical in nature, infused with equal parts realism and symbolism. History emoted, not recorded.


Gilleon came to fine art after an illustrious career in commercial illustration, working for NASA and Disney among many others—decades indivisible from the confidence of his paintbrush. At Disney, he freed himself of the literal, recalling a moment when his friend Herb Ryman, Disney’s first full-time artist on staff, encouraged him during a live model session to find beauty in an ordinary visage. In that moment, Gilleon realized he had dropped back into the default of copying what he saw, of being “a courtroom artist covering a trial.” His fine art career would come to reflect that moment of clarity, to instead extract and amplifying the subtleties of the world around him.


Channeling the wind is an instinct intrinsic to an artist living out West, ensconced as they are in the elements and the seasons. In his Montana studio, Gilleon works to follow where his instinct leads. As was the case with his first tipi painting: while struggling with another composition, he let his attention drift to a blank canvas that had been casting challenges his way. Quickly drawing a tipi with charcoal, he then felt the need to cover the dark marks with intense colors. He greeted his first tipi painting with disinclination, assuming such a work would be the last thing anyone would ever want to own, reluctantly agreeing to consign it to an interested gallery. Lo and behold, the painting sold immediately, and several requests for commissions ensued. Thus began the tipi odyssey.


Now later in his career, Gilleon can freely navigate in his reimagined style. His tipis command the rooms they grace with their resoluteness—as vacant as an Edward Hopper, as striking as an Andy Warhol. They invite historical reinterpretation by gesturing at stories left open-ended. He likens his tipis to portrait paintings in that each are the same in structure yet possess unique qualities. As much as his subjects dominate his canvases, Gilleon puts as much of himself into his works. “For years, my goal was to improve my technical skills, to improve the brushstroke, refine the color sense and compositions, to become a ‘master artist,’” he says. “That goal has changed. I want each brushstroke to be more like me… a little unfinished, a little naïve, a little crude, sometimes whimsical but mostly honest. In short, to be the artist I was when I was only 5 years old, but with a larger perspective on the world.” Each time Gilleon paints a tipi, he is depicting not a scene, but a story only he can tell.