Avon gorge high tide with birds, December

Tom Hughes – Oils


Painting, for me, is about freedom; Creatively and physically. I am fascinated by how the world looks and why things appear as they do. My obsessive need to enquire and experiment with these thoughts has always been there and I choose to exercise this need via oil paint.

Plein air painting is as much about being in the outdoors, immersed in the elements as it is about making pictures. The process holds an equal if not greater value to me. I love to get wrapped up in the clothing; Gortex and leather hiking boots. Wind on your face and all that. Chill in the fingers. Drinking good coffee while looking up the coast to boiling seas and jutting peninsulas. It’s bliss. I love the gloom of a city in winter, the dark darks and the subtle greys. Headlights glowing and popping against it all.

If plein air is a dynamic, reactive environment then the studio is the opposite. The studio is about control, first and foremost, coupled with endless time and total creative freedom. It’s the chemistry lab where I can explore any aspect of visual stimuli that’s currently on my mind in comfortable, static quiet. Put a lamp here, move a jar there, create a soft shadow, introduce a curved reflective surface. The combinations are infinite. It’s both toy box and garden shed for the inquisitive man-boy and I love it.


Born in Colchester and raised in Oxfordshire, Tom Hughes initially wanted to be a professional snowboarder but wasn’t good enough. His second choice (the more sensible one) was to make a full time living from his art, which he has been doing with gusto since 2005. He began his career as an illustrator before switching to painting in 2012 when the lure of oils became too much. Tom exhibits regularly at the Mall Galleries in London and has been selected for numerous prestigious prizes, including the BP Portrait Prize, the Lynn Painter Stainers Prize and The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. In 2014 he won the Benton Purchase prize at the Discerning Eye and in 2015 he won both the Smallwood Architects Prize at Royal Society of Portrait Painters and the prestigious Critics prize at the New English Art Club. He lives with his girlfriend and baby in Bristol.