By day, Tom McPherson is a mild mannered member of the professional staff and business development department at BRR Architecture in Merriam, Kan.
But when the Grain Valley native returns to his Independence bungalow and heads to his Diamond Crow Studio, his creative juices go into overdrive and he becomes the Picasso of pine, the Warhol of whittling, a Dali of diversity.
McPherson has developed a unique style of assemblage art/wood carving/steam punk that he likes to say, “Is prehistoric/futuristic - so, no matter what I do, it is what it is.”
Fifteen years ago, McPherson began the age-old art of wood carving. His work has been honored in a variety of local shows and he is a longtime supporter of Art Unleashed, a yearly benefit for the Humane Society - where his Lady Doga was a patron favorite that recently created a bidding frenzy.
“I watched my dad carve for years,” McPherson said, as he worked on a new samurai piranha that is as fascinating as it is menacing. “When he could no longer carve, he asked me to finish his last project - a set of carved Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls for my mom.
“That was a special project for me, because I used his tools to complete it. My mom still has them. In fact, she has all the projects my dad carved. Now, whenever I carve something, I make sure to use one of his tools to complete it.
“That way, my dad is a part of everything I do, because I wouldn't be doing this if I hadn't been watching him when I grew up.”
The McPherson household is a gallery of art that ranges from Cardinals - that are so lifelike you expect to fly across the living room - to a terrifyingly terrific prehistoric/futuristic fish that is carved and painted in such a fashion it appears to be outfitted in combat gear.
“That was one was a lot of fun,” said McPherson, grinning from ear to ear. “When I started on this one, I didn't really know where it was going. Its eyes are parts of a binocular, its teeth are copper wire and a buddy of mine welded the base.
“I wanted it to really look like it was metal, so I painted it several different times, and came up with the patina I was looking for. It's pretty crazy, isn't it?”
A petite blue bird, sporting an antique key in its beak, sits atop an antique roller skate. It is one of his wife Kristy's favorites.
“He won't let me go downstairs,” Kristy quipped, “because he doesn't want me to put in my two cent's worth. I love everything he does - but my favorites are the bird on the roller skate and the bird in front of the bingo montage box. When I saw those I told him, 'They're staying here!''
Page 2 of 3 - When he's not in his basement workshop, McPherson is on the prowl at area estate sales, garage sales and antique shops looking for the right element to complete his latest creation.
“You never know what you're going to find,” McPherson said. “Someone might have something in a jar that no one else even notices, and it's something I've been looking for - like old keys, clock pieces or typewriter keys. You just never know what you might find.
“I was with a friend and we found this old oil can, bought it for something like a dollar, and it turned out to be the base for a hummingbird piece we worked on. It's funny how those things work out.”
He also found a child's antique violin, complete with case.
“I wanted to put songbirds on the violin, but decided to put them on the case, along with some sheet music inside the case and it's one of my favorite pieces.”
McPherson does his best to head downstairs and work on a project every day - whether it be a 20-minute session to complete the details on a bird's wings or an 8-hour Saturday session where he turns a chunk of wood into a one-of-a-kind piece of assemblage art that leaves his fan base clamoring for more.
McPherson will be at Changing Seasons Gallery and the Mechanical Monkey, which are located in Englewood, 11014 East Winner Road in Independence, from 6-9 p.m. tonight as part of Third Fridays in the Englewood Art District.
“We love having Tom come to the gallery, because his work allows us to carry diversity in art,” said gallery owner Russ Lawrence. “He might come up after he goes to a garage or estate sale with what he calls 'junk,' and then he begins talking about how he might use it in his piece of art. He has such a flair for what he does, and what he does is unique.”
By selling his work at Changing Seasons and the Mechanical Monkey, McPherson is able to visit with the folks who appreciate his art.
“Third Fridays are a lot of fun, because I can get feedback from someone other than Kristy,” he said, chuckling. “She likes just about everything I do. I've been lucky - I've sold quite a few pieces. But now, the pieces I do are so personal that they're tough to get rid of.
“But I really enjoy putting my pieces up at the Changing Seasons and Mechanical Monkey. I want each piece to be unique, because not many people do what I do.”
When asked if he had a favorite, McPherson just shakes his head back and forth.
“Not really,” he said, glancing around his living room. “I put about 80 hours into each piece, so they are personal. I can't really pick a favorite - I like all of them.”
Page 3 of 3 - That's a sentiment Lawrence shares.
“When I see Tom come into the gallery, I can't wait to see his latest creation,” Lawrence said. “It's easy to sum up Tom McPherson – personable, creative and one-of-a-kind – both the individual and his art work.”