To say that Cape Cod inspires artists does not even begin to explain Tom Stringe. How do you account for a man who, having never touched a paintbrush, moves to the Cape and within six months is painting pictures people want to buy?
That’s precisely what happened to Stringe 26 years ago when he and his husband moved to the Cape from Florida, looking for a place that had seasons. “The artist that was dormant inside me for 37 years blossomed,” he says. “All the things that make the Cape so special are the things that inspire me.” Lighthouses, salt marshes, sand dunes, hydrangeas and foggy harbors that might stay foggy all day have all been subjects of Stringe’s paintings—sometimes depicted realistically, and more recently, in an abstract, yet approachable, style.
Working almost exclusively in watercolor, Stringe paints every day, juggling as many as 10 pictures at a time. He paints on 300-lb. cold-pressed Arches paper, a French 100-percent cotton-fiber product that dates back centuries. He likes the medium because he can get the paper really wet, which allows greater freedom of expression. “You can let it happen,” Stringe says, the “it” being the creative process and the resulting picture. “It’s possible to control the paint, but it’s better to just let it happen.”
It has been said that if you give painters enough time they’ll eventually start painting abstracts, which is exactly what happened to Stringe. Many of his earlier paintings contained a strong horizontal line cutting through the center, with at least a semblance of the subject manner remaining; a painting of flowers is still recognizable as such, for example. His latest work, however, has evolved into even more abstraction, showing the sea as if seen from a promontory with the sky and the ocean stretching in equal planes to the horizon. But all a viewer has to do is shift perspective, and it’s suddenly a flat, very powerful two-dimensional study in color and texture.
“With these expressive paintings, people can get a more personal experience,” says Stringe. “I do want people to see the joy and feel the emotion I put into my work.” Does he expect his work will become even more abstract as time goes on? “I do like color, and I like to paint the emotion I feel,” he says, “but I’ll never limit myself. I just paint.”
Tom Stringe’s paintings can be found exclusively at Stringe Gallery Art & Antiques, 2896 Main Street, Brewster. More information about the artist can be found at stringegallery.com.