Local artist's painting to be featured on ReminderNews Gold Pages directory cover

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Danielson - posted Mon., Jul. 11, 2011
'Fall Harvest,' a painting by Tom Menard, will appear on the cover the Willimantic-Putnam-Killingly 'Reminder Gold Pages' directory this fall. Courtesy photo. - Contributed Photo

Not until artist Tom Menard was in his 40s did he show his artwork outside his living room. His pastor from Woodstock Congregational Church encouraged him, so Menard put together a portfolio and took it to New York City. He brought it to the Art Expo, a big trade show for artists and publishers. Several companies were interested in his folk prints, and one bought the rights to four of his pieces.
That was in 1992. Since then, Menard has kept to the course he set long ago, painting folk art and abstract surrealism, and making a name for himself.

Menard’s work has already appeared on the cover of multiple Reminder Gold Pages directories, and his painting, “Fall Harvest,” will be featured on the cover of the Willimantic-Putnam-Killingly directory this fall.

In addition, Taylor Brooke Winery bought four of his paintings for their labels. Two paintings of Woodstock, a painting of Roseland Cottage and a festival scene grace a variety of wines the Connecticut winery produces. Brooklyn Savings Institute commissioned him to do 10 paintings, one for each of their branches. He's painted five murals for Nuccio's Restaurant in Danielson. He painted them on one-quarter-inch thick Masonite in his studio. The Westview Health Care Center commissioned him to paint a 27-foot mural. He's painted the campus of Marianapolis Preparatory School and is currently working on a painting of Quinebaug Valley Community College for its anniversary in September.

“I love this area and the towns,” said Menard. “When I go, I take pictures. I get to meet people. The people know the buildings and know my art, so it’s a nice way to bring yourself out to the public.”

His ties to the community are strong. So are his powers of observation. 

“I always incorporate things that people are interested in,” he said. “When I do a town, I'll put in stores and restaurants, and rivers.” People recognize his towns as the places they live, but they don't always notice some of the finer details.

“Sometimes people will say, 'Oh, Danielson doesn't look like that.' But it does. People say, ‘You have your interpretation,’ and I say, ‘But it does look like that. Go down the street and look at these buildings. This is how they look. Go down Main Street in Danielson. They've got some really nice buildings.’ But people just drive by and don't even see them.”

Menard helps people to see things in a different light. He'll put in brightly-colored trees. He'll put in an old carriage. His paintings tell little stories, he said.

He has come to a point in his career where he gets many requests to paint portraits of people's houses. “People want them as a story of their life,” he said. “One guy loved gardens, so I put one in. I'll meet with people several times. They'll call me and say, ‘Did you put this in?’”

Menard will take photographs, and he will listen to what people tell him about the things they like, so he can incorporate them into the paintings. 

His paintings vary in size, depending on what he's painting. And they can take anywhere from 30 to 200 hours to complete.

“Sometimes it flows,” he said. “I have no idea why. Sometimes I think it's going to be easy and straightforward and beautiful. I get home and it becomes so hard, I can't explain it. Sometimes what you see and what you paint doesn't always come out the same.”

Menard is self-taught. The last art course he took was in high school. Art was the only subject he enjoyed. He's worked at several different jobs over the years, but he always kept painting. When his daughters were young, he learned how to paint with them sitting on his lap. Currently he works with Kerri Quirk in her art studio and gallery in Willimantic.

Menard's latest venture is playing guitar. Along with a host of paintings he's done over the years is a long list of songs he's written. When his daughter and her boyfriend started a band, he toyed with the idea of joining them.

“My daughter's boyfriend plays the drums and has a recording studio,” Menard said. “So I started thinking about it and said, 'Why don't I do that?'”

And now he does.

His daughter Elizabeth plays the accordion. Menard and a third member, Jim Turner, play guitars. They call themselves Primmrose. They performed at Taylor Brooke Winery's anniversary celebration. Next week, they will play at Quinebaug Valley Community College. It's one more feather in his mixed media hat.

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