Thomas Phinnessee

Artist Bio


My name is Thomas Glass Phinnessee, a representational, impressionist painter living in the San Francisco Bay Area.

I am a Black-American, and also part Cherokee and White. I was born in Grand Junction, Tennessee, a small farming community in western Tennessee. My formal training in art was taken at local Bay Area colleges. I also continued my training in painting using DVDS, books, and workshops. My interest in drawing and painting began around the age of 8. I was encouraged by my mother to continue my interest in art.


While growing up in California and Detroit, Michigan, and during college, I was introduced to various mediums. I incorporated oils, cotton pulp, watercolors, clay, leather, wood, bronze, and acrylics in my artwork. I consider my art to be quaquaversal. My work seems to start with a central focus and goes in many different directions. This helps to keep my subjects varied and fresh. My art depicts the phases of my life. My main focus is oceanscapes and landscapes at the present; however, painting from my imagination and depicting world problems is also a challenge to my brush. I believe that an artist should use his medium to inform the masses, be it environmental, social, or political issues.

One of my interests is painting some of the points of interest that Grafton Tyler Brown painted. He is considered the first Black-American landscape artist in the west during the late 1800’s. My favorite pastime is plein air painting, chasing the light. I live a simple life, and to keep my art fresh I try to convey that simplicity. What I love about painting is that it allows me to express myself in a visual way without the need for words. Plein air painting has allowed me to get out of the studio, and get into the creative zone while surviving the elements of Mother Nature. Painting outside was somewhat difficult in the beginning, carrying gear, dealing with the light, and the elements. However, once I narrowed down the gear, learned to accept and enjoy what nature has dealt, there has been no turning back. I paint in my home studio about 30% of the time. There I try to work out problems, such as color mixing, brush technique, value range, and equipment adjustment. I apply my studio learning process to plein aire painting. I consider Highway 1 and the Pacific Ocean an extension of my studio. Oceanscapes are presently my favorite subject. My choice location is the ocean views of the Marin Headlands in Marin County, CA. I try to visit the location at least twice a week, in winter and summer. I love the wind, surfers, sound of the ocean, and the salty air. With all those elements working together, I try to produce my perfect wave. My artwork has been displayed in several publications, and in local shops and galleries. I also participate in local plein air paint outs.