self portrait

Tom Reed


I studied photography at Rutgers University while attending as a Geography student in the ‘70s.  Upon graduation I pursued outdoor adventures, and became weary of hauling the “glass and steel” of my camera equipment in my backpack, and living without access to a darkroom.  I met a woman in Alaska who was a watercolor artist and philosophic thinker, and who taught me the value of truly seeing what was before me. A few months later, when my camera was crushed in an accident while sailing in the Caribbean, I decided to lighten my backpack and take a zen approach to witnessing beauty on my adventures, that is, to pay close attention to the details captured by my eye, and create a mental image that would endure as a photograph would.  In that process I began to ask, “Why is this beautiful?”

When I built a cabin in Alaska, I followed my creative urges, creating works in pen and ink, acrylic, watercolor, and sculptures in wood, and selling them at local galleries.  My themes were landscape and wildlife.  At that time I also began training in Japanese martial arts. 

Years later I came to California to pursue martial arts, and supported my intense training with my sculpture and design skills.  This training continued for eight years and led to an advanced rank and teacher certification in an art who’s name (aikido) is translated as “ the way of harmony with the animating force/principle of the universe”, which can be viewed as a study of the harmonization of positive and negative forces.

In 1999 I came to the Mendocino coast to open a school, and met Dr. Shozo Sato who’s deep understanding of Japanese zen aesthetics impressed me so much that I immediately became a student at the Center for Japanese Arts in Northern California.  I have since centered my study of aesthetics on the practice of the Japanese Tea Ceremony (chado), which includes the practice of ink and brush calligraphy (shodo), ink painting (sumi-e), and flower arranging (ikebana), as well as the appreciation of many other arts associated with Tea, such as pottery and architecture.

This education has profoundly built upon my martial artist’s visceral understanding of the dynamic forces of positive and negative, entering the realm of active space vs. empty space, and, on paper, subject matter vs. black and white spaces.  My compositions now are influenced by the model of “dominant / sub-dominant / subordinate” as well.

The recent advances in digital arts have drawn me to return to photography, my first love.  Naturally, Black and White is my genre, but I have become fond of the artfully placed red “chop”, or personal stamp, used in ink painting and calligraphy, so I include it in my prints. 

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