Growing up in the inner-city of Rochester, New York under the duress of poverty and violence, Tommy Watkins initially turned to art as a form of therapy. He achieved catharsis through painting, translating his emotions into bright colors and bold, abstract shapes. The deeply personal origin of his early art resonated with audiences, eliciting emotion and empathy in others. Over the past decade, Watkins gained prominence as an artist in the capital district of upstate New York. He built on the raw talent of his early work by creating small- and large-scale modern abstract works which are distinguishable in their use of color and tonality, texture, and balance. This work has been exhibited in many solo and group shows in museums and galleries and has been commissioned by businesses and for private collections.
Watkins’ more recent work has fused his abstract art foundations with his love of 1950s-era pop art. Throughout a different series of work, he has used this unique blend to convey messages and stories both personal and political. For example, in a 2010 series, Art, Land, Soil, Watkins powerfully communicated a warning of environmental resource depletion through imagery of sea creatures with gas pumps for tentacles and oil rigs tapping into underwater graveyards.
Beyond his talent as a painter, Watkins spent years working to unite local artists across disciplines and create a cultured art scene in upstate New York. As a co-founder of the Albany Underground Artists and the Upstate Artist Guild, he has received numerous awards for the way he has grown a community of artists from the ground up. What began as early pop-up art shows in vacant buildings has evolved into a monthly First Friday series involving local businesses and many new, successful galleries in the capital district.
In addition to his work in the fine arts, Watkins has also achieved success as a fashion designer, organizing and taking part in local fashion shows, and as an interior designer, creating custom art and constructing the interiors of six restaurants throughout upstate New York.
Watkins is currently practicing in the United Kingdom.