Freddie Mercury, in full-stride, clutching his microphone. BB King, lost in his music while strumming Lucille. These and many other iconic images of rock stars are the work of Waukesha artist Tom Noll. Noll captures these musicians mid-performance, bringing a sharp focus to each portrait and amazing energy to each vibrant, abstract background that reinforces the movement of his subject.
Though inspired by artist LeRoy Neiman, Noll has no formal art training. "I took a summer school class where I learned how to draw faces and a night watercolor class when I was studying printing and publishing at Milwaukee Area Technical College," he says.
His life took a business turn, and Noll worked at an ad agency for 16 years. "I was a big fish in a little pond, and I became what I was afraid of: someone working in a 'dog eat dog' world." A serious health scare in 2007 changed his life forever. "I turned a corner; I wanted to do art, to leave something behind. I pulled the plug on my day job."
Noll begins by finding photos and getting permission from the photographer. "I then compose on the computer and draw on canvas. I think about how I want the painting to look for weeks on end." His paintings are executed in oils and acrylics.
Noll's career took off thanks to local exposure and the Internet. He painted a 10-foot guitar featuring Les Paul and other musicians, and this structure spent three years as public art in various locations in Waukesha.
More than 40 of Noll's paintings will be featured in "Center Stage: A Century of Guitars" at the Kenosha Public Museum from Aug. 20, 2016 until February 2017.
Noll sells giclee print reproductions as well as his original paintings. Some of his subjects are now the owners of his work. "Gregg Allman has three pieces, members of ZZ Top and The Grateful Dead have paintings, and I will be meeting Sammy Hagar this summer." Noll accepts requests but there is one painting that will never leave his collection -his first portrait of reggae legend Bob Marley.
To find out more, visit www.tomnoll.com.