Thomas J. Shelford has exhibited in the public collection of the U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands at The Hague, the Grenning Gallery of Sag Harbor NY, the Salmagundi Club of New York City where he has served as a Board Member, and the Gilles Larrain studio of New York City. Thomas has been a classical drawing instructor at the Long Island Academy of Fine Art and teaches workshops and private lessons.

Thomas obtained his art education outside the mainstream by studying part-time at the Grand Central Academy, an atelier in midtown Manhattan which was founded by Jacob Collins and modeled after 19th-century teaching methods. He has studied with leading Realist painters such as Richard Piloco, Robert Armetta, Travis Schlaht, Edward Minoff, Jon DeMartin, and Brian Schumacher.

Subscribing to the Renaissance model of the artist as polymath, he pursued an eclectic academic background including a minor degree in Mathematics. An avid surfer, Thomas lives in East Hampton New York and works in New York City.

A Definition of Art

"The inspired exercise of a craft for the purpose of intentionally conveying to others, through external indications, the emotions which the artist has experienced."


"East Hampton Beach Path", 2012.  Monotype Print, 1 of 1.


Artist's Statement

In this era of commoditized images, oil painting provides a medium for authentic individual self-expression that also fulfills core human needs for transcendence and relatedness.

Realistic paintings based on skillful observation of the human figure and the rest of the natural world allow the artist to employ a visual language that is implicit in the human mind, inspiring the viewer by accessing the same collective unconscious syntax that is found in music and mathematics.

The idea of Beauty is a most challenging, complex and rewarding area of artistic exploration. Encompassing philosophy, psychology, religion and history, classical notions of Beauty can imbue artwork with intrinsic value for its viewers independent of the marketing labels, critical discourse or political agenda associated with it. I hope to re-connect with traditional painting practices from the 17th and 19th centuries and apply this rich heritage to contemporary subject matter.

Many important ideas about the human condition contain paradoxes which do not lend themselves to abstract reduction without a loss in the richness of their meanings. These paradoxes, which permeate the spiritual and literary heritage of all cultures, naturally lend themselves to emblematic visual expression. In my opinion, it is the task of the artist to give form to these ideas by combining inspiration with thoughtful craftsmanship. This skillful pursuit of Beauty, inspired by careful observation, is central to humanity's collective drive to define a meaningful existence.