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The desire to paint: Tom Triplett shares his love of oil painting

December 31, 2007

By Kelsey Linden
Staff Writer

The ability to be creative and express oneself in a form of art is not a talent that all people share.

However, for Tom Triplett, the passion and desire to oil paint was always a part of his life.

Triplett was born in Minneapolis and raised in Buffalo. After graduating from high school, he went to college at St. Cloud State and majored in mathematics and minored in biology.

He came to Delano in 1975 and bought a house between Watertown and Delano.

With his wife Ginny, Triplett had six children, three boys and three girls: Gina 33, Sarah 30, Tommy 27, Joe 24, Jeff 21, and Emily 19.

He worked as a math teacher for many years before taking a job at Landscape Structures in Delano. Triplett has deeply enjoyed his time at Landscape these past seven years.

Over the years, Triplett has grown to like many attributes Delano and Minnesota have to offer.

“I like the people over here,” Triplett said. “There’s more activity than in most small towns.”

Triplett has also developed a love for the outdoors, especially fishing and hiking.

“I really do like the seasons,” Triplett said. “Winter fishing. Summer fishing. It’s just unreal. I love that.”

When taking a look at some of his paintings, it’s not hard to notice Triplett’s affection for Minnesota’s landscape.

When asked how Triplett got started with oil painting, he replied, “Really, when I got married, my wife noticed that I liked to oil paint, so she signed me up for a class which was wildlife oil painting, and that’s where I got my start.”

Triplett had taken classes with artist Ken Zylla, who taught Triplett the importance of mixing colors properly, and how to apply them to a canvas efficiently.

After I had taken a few classes, I started buying some of Bob Ross’s books and other artist’s books,” Triplett said. “Then, from there, I just tried and practiced different things. Some things worked. Some things didn’t, and I just put everything together and developed a style that I liked.”

Triplett has expressed that painting is mainly a winter pastime, because he has more time since there is no gardening and less time to fish.

Often, Triplett finds inspiration in something as simple as Mozart music or a warm fire with a fresh roast in the oven. The sights, sounds, and smells of reality move his brush across the canvas.

“I do landscapes, florals, and some wildlife paintings, depending on my mood at the time,” he said. “Some take hours and others can take months.”

Some of his most favorite artists include Claude Monet and Vincent van Gogh, and both are artists whom he seeks a great deal of inspiration from. He likes when an artist brings their personal life into their art.

Triplett has received many of his ideas from photos he’s taken while paddling his canoe through many national parks throughout the western United States.

“Well over 50 percent of the total time spent on a canvas is done without a brush in hand. This time is used to decide on the composition and balance the painting will have when completed. I find that if you don’t have a plan or direction, your piece seldom turns out well,” Triplett reiterated.

When asked what the most challenging aspect of oil painting was, Triplett replied, “Getting the right color combinations. You have such a variety of oils and so many tools to use them. You have to know your complimentary colors and what will blend together. Over the years, you kind of have an idea of what will blend well together.”

Smiling, Triplett continued, “What happens is, while I’m doing an oil painting, as I’m doing it, right away I’ll have another idea for the next one. In fact, some weekends I have two to three paintings going at the same time. I’ll just go from one to other.”

Although Triplett deeply enjoys oil painting, he very seldom paints often.

Triplett exclaimed, “Sometimes a year will go by, and then I just get the ‘I have to paint again,’ so I’d grab my paint and my easel and start.”

Triplett also said, “I love painting. It’s a lot of fun, but I don’t sell any of my paintings because I want to pass them on to my relatives.”

However, he will submit a few prints of his work for silent auction fundraisers, and to the Delano Public Library’s art show.

Triplett loves his family and the many memories he’s shared with them over the years. Among one of his favorites was back with his oldest daughter, Gina.

“When I was painting many years ago, and she was a little girl, she would pull up a chair and sketch while I painted,” Triplett said. “Now she’s an illustrator on the East Coast. I have to think that maybe it was because I was oil painting, and it sparked an interest with her.”

Triplett wishes there were more artistic programs offered at schools, so children could have the opportunity to discover art and develop an interest in it. He believes it’s good to establish that interest early on.

Triplett has always believed his success with painting had a great deal to do with the steadiness of his right hand.

“I have the steadiest right hand. There’s no quiver whatsoever. I have arthritis in my left hand, so I’m really lucky to have one hand that works well, and it just happens to be my writing hand,” Triplett laughed.

In the upcoming years, Triplett plans to do some Civil War paintings, commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War battles. He has also thought of teaching oil painting to children in schools once he is retired.

Triplett said with a grin, “I retire from Landscape Structures in two years. I’ll be 68 and I’m just going to paint all the time. That’s what I love and that’s what I want to do.”