Painting Muse

Having recently attended my college’s 125th anniversary, I was reminded that although I have only been oil painting consistently for the last three years, painting was my first and is my now my current creative muse, sandwiched between an over twenty year award winning design career. Recently, I have taken over half a dozen painting classes from the Denver Art Museum, the Art Students’ League of Denver and the Arvada Center. Many of these classes were taught by impressionist inspired painter, Chuck Ceraso. Chuck’s unique teaching style encourages everyone, no matter what skill level, to play and have fun with color and light.

Besides reconnecting with old friends and meeting some new ones, one of the most enlightening parts of my alumni trip to the Kansas City Art Institute was the talk given by national art critic, Jerry Saltz. He began his talk by expressing how much respect he had for all of us for living a life of art. Much of what Jerry talked about to this audience of fine artists was how to define success. Two of the most important aspects of success are credibility and time. Some of his other points that connected with me were to not let rejection define you and that chaos is were things grow. He also mentioned that work comes from work and is a vacation from yourself. Lastly, Jerry mentioned that Vermeer’s paintings, which I have always admired for their pure beauty, were created to heal pain. Would it not be nice if more of the art we created today did the same? Following are some of the paintings that I have created so far and to view some of my design work please visit

Thomas Ema, Denver Designer and Artist

Bicycle in front of store

Thomas Ema, Denver Designer and Artist

Bottle, tomatoes and cup

Thomas Ema, Denver Designer and Artist

Bottle, bowl and fruit

Thomas Ema, Denver Designer and Artist

Lilies and squash

Sports Heroes

One of my other interests is sports, and as a kid growing up in Williamsburg, Virginia, I was and continue to be a big fan of the Atlanta Braves. The first baseball game I went to was a Braves game when they were still the Milwaukee Braves. I attended the game with my Dad, Grandfather and Brother and still remember the little plastic Braves belt my Dad bought me. When the Braves moved to Atlanta in 1966, they also moved their AAA team to Richmond, Virginia. One of the neat features of the major league all star game weekend was that the Braves’ major and AAA teams would play an exhibition game. When I was in high school I went with a friend to the game in the Richmond Braves Stadium and just in case brought a baseball and came early. Much to our delight, the security for the exhibition game was a little lacking and we able to go in early and get autographs of many of the star players. I have two balls from these games, one from 1972 and one from 1974. Hank Aaron’s signature is on both balls and it is significant to note that 1974 was the year he broke Babe Ruth home run record. It is also his last year in Atlanta before going back to Milwaukee to play for the Brewers for the last two seasons of his career. Some of the the other autographs we got were Dusty Baker, Ralph Garr, Darrell Evans and Phil Neikro.

It is not surprising that in these uncertain times there seems to be a lack of leaders that we can look up to. There is a new book: The Last Hero, A Life of Henry Aaron published in 2010. Hank Aaron was one of my childhood heroes. He can be admired not only for what he accomplished on the baseball diamond but off it as well. His leadership by example is unmatched not only in baseball terms and the advancement of civil rights but also as the role model he is for young people of all races. His quiet dignity should be an inspiration to us all.

1972 Atlanta Braves
Thomas Ema, Denver Designer and Artist
Left: Ralph Garr and Jim Hardin
Middle: Rico Carty, Dusty Baker, Ron Reed and Pat Jarvis
Right: Hank Aaron

1974 Atlanta Braves
Thomas Ema, Denver Designer and Artist
Left: Buzz Capra, Roric Harrison, Lew Krausse and Carl Morton
Middle: Johnny Oates and Hank Aaron
Right: Dusty Baker, Tom House and Phil Niekro

School Posters

Some of the things that I have reflected on recently, especially with my anniversary trip back to my alma mater, the Kansas City Art Institute, are some of the posters that I designed when I was a senior and were part of my first portfolio when I graduated. The three posters shown below represent some of my early work as well as the transition I was making from fine art to design. The first poster is for a visiting artist, David Lance Goines, lecture at KCAI. In addition to being suggestive of his posters, it also shows my sense of color and landscapes. This poster was a hand printed silk screen and has seven separate colors. The second poster was one of my first “real” design projects designed for the Kansas City, Missouri, Friends of Chamber Music. This was my first opportunity to work with a client and shows a strong use of typography that begins to look like musical instruments. The last poster is a design history poster for industrial and furniture designer, Joe Colombo. The graphic organization of the poster contains a bio and time lime of major milestones in Colombo’s life.

Thomas Ema, Denver Designer and Artist

David Lance Goines lecture poster

Thomas Ema, Denver Designer and Artist

Friends of Chamber Music poster

Thomas Ema, Denver Designer and Artist

Joe Colombo design history poster

To see some of my more recent design work please visit my web site