David Tomb

 First Time Art Party Participant
Rufous Hornbill


Artist’s Website



Artist’s Statement

Bird Nerd. I have been an artist and bird enthusiast since my childhood in Oakland, California. I stomped through poison oak looking for hawks and owls. I watched vultures sunning their Gothic wings in the morning sunlight in our backyard. I drew them. Naturalist Rich Stallcup and artists Louis Fuertes and Bruno Liljefors inspired me greatly. Studying representational art at Cal State Long Beach set a course of developing my craft. I then wove my closest friends into my art as subject matter for the ensuing years. 


In 2005, I began a sabbatical after 20 years of non-commissioned portraits. I circled back to my first love… birds. Bird paintings/collages resulted from research and drawing of bird skins at the Cal Academy of Sciences, the MVZ at UC Berkeley, and the AMNH in New York. 


I am a terrible photographer, so, I use my drawings/studies of bird skins to generate my bird imagery. This direct and personal approach connects with my prior history of portraits. Great care for verisimilitude and accuracy of depicted/painted birds coexist within a broader context of art. The habitats and environments of these birds are researched, realistic and yet also invented. Some forms are both flattened and simplified and delicately described. Some flora and landscape forms are ambiguous. These contrasting depictions create pictorial tension. This reflects the wonder I behold when I explore new and strange terrain, not knowing what to expect or how to interpret the unfamiliar. Art making both personalizes and deepens my experience but also allows me to share this experience with others. As part of this created world I add living plants and sound loops of a natural context with motion sensors to create a personalized world. The smell of damp soil and the sounds of cicadas, rain, frogs, and birds helps to transport the audience into the living rainforest, ravines and unexplored habitat. 


When not in the studio I delight in exploring and birding in the field: Mexico, Ecuador, the Philippines, Borneo, Indonesia, Madagascar and Ghana. After visiting the Philippines in 2009 I co-founded an organization: Jeepney Projects (www.jeepneyprojects.org). We partner with small local conservation groups to raise awareness and money for specific projects. We have one project just beginning in Ghana, and two continuing projects in Mexico. Our long term project is based in the Philippines to help the critically endangered Philippine Eagle. 


About the Artist

David Tomb received a B.F.A. in Drawing and Painting in 1984 from California State University, Long Beach. Since then he has had studios in Oakland, New York and currently in San Francisco. David has exhibited in over 100 group exhibitions and nearly 40 solo exhibitions in galleries and museums across the country. His most recent solo show this May was at the Palo Alto Art Center as part if the Creative Ecology art residency. This summer Tomb has several works in a group exhibition at the US Embassy in Port Morseby, Papua New Guinea.


His work is in many public collections including: Embassy of the United States, Manila, Philippines, The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the Oakland Museum of California, the Huntington Library Art Collections, the Arkansas Art Center, the Crocker Museum of Art, the Fresno Museum of Art, the Triton Museum, The Museum of Vertebrate Zoology of UC Berkeley and the Art Collection of the Consulate General of the United States, Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana.


His work has been widely published and reviewed including the New Yorker, the New York Times, Art LTD, the Three Penny Review and Harpers.