A change of art: Textures and patterns shape Tom Jefferies’ career decision


After decades of putting his artistic passions on the backburner, Tom Jefferies finally acknowledged it was a calling he just couldn’t continue to ignore.
Jefferies, who was raised in Bath, England, hails from a family of artists.

The paintings of Swampscott artist Tom Jefferies reveal a 3-dimensional quality. | Photos: Spenser Hasak

His mother, Sally, who still lives in Bath, retired from publishing 10 years ago and has since been pursuing art more seriously. She paints in acrylics and exhibits in local galleries in Wiltshire and Bath.

His sister, Ele Nash, studied and created art at a young age and works mainly in collage, using paper, zippers, lace and ribbons.

Jefferies, who has lived in Swampscott for 15 years, decided to leave his 9-to-5 job and go all in with painting three years ago.

“It’s the best decision I ever made, career-wise,” he said.

Inspired by Swampscott’s shores, he primarily paints seascapes and has transitioned from abstract to more realistic. He says he’s driven by shapes, textures, patterns and colors.

“I focus on natural elements that interest me, like the sun’s glimmer on water or the patterns of the coastline,” Jefferies said. “I like the dynamic created when contrasting colors, shapes and spaces come together to form a peaceful whole.”

His work has progressively become more monochromatic, particularly with his use of blues and grays. His canvases tend to be unusual shapes — from small and square (8 inch by 8 inch) to long and narrow (6 inch by 36 inch).

“The vertical shape focuses me,” he said. “I can go from top to bottom with one particular view.”

A close-up of Jefferies’ work space.

Jefferies accomplishes a beautiful texture using a palette knife and molding paste to create layers. The effect brings his landscapes to life.

“What pleases me most is the reaction,” said Jefferies. “Don’t get me wrong; I like the composition, but the greatest joy is seeing other people’s response.”

Jefferies is a member of the Marblehead Arts Association and looks forward to becoming more involved with Reach Arts in Swampscott when the center opens. He’s exhibited his work in various galleries and shows in Massachusetts and Connecticut and often does commissioned work.

His path toward this career was a long and winding one. He earned a degree in business studies before making his first career switch — to teaching.

“I did some design courses in school and painted on and off over the years,” said Jefferies. “You could say I dipped my toes in and out, but I always veered toward more traditional jobs.”

A painting by artist Tom Jefferies hangs in his Swampscott home.

After college, he began working with the International House World Organization, one of the largest and oldest groups of language schools in the world. He was assigned to a school in Poland, where he taught English as a second language. It’s also where he met his wife, Catherine, who was teaching there at the same time. The couple moved to Portugal to teach at another International House school before moving to Boston, and later Swampscott to raise their three children. Jefferies took a job with an educational publishing company and stayed in the field for 12 years. He continues to do some freelance work in publishing, while Catherine now works at Boston University’s Center for English Language & Orientation Programs.

Meaghan Casey is a freelance writer. She can be reached at meaghan.s.casey@gmail.com.