As you enter, stone honu embedded in the sand-colored tile floor appear to be leading the way. All available wall space is covered, mounted with paintings large and small, from island landscapes to frolicking humpbacks, which exhibit a captivating use of light and color. The bathroom’s dazzling tile mural depicts a serene underwater scene that’s so colorful and realistic it takes one’s breath away. It’s a depiction of Hanauma Bay, a version of the enchanting mural that graces the entrance to the visitor’s center there, and it’s intended to tell the story of the popular nature preserve.
This is obviously the home of an artist. Thomas Deir’s studio is equally impressive, not so much for its form, but function. He is a serious concept artist who is in total control of his craft. He is organized, ambitious and has an appealingly positive attitude toward his work and life in general. His Kailua home studio is, of course, artist-messy; but there’s a place for everything and it’s all labeled and organized—hundreds of jars of paint, numerous palettes, jars of brushes, finished and unfinished paintings and tiles … it goes on and on.
“You’ve got to be organized to be an artist,” he says, snickering. Serendipity may sound like a good thing, and in some cases it is. But, to Deir, there’s no talent or skill in serendipity when it comes to art: “Gamblers want serendipity,” he says. “A good artist wants control.”
He lists six aspects important to painting: Concept, composition, effect, color, value and depth of field. He’s obviously passionate about his profession.
Deir’s is a threefold business: paintings on canvas, tile murals and stone mosaics. He works steadily on commission and has an impressive list of clients, from his work displayed in the Kailua Medical Arts Building to the City and County of Honolulu (he completed the mural at the entrance to Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve in 2002), Castle Estate and Kaneohe Ranch, to the USA Inventor’s Hall of Fame in Akron, Ohio.
Ever creative, his love for painting on canvas sparked the invention of Genesis Artist Colors with fellow artist and mentor John Pitre, whose surrealistic style is reflected in much of Deir’s work. This is a synthetic oil paint that remains wet and malleable until it is heat-dried. For a busy artist like Deir, you can imagine the time and stress he’s saved, which, of course, allows him to be even more prolific.
“You can put dozens of colors out and they never dry, so it allows me complete freedom,” says Deir. “It’s really the ultimate way to paint. I can step away from a painting for an hour, a month, a year and come back to it, and it’s still ready to go. Or I can heat it and it will dry. It takes the technical difficulty from the painting and you become pure creative.”
Deir, who lives in Kailua with his wife and their two children, was born in New York. His dad is from Queens, and his mother, also an artist, is from Hilo. The family moved to Maunawili when Thomas was about 3 years old, not far from where he makes his home today. He grew up in Kailua, graduated from Kailua High School and attended UH. When he finds the time, he surfs and plays tennis.
Deir’s work can be found at Island Treasures Art Gallery, and he’s currently showcasing his art through May in an exhibit, “Paintings of Kailua,” at Assaggio in Kailua. He also is participating, along with a number of artists, in the I Love Kailua Town Party April 22.
Thomas Deir Studios