Sioux City artist Tom Kleber has a passion for pour painting, an affinity for the universe and a job as a drafter at a hydraulic cylinder manufacturer (for the last 15 years).
He is a devoted and loving husband and father and spends most of his free time creating artwork.
You can find his work on Instagram @kleberartworks.
Weekender: When and how did you initially get into creating art?
Kleber: "Reading comic books when I was 10 years old. My brothers started to order them through the mail, and I ripped out the back pages and ordered some for myself. Early art is influenced by comic book art. It definitely taught me to draw people...that's for sure."
Weekender: Why do you make art? What does it do for you?
Kleber: "I find it to be relaxing and therapeutic. It's a hobby...but it is more than that because I'm serious about what I do. I find it to be an escape from the daily grind of a desk job. When you are in your 20s, you go out on the weekend for two days. At my age if there isn't anything going on on a Friday night, I'm usually in my space, up late, drinking coffee and making art."
Weekender: Who are some of your artistic influences?
Kleber: "Early on would be a lot of comic book artists, in the late '70s and '80s. HR Giger definitely is a huge influence of mine. I would say that lately I saw a movie that Ed Harris was in; a biopic of Jackson Pollock...I've gotten to see a bunch of his stuff. His style is so liberating and free that it's fun to do...you are kind of just going for it. I like that kind of stuff; I like abstract."
Weekender: What in life inspires you to create?
Kleber: "I would say my family does. I take a lot of photographs, as well, and sometimes those act as inspiration. My oldest (son) does some interesting cartoonish stuff, along the lines of 'Rick & Morty,' and that is fun. My youngest is very much a protege of mine. I had to temper myself a little because I have a sketch pad that I've drawn in for them, but he's gone and sketched over the top of my drawings."
Weekender: What are your go-to mediums to create with?
Kleber: "Acrylic paints. I do pours upon request, but what I'm trying to do now is stippling. It trains your brain. It trains your hand and builds dexterity. Paint pouring is about finding a great amount of color and it never comes out the same. I've come to a happy medium with that. Stippling is something that...it's almost like I admit that I'm doodling. It comes out in an abstract pattern."
Weekender: It seems there is a specific theme or feeling in many of your works. Tell us about your fascination with space.
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Kleber: "I am a sci-fi lover. I love science fiction. I grew up on 'Star Wars,' I've listened to the radio broadcast of 'Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' dozens of times. I love the fact that there is so much beauty out there in the universe. A lot of my abstract stuff comes out of my subconscious. It can be purposeful, but it can be very random, too."
Weekender: Do you have to have a specific emotion or be in a specific headspace to create?
Kleber: "I don't think you should be painting while you are angry. It is hard to do that...it may make your mood better by the time the painting is done, but I think you are trying to tread water when you are doing that. You have to be in the mood to positively create, I think. If you are mad about the state of the world, I think some great painting could be had...just don't go into the studio pissed off about an argument you just had with somebody."
Weekender: What is your process?
Kleber: "Paint pouring process would be getting the canvas ready and then estimating the amount of paint I will have to use. You have to have a certain amount of paint to make things look good. When I'm doing something unique that isn't a paint pour, I'll sit down with a sketch pad and know that what I end up doing may not look exactly like my sketch. Also, with the pouring, mixing is an extremely important part of the process. I even have mixing music and pouring music."
Weekender: What do you do differently than other pour paint artists?
Kleber: "Some other artists have told me about recipes they use for getting the right paint for the pour. I use a mixture of paints, glues and other chemicals to create the pouring paint. I also use torches to get bubbles in the painting. I pick out the pigments to use in the painting, then pour those in after the base white paint. The mixing and prepping takes the longest time during this process. The actual pouring process doesn't take very long."
Weekender: Do you ever regret selling an original?
Kleber: "I don't regret it. The Art Affair was the first time I ever showed my art to the public other than through the safety of Facebook and Instagram. When I prepped for that Art Affair, I took everything out there and took digital pictures of every piece. If I have a digital picture of something, I'm OK with selling it."
Weekender: Have you or would you ever try branching out into realism?
Kleber: "I do it now and I've done it in the past. My realism has been more sketches and things like that. If someone commissioned me to do something like that, I could do it. I love realism. Realism is easier for me to do. I'm doing the pouring because I'm on a kick with it."
Weekender: If you suddenly forgot how to do this kind of art, would you re-teach yourself, learn a new style or stop all together?
Kleber: "I did that with the piece I have in front of me now (long B&W piece featuring a multitude of distorted, intertwined faces). It is a piece that I challenged myself to get back to my creative side. I also have a huge portfolio bag full of sci-fi punk stuff that I did back in the '90s. I had stopped for a while, but I wanted to pick up a sketch pad again and see if I could finish something. If I lost the use of my left arm, I'd try to start painting with my right."
Weekender: What is your ultimate goal in the art game?
Kleber: "That is changing over time. My goal this last year was to volunteer for Art Affair 1. I volunteered and took mental notes of what people were doing for their art displays. I spent this last year creating art and getting stuff ready for this year's Art Affair. It was an amazing day, I was talking to people nonstop throughout the day. I sold nine paintings. That was a pretty good day. I want to do that again, but I also want to take the money I earned from that and get a studio space. If I got into a studio where there was a gallery, I'd want to hang stuff and put it out in public. That is my next goal."