He labels his paintings â€śBuzzâ€ť and â€śFudgeâ€ť and â€śPeaches.â€ť
These arenâ€™t still-life depictions, but David Tombâ€™s subjects donâ€™t mind the names he affixes to their portraits. Theyâ€™re also his friends. They drink coffee with Tomb, pronounced â€śTom.â€ť They dissect the dayâ€™s news and probe lifeâ€™s meanings.
Then Tomb, a well-known San Francisco portraitist whose works are on display at the Hartnell College Visual Arts Building gallery through Dec. 20 in â€śthe Figure Unstudied,â€ť reaches for his brushes.
Quickly, he paints his friends.
â€śThey must be good friends, too, because even when they see the results of my work, they come back,â€ť Tomb said.
â€śOne sitting per picture. I maintain a caffeinated conversation so weâ€™re both engaged in the process. I socialize and work at the same time.â€ť
Tomb works in his studio, which is part of what once was a 1950s police precinct station, a building complete with holding tank, in the Mission District.
â€śBrick and concrete in the Dragnet modernist style,â€ť Tomb said of the structure.
Since his friends are often restless souls and not professional artist models, Tomb limits their sitting time. Usually, itâ€™s one three-hour session with two hours for the head and face and one for the body.
Creating quickly helps capture a spontaneity of moment and an authenticity of character, qualities of a portrait that tend to slip away with repeated sittings, he said.
The exhibition at Hartnell shows drawings, mixed-media collages and paintings.
â€śOn the drawings, Tom works on poses lasting no longer than six or eight minutes,â€ť said Gary Smith, gallery director.
One reason Smith brought Tombâ€™s works to Hartnell was to show students how a master artist uses â€śline and gesture to capture the essence of the human figure.â€ť
Tomb grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. As a boy, he became fascinated by art, which also ran in his blood.
His great-grandfather, for example, ran a booth along the Santa Cruz Boardwalk early in the 20th century. Great-grandfather sold souvenir landscapes that he painted on redwood bark.
â€śHe was a painter and raconteur, and I still have a couple of his works,â€ť Tomb said.
Tombâ€™s mother studied to be an illustrator. His brother, Bruce, is an architect who also enjoys doing art.
After a subject has stood and stretched and left his studio, Tomb may develop the portrait further. To do so, heâ€™ll turn to notes he took during the session.
â€śSpidery fingers, knobby knees, double chin, major schnozz, buzz cut …â€ť
â€śItâ€™s all good,â€ť Tomb said. â€śFaces and portraits. Itâ€™s what turns my motor.â€ť