Tom Heflin

The Art of Success

Tom Heflin never wanted to be anything but an artist.  

Born in Arkansas, the well-known Rockford artist was always in trouble with his teachers for doodling in his school books when he should have been paying attention to his studies. That is, until he met Mrs. Markham, a teacher who encouraged his love of art. “It was the best thing that ever happened to me,” says Heflin, who was 14 at the time. “She planted the seed.”

A full-time artist for more than 40 years, Heflin is best known for his landscape paintings. His work has been showcased in galleries across the country and desired by various collectors. He’s a signature member of many prestigious art societies. He works out of his home studio, where he also has a gallery that’s open by appointment. Most of his work is done in acrylic and oil, but he uses charcoal and pastels for a change of pace.

“I enjoy different forms,” he says. “Painting in one style would bore me.”

Early in his career, Heflin attended art school in Chicago, but he and his wife were expecting their first child and money was tight, so he returned home to Rockford, where Heflin, who is self-taught, worked for a sign company. Eventually, he quit his job and in 1970 started painting full-time in an abandoned farmhouse outside of Freeport that had no indoor plumbing and where his closest neighbor was a cemetery. But the isolation helped keep Heflin focused on his work.

“There was no TV or telephone to interrupt me,” he says. Heflin worked out of that farmhouse for 28 years before opening his home studio.

Over the years, Heflin has had several opportunities to set up shop elsewhere. One gallery owner told him he’d be a millionaire if he moved to Arizona. But money has never been the motivating factor.
“I had my family here in Rockford, and I was making enough money,” he says. “Rockford has been very good to me for over 40 years. I am very fortunate.”

Heflin shows no signs of slowing down. He still paints every day. “If I don’t paint I’m in a funk; I don’t feel good. I get hard to live with. Painting is therapy, income and nurturing to me. It’s what I’m all about.”

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