In addition to being a gifted painter, Tommy worked as an art education instructor for his entire career. He was involved in varied aspects of elementary art education. In 1975 he began his first “real” art job as an instructor with a federally funded music and art project teaching in elementary schools in Barbour County.
He later applied to the Alabama State Arts Council’s Arts in Education program; that brought him to Talladega in 1984 to go into five elementary schools to teach art. When the grant expired he was invited by the Talladega Heritage Hall Museum to serve as the Director. He also served on the Board of Directors of “Callie’s Kids” for many years.
Being raised on a farm, the nostalgic Alabama landscape led to much of his early watercolor paintings featuring the decaying southern landscape; he said he was also influenced by the bleak serenity of Andrew Wyeth’s work. He later began to concentrate on the same subject matter but worked in oils. He felt that with the progression of his oil painting the colors become more intense, the paint became thicker, the manipulation of the paint on the surface more varied, and the work grew more expressionistic and abstract. He often said his work in elementary schools led to his painting being influenced by the imaginative, playful artwork that children produce.