A love of outdoor pursuits has provided Canadian artist Tom Hjorleifson with a wealth of inspiration for his critically acclaimed bronze sculptures. Focusing on perspective, realism, and drama, he encourages the viewer to interact with his work. As a self- taught artist Tom has developed his talent through experimenting, and continuously looking for opportunities to create. “It starts with a dream, that early morning vision,” Tom says.
Originally from Winnipeg, Tom moved to Calgary at the age of fourteen, where he grew up fishing, hunting, and exploring the great outdoors. His love of the outdoors led Tom to work as a ski instructor for several years, and a degree in Outdoor Pursuits from the University of Calgary with the intention of becoming a Phys-ed teacher. Currently residing in Canmore Alberta with his wife and assistant Patricia, Tom began sculpting with clay in 1990 as a hobby, and, after meeting Canmore artists Tony Bloom and John Borrowman, also began making ceramic animals for his children. It was Tony and John who showed Tom that art was a viable career option, and when Tony asked him to help with a commission of a bronze owl, fox, and raven, Tom jumped at the opportunity. This was the start of Tom’s career in working with bronze, and he hasn’t looked back.
Working first in clay to sculpt animals in a variety of sizes and poses, Tom then brings his sculptures to a foundry where he casts them in bronze. Working with bronze allows Tom to add minute details while highlighting the movement and original personality in each of his subjects. As he explains, “I like to add a twist to my work. To capture the subject ‘in the act’ so to speak.” It is this ability to capture a moment in time that makes Tom’s art stand out. There is something captivating about his ability to make every sculpture appear as though the piece may come alive and continue its movement at any time. The relationship between beauty and function is evident in Tom’s sculptures, as he takes care to consider every angle of the piece. This attention to detail allows the viewer to truly interact with the art and engage with the magic of wildlife.
Tom strives to include the proper anatomy and movement of the subjects of his art through viewing animals in their natural habitat, and by studying pictures and online sources. His background in Phys-ed has come in useful in this regard, as he is able to understand the anatomy, and how the bones and muscles of the animals work together to create elegant and powerful movements. This knowledge allows him to accurately portray the unique personality of multiple animals, from birds, bears, elk, horses, and moose, among others. Determined to keep his own authentic voice, Tom avoids looking at what other artists are doing, and instead focuses only on what he has seen animals do in the wild.
Tom has honed his skill over the years to become one of Canada’s most sought after sculptors. He explains that the key to his success is due to, “being brave. Being bold and just believing in myself.” This is the main piece of advice he passes along to young artists as well, stating, “To be successful you must be bold, be head- strong, and be able to take criticism and persevere.” Looking to the future, Tom would love to continue to do larger installations for public and corporate displays stating, “I would never consider anything too big, which I think is a good head space for an artist to be in.” Mountain Galleries has been representing Tom since 2017 and is proud to support his vision. Tom Hjorleifson’s work is featured in all four Mountain Galleries locations and has been sold to corporations and private collections around the globe.
Written by Christine De Brabandere, Assistant Curator, Mountain Galleries Banff