Monday, January 28, 2008


As thoughts turn to the official launch of my website this spring, I've decided that the time has come to put this thing to rest. All non art-related posts have been deleted.

Any and all new entries will appear on my new blog, which points to my future site address:

This blog will remain active until the official launch day. Until then, feel free to contact at me

Stay tuned and thanks for looking,


Saturday, December 08, 2007


This morning I learned (via an email from a blogger friend—Thanks Carl!) that my book landed on Amazon's BEST BOOKS OF 2007 list. It contains their Top 100 Picks and I'm proud to say that I am #100! Considering the volume of printed material that is released every year, I'd say that's pretty damned good!

I owe a huge Thank You to everyone who has blogged about the book and whom I've had the pleasure of meeting and talking with at book signings. My goal, all along, has been to be both friendly and approachable and I certainly hope that I've come across as such.

Monday, November 12, 2007


Last week, I flew to Minneapolis for a book signing at Micawber's in St. Paul and at the Minnesota History Center as part of RetroRama. I had a wonderful time at both. The Micawber's event included a slideshow and talk, which allowed me to lug the Epson/Accolade DUET video screen from the baggage claim area of the Humphrey terminal to the light rail station. Touting itself as being "ultra portable", this thing shocked me when it was delivered to my back door. Rising well-past my chin and weighing in at 18 pounds, I looked like I was toting a rocket launcher to the front line. At least people had the sense to stay out of my way.

Regardless, I had the pleasure of meeting and talking with a lot of great people at both events. This included Asya Mikhailenko and Stephen Colbert (to name a few).

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


On October 16th, I wowed the crowd with a slideshow presentation at Aperture Foundation (a la Apple's Keynote). Chip started the evening by reading the foreword he wrote for my book. The best part, however, was the dialogue about our book cover (1) (2) (3) and Zoetrope All-Story collaborations. This was followed by a question and answer session that was, at times, hilarious. I was on my best behavior until Chip "opened the door" and loosed my wry sense of humor. A book signing was a perfect end to the evening and I signed so many that the fumes from my paint pen had me pretty loopy by the time it was over.

A big hug to everyone at Aperture and to all the fans, family (my wife - El, daughter - Miren and Aunt Patsy and Uncle David Oser) and friends (Eileen Fisher, Nicole Gagnon, Irene Gallo, Tim Briner and, last (but not least) Stewart Williams who came to listen to me mutter. Without all of you, I'm nothing. And let's not forget Thom Barry and Michael Foley.

Monday, August 20, 2007


I've put it off long enough. On September 1, Aperture Foundation will release my book—UNCOVERED: Photographs by Thomas Allen. To make things even better, Chip Kidd wrote the most amazing foreword! On the evening of October 16th, Aperture will host an event in NY that will include a coversation between Chip and myself. At times, it takes everything I have to keep from crawling out of my skin!!!

By the way, the book can be pre-ordered on the D.A.P. site (Aperture's distrubutor).

Friday, January 26, 2007


In my last post, I spoke of finding evidence confirming my familial lineage. That was just a small fragment. As my mom and I continued to survey and excavate the site, something else emerged from the strata. An initial examination of its attributes revealed silver particles suspended in a gelatin medium adhering to a polyethylene substrate.

In layman terms: a negative.

A digital scan of the item unearthed two more relics–my grandparents.

I've looked at, touched and even possess many photographs of Ellis and Bonnie Sandlin (including one where grandpa is holding me up for the camera-3 days after I was born). However, I never saw pictures of them this young.

Sadly, at some point, moisture damaged the emulsion and caused it to run and take the shape of the very thing that nearly ruined it - water. Lucky for me, the people I remember the most weathered the storm and managed to stay afloat atop the tempest of time.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


To say that I loved my grandmother (Bonnie) is an understatement. My world revolved around her. Unfortunately, the earth came to a screaming halt in 1973 when she died suddenly from a heart attack. I was 10-years-old. I've experienced my fair share of pain over the years. I stepped on a broken beer bottle and sliced open my bare foot when I was 5. I nearly chopped off my thumb with an axe when I was 30. Last summer, at age 43, I slammed my forehead on the doorway of the chicken coop so hard that I fell to the ground and was nearly knocked unconscious. These painful experiences, even when combined, pale in comparison to what I felt after my grandma died. I'll be the first to tell you that it never truly goes away and every once in while something will poke at the scar and remind me all over again.

Fortunately, I have some remarkable memories of Bonnie. I remember the tiny white lipstick samples she had in her bedroom (she sold Avon). I remember she always chewed a half-stick of Doublemint gum. I remember the dust clouds that would erupt from her purse when she pulled out a tattered tissue. Most of all, I remember how she used to make me laugh.

Bonnie was a doodler. If there was a pen in her hand and a telephone in the other, any scrap of paper within her reach was fair game. An envelope was her favorite canvas. At around age 4, Bonnie started drawing "dirty" pictures for me. By "dirty", I mean things like men dressed in business suits and hats standing with their flies open and their "dingers" (thank you Lynda Barry) hanging out (and sometimes she'd draw them peeing)! Women were either toppless or bottomless but never completely naked (what can I say, the woman had class). She'd also draw dogs or cats (and sometimes people) "pooping"! This of course, made me giggle, which in turn, made Bonnie laugh.

The only one not laughing was my mother. It used to infuriate her (I think that's why grandma kept at it)!

"Mom! Stop doing that!"
"Oh Judy, it's not hurting anything!"
And then grandma would start laughing even harder!

When I turned 29, my aunt presented me with a box filled with writing tablets. It seems that my grandma kept secret journals. I won't attempt to discuss them here, but they were pretty telling. I thumbed through all of them, hoping to find just one naughty sketch. Nothing.


A few weeks ago, my mom and uncle were talking about a series of very old newspaper articles that featured my uncle. He was born blind and had his vision surgically restored at around age 3. Unfortunately, his condition worsened over time and he eventually lost sight completely. It was HUGE news in Detroit in the 40s and my grandma saved every clipping. My mom and Wayne were trying to figure out who had them last and if they still existed.

I am the family archivist and have just about every old family photograph. To me, they are like priceless jewels. Mom naturally asked me if I saw or knew where they were or if I had them. I answererd, "No." to each.

That was a bold-faced lie! In fact, when I told her that I had no idea where any of that stuff was, it was actually sitting in a storage box not 500 feet from me!!! The news clippings are just as valuable and I was afraid that if I admitted to having them that I would never see them again. They are very brittle and need to be photographed or scanned, but that requires a serious time commitment that I can't deal with right now. That, and the 2000-or-so Kodachrome slides I inherited after my paternal grandfather died are part of my long list of THINGS TO DO BEFORE I DIE!

Well, guilt finally ate a hole in my resolve and I made a full confession to my mother on Sunday. I explained my concern and she understood. I brought the crate out and together we started to go through it. It was full of old envelopes, receipts, address books and other ephemera. As I dug deeper through the layers of history, I unearthed an ancient relic that, up until now, was nothing more than a legend. It was a drawing! Now I know how Howard Carter must have felt.

Take a look at the detail above.

My word, what is that boy (who looks freakishly similar to Eric Stoltz in Mask) doing? Why, I believe he's pulling down that poor girl's underpants!

After all these years, I finally have solid evidence that validates a story that has been told over-and-over again! Best of all, it proves that my grandma and I were cut from the same cloth and that the proverbial "apple" never falls far from the tree:

EXPLORER, 2007 (20x24 Chromogenic print - Edition size = 10)

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Monday, January 22, 2007


A few weeks ago, I was getting (at best) 4 hours of sleep a night as I worked on the high resolution scans for my show at Foley Gallery. I was cleaning off my desk yesterday when I came across this drawing. It's obviously an idea for an image, but I really don't remember drawing it. I may be on to something.

Sunday, January 21, 2007


I officially signed my book contract with Aperture today.
It was both scary and exhilarating.
Titled, UNCOVERED, it's being released this fall with a foreward written by Chip Kidd.

This weekend I travel with the family to Fort Wayne, IN for the opening of my show at the University of St. Francis.
Justin, the gallery director, was even nice enough to order a birthday cake for Miren, who turns 3 the same day!


"Have you ever read any of the books?"

This question comes up a lot, whether it's during a public lecture or at an opening reception. My answer has always been a disappointing, "No.

Wanting to be more of a "Yes Man", I decided it was high time for me to become more familiar with my working materials. FLEE THE NIGHT was my first choice since I'd been curious to find out what would stimulate a scantilly-clad dame to stand up in a rowboat (in heels no less) and assume the "Broadway Showtune" position.

[Note: Most pulp covers were painted to "stimulate" other things and, oftentimes, had nothing to do with the content of the book.]

One evening, while waiting for Chinese carry-out, I came across this unforgettable passage:

"As she spoke she moved close until her lips were hardly an inch from mine, and her eyes were full of unspoken invitation. She was a walking mantrap if ever I saw one, but I didn't care."

When was the last time you read a book that made your upper lip sweat?

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


The January issue of ART ON PAPER is out and features a story about my work written by Jean Dykstra.


After months of online book searches, the production of teeny-tiny, little mock-ups, a few incidents requiring a band-aid or two, several trips (80 miles each) to Kalamazoo Color Lab and many sleepless nights, my new work is complete. In fact, we leave for NY tomorrow morning for the opening at Foley Gallery Thursday night. If you find yourself in the Chelsea area, stop by, see the work, say "Hello" and pick up a signed copy of the exhibition catalog. Did I mention that my parents will be there? They've never been to NY and I think the thought of going has them a bit nervous. Why? Well for starters, my mom asked if I ever considered leaving Miren home with them while El and I went alone. I'll let you guess the answer. Hell, I was even offered cash to seal the deal. Oh, but don't worry. They're still going!

This trip is important for another reason: on Thursday, I meet with the people at Aperture (conveniently located one floor below Foley Gallery) to look at samples of my book (coming out this fall) and to sign my contract!

On Friday, I give a talk at the School of Visual Arts. Afterwards, I think a trip to Time's Square (for my parents) is in order since we have to be at the airport bright-and-early Saturday morning. Yes, it's going to be a short trip, but a fun one nonetheless. I can't say that the same will be true for our neurotic dog. Penny will, undoubtedly, suffer through every minute of our absence. What she doesn't realize is that at her granny's house in Michigan City (where she is unknowingly staying), she will be spoiled rotten. In fact, I bet ham is in her future!

Finally, this image (STRANGER, 2006) was supposed to be in the show, but at some point, I lost my mind and failed to have it printed.

Sometimes, I scare myself more than others.

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Friday, November 17, 2006


It's official - RED is now part of the permanent collection at the Milwaukee Art Museum.

Saturday, October 21, 2006


The Fall issue of ZOETROPE: ALL-STORY has been out for a while now (I know, I'm pathetic) and as I mentioned before, it is terrific! If you've already received a copy, I hope you are enjoying it. If not, you can still order it here. It's been doing very well. You can read Chip Kidd's NOTES ON DESIGN - where he talks a bit about how we started working together (among other things) - here.

In other news, I was recently commissioned by Out Magazine to create an image to illustrate a gay James Bond story for their November issue. I will post the image once I pick up a copy on Monday (when I go to Kalamazoo) and verify that they actually used it. I would have purchased it sooner, but we live in a pretty homophobic part of Michigan and alternative lifestyle publications are pretty hard to find.

Speaking of gay media, the blog, showcased my work last week with a very well-written blurb.

I must now get back to working on new work before the blade of my X-acto knife grows cold! Days where I have uninterrupted moments (like today) are rare and I need to take advantage of them when I can (like now). In the meantime, enjoy more spead images from ZOETROPE:

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


It's been so long since I posted last and I apologize. One friend wrote that when there are no updates, he feels like we've moved away. That couldn't be further from the truth. We're still here. There's so much empty space to fill between the last blog that it may take some time to catch up.

However, the big news around here today is that my work is being published, cover-to-cover, in the next issue of ZOETROPE: ALL-STORY. For those of you who don't know about it, it's a quarterly literary publication founded in 1997 by Francis Ford Coppola to (as the website describes) "explore the intersection of story and art, fiction and film.

I first heard about it in an email from Chip Kidd, who guest designed the issue (if you recall, I've been creating cover images for Chip for James Ellroy's back catalog):

Hi Tom,

I just got proofs for Suicide Hill in, and will send to you. They look great (surprise, surprise).

What I'm really writing to you about is an interesting opportunity that's landed in my lap. At first I didn't think I had time for it, but then I thought of you, and then it all at once seemed possible, but only if you're up for it. Francis Ford Coppola produces a literary magazine called ZOETROPE ALL-STORY, which you may have heard of. For several years now, they have selected a 'guest designer' for each issue, featuring some of the people listed below. They'd like me to do the Fall issue, offering their support staff to do the grunt work. I think using a portfolio of your work through-out the issue (including covers) would be perfect and amazing. Of course the down side is they have no money. You'd be credited throughout (with a bio) and it's pretty well produced and distributed. You wouldn't have to do any new artwork unless you wanted to. I would just need access to what you've done already. I haven't said yes yet and don't know who the contributors are. But I think it would be their best issue ever (visually, anyway) and could help you in securing a book deal (to use a promotion piece, etc). Please think about this and let me know asap. If you're keen, I'd like to get a disc of as much of your work as you can send me, lo-res is okay (about 200 dpi each).

Zoetrope: All-Story at Wikipedia

all best,

Of course, I agreed to it and immediately sent a CD full of images to Chip. Tomorrow, a proof of the issue will arrive. I'm so excited I can hardly stand it. The next step will be for me to upload high resolution versions of every image that Chip used to the publisher.

Finally, check out a recent article about my work in access+Engage, an e-journal from It was fabulously written by Susannah Schouweiler. I worked with Susannah last year when my work appeared in (the now defunct) Ruminator magazine.


The proof just arrived. To say that what Chip has done is incredible is an understatement. It's phenomenal. Sure, I could scan and post some samples here, but I won't. Aside from being completely unethical, it would ruin the surprise. You will just have to wait and see Chip's magic for yourself when All-Story is released. Watch for it. You won't be disappointed!!! -- Tom

Friday, March 31, 2006


After what seems like an eternity, I finally finished the mockup for my monograph. I started thinking about it back in November, but didn't put it into Michael Foley's hands until the first week of March. This was due, in part, to the process being more daunting than I originally expected (that, and the fact that I'm a perfectionist!).

Michael pitched it to Aperture yesterday and left the sample with them for consideration. Today he told me to have a lot of patience because the process is a long one. So now I wait. In the meantime, here's a sneak peak. My guess is that when it finally goes to press, it will be bigger and better than this.

Thursday, December 29, 2005


It's official! The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston has purchased my work for their permanent collection! They now own BOOKEND and RECOVER (which was gifted to them as part of the agreement arranged by Foley Gallery)!

Friday, December 02, 2005


A few weeks ago, I had the extreme pleasure of attending an exhibition and opening reception for book cover designer (extraordinaire) Chip Kidd at the Cooper Union in NY (in conjunction with the release of his monongraph, Book One). There I saw a 20-year retrospective of his work at Knopf. For those of you who don’t know, I’ve been supplying Chip with cover art for the release of James Ellroy’s back catalog at Vintage. He used RED on the cover of BLOOD ON THE MOON–the first release. Since then, I’ve read the manuscripts and created new images for (so far) BECAUSE THE NIGHT and SUICIDE HILL (still in progress). Look for the first two covers on page 91 of Chip’s book! It doesn’t get any more fun than this my friends!