Thomas Lyles might be creating his own art collections and selling commissioned pieces, but the Evans metal artist admits he's still learning the ropes of the art world.
Tommy Lyles, a welding instructor at Augusta Tech, is also a metalworking artist who is involved in the start of a new art guild in Columbia County.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Nearly a decade ago, Lyles transformed his interest in painting and sketching into a full-time, money-making adventure.
Lyles is the Welding and Joining Technology department head at Augusta Technical College.
"There is so much to learn, but I have had some great teachers," Lyles said. "There is so much to learn about it, but it is amazing how many people want to help and support an artist ... I guess it is a way for them to be involved. I have been amazed."
After studying the metal art field, Lyles jumped in with a studio and lots of commissioned work with the goal of creating and showing nothing but his own work.
"What I do favors kind of an art nouveau look," Lyles said. "That is a look that was around for a little while, and it is the greatest look ever."
After a little interference by his wife, Lisa, Lyles was able to inspect the Rochester, N.Y., studios of world-renowned metal sculptors Albert Paley.
Lyles' work was heavily influenced by the twisting nouveau look of Paley's works. Both artists designed their own machines to twist hot metal.
Paley suggested bringing sketches to life out of cardboard first, then through a 3-foot-tall model before erecting them full-size, which can be between 20 and 30 feet. Lyles hopes to construct his piece Orbitz full-size at the amphitheater being built near the Columbia County library.
Lyles said he was impressed with Paley's interest in Lyles work and his willingness to pass along his expansive knowledge of the field.
"I was blown away," Lyles said. "What it taught me was to do the same thing with my students.
Lyles was recently named Augusta Tech's Teacher of the Year for the 2003-2004 school year.
The school boasts one of his works - Gilbert - in honor of Carswell Gilbert, the late dean of the school's industrial arts division.
After Lyles retires in nine years, he plans to pursue and show his artwork full-time. Until then, he will continue work on his own collections, which he shows and sells.
"The coolest, without a doubt, the most important thing to me is, of course, my faith, then my family," Lyles said.
He built his metalworking studio so he could roll up the bay doors and enjoy the yard with his daughters - Savanna, 14, and Hanna, 11.
Lyles' wife is a kindergarten teacher and amatuer photographer, and both daughters are active and creative. Savanna spent many years as a ballerina, which recently changed to cheerleading, and takes piano lessons.
Hanna is the artist who can sit in front of her easel for hours, Lyles said.
Lyles hopes to enliven the art scene in Columbia County by becoming active in the Artist Guild of Columbia County, which was formed early this year by local artist and friend Carol Kelly Dorn and Christina Rice, Columbia County library director.
"We are determined to make it work," Lyles said of the county's only artist guild. "We have some great ideas. The biggest thing we want to do out of this thing is support each other."
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