Tom Andrich (Eclectic Fine Art)

Tom Andrich was born in Winnipeg in 1945 and has spent his entire life living here. He has been painting and drawing as long as he can remember, right back to his early childhood. "It's hard to say when I first got interested in art. As a kid I was always drawing some cartoons, my dad and mom got us into keeping us busy with activities. I would draw from the colour comics. Then at family get-togethers I would draw cartoons for the other kids. And it just went from there. It was one of the few things that I got a lot of praise and encouragement for and made me popular."

This early interest in art influenced his choice of electives at school. "I always tried to take art classes, but I didn't always get good marks", Tom chortles. "Even after I spent 3 years in the art school and went to get a teacher's certificate, I took art in the elementary area because I was trying to become an elementary school teacher and I almost failed the art!" Oh, well. Einstein didn't do well in school either.

In his late teens, Tom worked painting and designing sets at the Manitoba Theatre Centre and Rainbow Stage. Then in 1967, he attended the Art School at the University of Manitoba: he graduated with a Batchelor of Fine Arts and a Teacher's Diploma in 1972.

Tom has taught art to a lot of kids, too. He taught in Winnipeg's Public school system until 1979, and has a further 12 years (as of this writing) at the Forum Art Institute. He's encountered the situation more than once of having kids who've come to classes and have already had so much gratuitous praise heaped upon them and then can't do anything in class. "They don't know how to draw or do anything but yet they've had the praise so they THINK they do, and once they THINK they know it all already, then they think 'why should I learn this'. Then you can get kids who've previously done very poorly in art and yet in fact ARE very creative. I've had a lot of adults too who were told they WEREN'T very creative and then I find them to be very creative."

"I try to be cautious when I'm working with kids. I'd rather not they come back to me in fifteen years saying 'you really discouraged me'- I'd rather they came back to me and said 'you really encouraged me, or you really picked me up in an area I thought I was strong in but really was weak in'. The method of teaching is very important."

"He's an extremely easy-going person, and very easy to learn from," says Pat Ross, who has taken several courses from Tom in acrylic painting and sketching. "He's likeable, down-to-earth, has a good sense of humour. He's got excellent rapport with the students, and is as comfortable to be around as a friendly next-door neighbour."

Andrich has enjoyed the teaching experiences he's had. It's helped him as an Artist, too. "I find I'm learning a lot from teaching people. When I'm teaching an aspect of drawing or painting technique, I have to think a lot about what I'm trying to tell them. So I have to explain it to myself in order to explain it to them. When I'm thinking about colours and how to lay them down and have to analyze what I'm doing, it then makes more sense and I can then put it across to the students. It's more concrete".

During the 80's Andrich shifted gears and worked as an advocate, counselor and social worker. By 1990, Tom decided that it was time to pursue his passion for art on a fulltime basis. He's exhibited his artwork at the Winnipeg Art Gallery and various other venues throughout the city and surrounding area. He also leads workshops in a variety of art media throughout the city including the Artists Emporium as well as private classes. He's also worked as a Courtroom Artist for one of the local television stations, and has done caricatures and portraits at conventions and festivals.

Andrich has a strong attachment to the city, its culture and its history. "When I was younger, people I knew around the art school, they'd been around Europe, and down here and there; and I thought 'well I'd like to really do that, and have all that life experience and everything else'. But when I started to look around Winnipeg, I got maybe even better life experience staying here. There is such an array of cultures here. We have so much in Manitoba. We have a lot here. If you want to learn about Ethiopian food you can go to an Ethiopian restaurant without going to Ethiopia. Philippine, Chinese, Vietnamese, there are so many different peoples here. I like that. To me it's like a palette. There are a lot of beautiful colours here. LL Fitzgerald (of the Group of Seven) spent virtually his whole life here and found lots of local inspiration for his art- and he turned out pretty good! But I WOULD like to go to Europe to see the artwork and go to Mexico to see the murals there."

Tom is as sensitive about the quality of Mural art in Winnipeg as he is proud of his City. He holds his own work up to a rigorous standard and feels other artists should both apply themselves, and be held to similar standards. It is because of this that he isn't hesitant to level criticism of Mural work that's out there that he may feel is sub par. He worries too, that substandard art, if offered up for public consumption in the form of an outdoor Mural may be too readily accepted by the public as being "good" or "great" art simply because if it's there, or was allowed to be put there, it must be good. On a more optimistic note, Tom agrees that the quality of outdoor art is improving each year. "Even mine are. If you look at the one I did at the Gas Station Theatre (445 River Avenue in 1999), I would LOVE to redo that now. I feel I'm improving all the time. However if praise is heaped on the artist of a substandard Mural, that artist will figure they don't HAVE to improve. Instead they think 'this is it- this is the great stuff'."

Take a stroll Downtown along the North side of Portage Avenue at Main, heading west and you'll encounter Tom's artwork on the city's Traffic Control Boxes at practically every street corner. Each Box features one or more unique aspect or theme from Winnipeg's rich heritage in beautiful renderings. It's a project that Tom is particularly proud of, and one which for the most part he's been entrusted by Take Pride Winnipeg with complete artistic control over themes and content. Moreover, Andrich has given considerable thought so that, where possible, the Heritage Theme for a given intersection's Box has particular meaning and significance to THAT specific location.

For quality of product, Andrich will use only Behr paint. "I've tried lots of other paints and I always come back to Behr." Tom also enjoys being involved with his church, The Meeting Place located in Downtown Winnipeg. He's contributed much of the artwork that's permanently displayed inside the building. He also lends his expertise with the costume and set designs for Meeting Place's theatre productions such as "Mouse House", a wonderful Musical which we were fortunate enough to catch during it's enthusiastically successful run there during Christmas season, 2002.

In March, 2003, Sterling/Tamos Publishing released Tom's new book, "Decorate Yourself" a generously illustrated hardcover of designs for temporary tattoos, face painting, henna and more.

Today, Tom is unabashedly optimistic about his future and holds the same hope for outdoor art here in Winnipeg. He openly admires the work of some of his Muralist contemporaries, some of them much younger than himself. "In a lot of ways I'm envious of the younger talents like Charlie (Johnston), Mandy (van Leeuwen) and Jennifer (Johnson Pollock)- they're WAY ahead of the level I was working at when I was their age. But I still enjoy what I'm doing. And I'm going to have a piece of my artwork on every downtown corner from Main Street to the CBC. That's pretty good for an old guy who's only been at it fulltime for 12 years!"

Tom Andrich lives in the Elmwood community of Winnipeg with his wife and 3 sons.

Contact Tom Andrich at:

Click here to view Tom's Andrich's Winnipeg Murals.