Creative Sonoma

Tom Swearingen

Visual Arts: Painting
Tom Swearingen




Tom was born in Oakland, CA, and lived in Richmond, CA, until moving to Petaluma in 1978 to take a job as a police officer. He married Margaret (Peggy) in 1980, and they have two sons: William, 28, and James, 24. Tom and Margaret live in in Santa Rosa, not far from where Margaret grew up. He paints in a studio they had constructed behind their home in 2011.


Tom graduated from U.C. Berkeley in 1981, and later earned a Masters Degree in Organization Development from Sonoma State University.  He took nine months of instruction from master painter Charles Becker in 2011.

 Professional – Pre-2007

Tom retired as a lieutenant from the Santa Rosa Police Department in 2007. His last assignment was commanding the Investigations Bureau, comprising 40 personnel who were responsible for investigating major crimes in Santa Rosa. He also worked as a consultant to private businesses and local non-profits, facilitating meetings, coaching managers, and conducting team building workshops.


Professional – 2007 to date

In 1967, Tom received an HO Scale model train for Christmas. Ever since, he has been a model railroader. His favorite part of the hobby is creating models that closely resemble the prototypes. In 2006, while building a new model railroad, he attempted to paint a realistic backdrop on the layout. It was a disaster. In response, he went to Village Art in Santa Rosa and bought the book, “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain,” by Betty Edwards. Using the accompanying workbook, Tom began sketching for the first time.  He was hooked. Since then, he has sketched or painted daily. Model railroading is still his hobby; painting is his full-time occupation.


In 2009, Tom entered his first juried show and all three pieces he entered were selected for the show (“All Aboard,” Petaluma Art Center). Since then, he has been selected to show in numerous juried shows in California. In 2010, the Press Democrat posted a video of Tom and his art, shot by one of their staff photographers, on the web edition of the newspaper, titled, “Cop to Painter.” In 2012, Tom was invited to show work at the Hub Gallery, Penn State University, which featured 30 invited railroad artists from around the country. In April 2013, he was invited to be a gallery artist at Healdsburg Center for the Arts. In June of 2013, Tom participated in Art at the Source, and in 2014 and 2016, Sonoma County Art Trails. His art has appeared in several publications, most recently in the December, 2016 issue of Southwest Art.