Tom’s Art at the Cummer


Cummer Museum, Jacksonville, Florida

Like many things in life you never really set out for them to happen the way they do, you just kind of get there because of the path you follow.  I never set out to get involved with digital imaging, it just happened because of some of the other things I was doing.

 My path winds something like this.  I had been turning for a while and want to take pictures of my pieces to show to potential buyers or post on the Internet so I borrowed an inexpensive digital camera from my son and started to take some photos.  It soon became clear that I would need a better camera with more control and, more importantly, a way to crop and edit the photos.  So, I bought a DSLR and a copy of Photoshop Elements.   As I began to take and edit the pictures of my pieces it became clear that Elements had a lot of potential and if I wanted to really use the software I would have to spend some time learning its features.  Not being one to do things that interest me halfway, I jumped right in and committed to learning Elements.   I started reading books and magazines on the subject and soon became aware that there is a whole culture out there dedicated to using Photoshop and associated software to create digital images.  I was hooked.

A friend mentioned that he had been doing some image creation with a piece of software called Bryce.  I did some research, tried Bryce and then tried several other image creation and rendering applications.  I’ve settled on Vue and Groboto for most of my work and realize that there is a tremendous amount to learn regarding these software applications and the whole pursuit of digital imaging.

Where will this interest in digital imaging take me, who knows?  I’m still walking the path.

The idea of my Xeno-Biology series came to me in flash as I was walking my dog; it just popped into my head. After getting home and trying a few ideas I had a working model in about 2 hours.  It occurred to me that it would be more fun to create a back-story for where and how the images came about so I’ve added a little bit of that here.


A plate from the Great Survey Catalog by Theodore Pope

 Today marks six months that I’ve been alone on this wondrous planet.  Thankfully, I have my work to keep me occupied.  The life here on Caproloria is very diverse and it’s often hard to distinguish plant from animal.  The supply ship is due in 158 days; in the meantime I will continue with my cataloging.


From the Journal of Theodore Pope, Survey Botanist

May 18, 2087

The First Survey launched in 2042 to study the moons of Jupiter and Saturn in preparation for potential mining operations.  Although finding only fossilized bacteria was a big disappointment to the biologists; it did make securing mining permit easier.  But, more importantly, it did prove that life exists elsewhere and the desire to find that life became all consuming.

With the development of the Ion Drive, interstellar travel became viable and one of the first missions (funded by the large drug companies) was the Great Survey in 2084.  A team of biologists, botanists and other experts were to make the two-year trip to Caproloria, the third planet orbiting Alpha Centauri B, to catalog the life forms on that Earth-like planet.

Unfortunately, no one foresaw the dangers; sudden and unexplained illness befell the team shortly after their arrival.  Now, only Theodore Pope remains to identify the cause.  As a scientist obsessed with the beauty of alien life, he refuses to believe that Caproloria’s life forms are the reason.  Even so, he must find the answer before the supply ship arrives.


© Tom Grzybals 2012 – Teleosis danti

I had several of these Xeno-Biology prints at The Art Center during Art Walk and, although I didn’t sell any, I did receive an e-mail asking about them.  I went back and forth on these e-mails a couple of times before I realized the gentleman asking the questions was Preston Thayer, the curator of the Cummer Museum.  He asked if I was interested in bring some of the prints by the museum for possible inclusion in the La Florida show to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Ponce De Leon in Florida.  I’m sure you won’t be surprised when I tell you I was on my way as soon as I was able.


Tom’s work mounted next to Audobon in La Florida exhibit


Klatus mechani

Ed Note:

As the name card states:

“Klatus Mechani – Heir to a long line of Florida naturalists (see John James Audobon’s Greenshank, and Mark Dion’s homage to Henri Perrine in this exhibition). Tom Grzybala creates his own taxonomies on the computer. He is developing a history of the exploratory surveys that discovered these flora, including information about the Florida biologists who participated – all of it splendidly fictonal.”



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