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SchulmanArt: How long have you been an artist?
Tom Fedro: I have been drawing since I was a little kid. I used to copy all the cartoons out of the Sunday paper. I actually got my start when I painted a Nagel on the back of my jean jacket back in college at Valparaiso University. I had come home with it over Christmas break and was approached by a major retailer in a local mall to sell my custom jackets. After that I started painting on a regular basis (mostly copying other artists work for family and friends in the colors they wanted). I spent the next several years bouncing around to different schools and eventually becoming a computer graphics specialist for IBM. I then was hired away by an ad agency to be their creative director and worked there for a couple of years. As I was doing this I was starting to get into painting my own works. Around 1994 I met my wife, Alicia, and she talked me into trying to make a go at the art thing on my own. Soon after that I discovered Ebay and discovered that people seemed to like my work. At first, I practically gave my work away but as the followers started piling up I increased prices and went on to become one of the better selling artists on the site. I spent several years while doing this waiting tables and bar tending until around 2000. That was when I was finally able to retire from the restaurant industry as I was making a good enough living by just selling art. It’s been a fantastic roller coaster ride since then. This industry certainly has it’s ups and downs but for the most part, it’s been great.
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I find your art to be very modern, edgy and urban. How do you define your style?
Although what I do is more in the neo-pop range, I am a pop artist. I just love working with color and can’t seem to ever let a piece leave my studio without my signature hard black lines. I am just kind of an edgy person and am often wound up (a bit of an anxiety disorder is to blame). My doctor feels that curing me might affect my art though so I just deal with it.
How did you come up with the name fidostudio?
Fido is a nickname I got in college after a party night in the Pike house where I attempted to eat a box of dog treats. It was eventually one of the worst hangovers I ever had but the nickname stuck.
What has been your most exciting moment as an artist?
There was a period of time a few years back where I was selected to be a “Cow’s On Parade” artist in Chicago and during that time I felt very much like a VIP. The Hotel Allegro sponsored my cow and proceeded to promote me extensively to their various clients including the musical “Rent” which at the time was just coming to Chicago for the first time. I created a piece for the Chicago opening and helped in the design of a “Rent” suite in the hotel. It was a great project as they actually flew me out to New York to meet everyone and spend several nights with the actors and directors getting a behind the scenes view of the play and areas of New York that it was based on. Soon after that I was approached by “The Second City” to create a piece for their 40th Anniversary. The process for them was very similar and I met a lot of very cool people and some of my favorite comedians from television. That couple of years was just awesome, although when it died down again it left me craving more huge success.
How do you get in the zone to paint?
I tend to treat painting on a daily basis as a business so I pretty much just wake up, work out (gotta keep in shape) and then start painting. I find a dose of heavy metal does the trick on most days. It’s not hard as I just really love what I do and am very fortunate to be able to make ends meet by doing this. Most of the time I will start with a new piece to put out there for sale and then later focus on something from my list of commissions. Depending on the time of year I work harder than at other times. I do tend to get cabin fever, especially over the winter months but for the most part, I am a person who enjoys his alone time. As soon as it warms up here in Chicago sales slow down so I spend more time on my custom show car, golfing and watching my high school age son play varsity baseball. It tends to work out that I do my computer work later in the evening after the family goes to bed. The marketing and promotion part of it comes easy to me, it’s just time consuming and boring but has to be done to keep me visible online.
Most of the time I work by myself and just have my tunes to keep me going. On occasion, my wife or son will hang out with me and chat but I tend to be pretty focused when I work. I do have a friend that likes to come over and have cocktails and then talks me into creating something totally spontaneous just for fun. Some of those pieces are very interesting and mostly hang on his walls.
What is your studio space like?
I am actually a neat freak but my studio is a mess. It has taken over the majority of the basement in my house with different areas accounting for the various aspects of running an online art business. There is my actual studio where I paint, a shipping area, spraying/varnish area, shelves and shelves for materials and my computer workstation. I don’t have much of a view from my very small basement windows although they do allow for a nice dose of daylight throughout.