BRANSON, Mo. The British poet and humorist, Thomas Hood, said, “Oh, if it be to choose and call thee mine, love, thou art every day my Valentine!” “Valentine’s Day in Branson will be celebrated by special performances of its shows, menus in its restaurants and in many other ways by individuals,” said Tammy Johnson, the Director of Operations for the Branson Tourism Center. “However, in terms of the desire expressed in Hood’s loving prose becoming reality, one does not have to look too far beyond the “hearts of love” that noted Branson Artist Tom Crain puts in his paintings to show his wife Susan, “thou art every day my Valentine!”
It would be no exaggeration to call T.(Tom) Morgan Crain, Branson’s preeminent wildlife, bird, western, outdoor and nostalgia painter and one of the top painters of such subjects in the nation. Tom has been painting and doing art work for over 32 years with some of his career highlights including Silver Dollar City, the Franklin Mint, over 20 magazine covers for Cabela’s, Ozark Mountaineer, Fiocchi of America, Blue Book of Gun Values, Springfield Magazine and many others as well as 22 plus limited edition prints and countless individual commissions.
How good an artist is the quiet, unassuming and humble man? Although, earlier in his career he had won the prestigious Ducks Unlimited Artist of the Year and was the first two time winner of the Missouri Waterfowl Stamp Design, until 2010 he had not entered a State Duck Stamp Competition for about 20 years. In 2010 he decided to compete again, entered the competition in 10 states and out of ten states he placed in eight, winning in three, Missouri, Ohio and Delaware.
Wait, we digress too much about Tom the artist, it’s Valentine’s Day, we are celebrating so let’s get back to Tom the romanticist, love and matters of the heart. Tom and Susan Crain have been married since November of 2000, but prior to that, as their budding romance developed, Tom discovered that Susan, because of their symbolic relationship to “the heart of man” loved and collected things with heart shapes in them. He shares how her friends and family knew about that love and collected heart shaped things for her.
As one of the ways of showing Susan how much he loved her, Tom decided to incorporate hearts into his paintings and has been doing so every since in the vast majority of his works. His first “heart of love” was a heart shaped U.S. Flag on a watch he had.
His powerful, majestic and breathtaking “Home of the Brave,” was painted in June of 2000 and shares a compilation of his memories of a special fishing trip into the Colorado Rockies with his son, his love and appreciation of the majesty and grandeur of God’s creation, love of country and his love for Susan. This painting is one of Crain’s most popular, toured China and the Orient and is the first of his major paintings incorporating his “hearts of love.” His hearts are ever so subtly worked into his paintings reminding one of the bible verse, ” Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant…”
In fact, that’s the true beauty of his “hearts of love.” In a testament to his remarkable artistic ability, although, in most cases there is more than one “heart of love” in a painting, Tom is able to share his love for his wife so subtly that one really has to know what they are looking for to find one, let alone the other hearts or his “Susan” that are in the painting.
In the illustration of Tom’s “Home of the Brave,” used with his permission, this writer has loosely outlined the major “heart of love” with a pink heart that is not in the original painting. Notice how subtly the artist has woven the heart into the fabric of the painting starting just to the left of where the waterfall meets the eagles wings and follows ridge lines and shadings to complete its form. There is even a heart within the heart.
What a special way to add meaning to Hood’s words, “Thou art every day my Valentine.” Isn’t that something we should strive to show our “Valentines” everyday? Happy Valentine’s Day!
Tom, and Susan most days, can be reached personally in their studio Crain Creations Gallery, located in historic downtown Branson, or through its website.