Tom Tuley, Newspaper Man Turned Artist

by Rachel Perry
photo by George Bredewater

Nobody has been more surprised than Tom Tuley by his second career as an artist. Tuley, who retired to Brown County after being in the newspaper business for 48 years, had plans to write books and play golf. “I’ve written two books that are in my desk, and have played golf maybe four times in ten years,” he chuckled.

“I got into painting mostly by accident,” he continued. “I’d always thought it would be neat to be able to do that, and envied people who could paint. I never really tried it because I didn’t think I had any ability for it.

“But we met some people when we were getting ready to move here, at a log home show in Tennessee….We happened to be there and were in the office looking at a sun room. Barbara (Tom’s wife) struck up a conversation with this couple (Sandee and Allen Hazelbaker). We said that we were thinking of building a log home in Indiana and they said, ‘So are we!’ They said they were from Cincinnati and asked where we planned to build in Indiana. I said, ‘It’s a little place you probably never heard of called Nashville.’ They said, ‘We’re planning to build near Nashville!’”

The Tuleys bought property off Upper Salt Creek Road and built their dream log cabin, complete with loft and screened porch. The Hazelbakers also became established in Brown County, on Wallow Hollow Road, and eventually opened Cabin Ridge Studio as well as a cabin rental business of their own. The two couples have maintained a close friendship ever since their serendipitous Tennessee introduction.

“They were at our house for dinner when Sandee was talking about teaching art again,” Tuley remembered. “I asked if she would teach me and she thought that was pretty funny. I took her class about six years ago and have never stopped. I learned a lot from Sandee, and later learned a lot from books and other artists, but I still go to her classes.”

Making art is quite a change for a man who had spent his entire career meeting deadlines for various newspapers. Tuley requested a different job from his parent company after a stint as a sports editor in Cincinnati. “Once I got out of sports, my life was opened up to a lot of other things. I had spent 250 nights at games that year. I had never been to a museum. I had never been to the ballet or to see a Broadway show because my nights were always occupied.”

But his new assignment was comparable to jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire. He was given the dual responsibility of editor and publisher of the Courier and Press in Evansville. “At the time, I wondered if I would be able to do that,” he admitted. What I found out was that it wasn’t that much different. I learned a lot.

“I went back to school when I was 43 to the School of Administration in Ann Arbor to figure out what a budget was and how to run the operation. It was a condensed Harvard two-year Masters program for people who were getting ready to move up in administration. The professors were outstanding, but I learned just as much talking to my classmates. We had our own dormitory, our own gym and dining hall. We rarely got outside—went to class six days per week from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. with a break for dinner, and then re-united to prepare for the next day. There were people from Federal Express, General Motors, and other major companies. It was eye-opening for me to sit down and talk to these guys and find out their problems were similar to mine.”

Tom Tuley rose to the occasion and steered the Evansville newspapers for the next twelve years. Despite their fondness for their established vacation home at Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, Brown County became increasingly appealing to Tom and Barbara as early retirement approached. “We have a daughter and three grandchildren in Indianapolis and wanted to be closer to them,” he said.

Tuley began painting primarily with watercolors and has enjoyed unprecedented success, winning the “People’s Choice” award at a Patron’s Show in the Brown County Art Gallery. “I’d been painting with oils for two or three years and I just decided I wanted to try them (watercolors),” he commented. “I’d always heard that watercolors are unforgiving, and they are, but you can still make changes. I really thought when I tried the first couple that I’d quit, but suddenly I just caught on and really took off.”

One reason for Tom Tuley’s meteoric progress is his impressive self-discipline. “I paint every day,” he said. “That’s one of the things Sandee told me that first night at dinner when we finally decided I’d take her class. I told her I had absolutely no ability and she said, ‘You don’t have to have ability. If you want to learn to paint, I can teach you to paint. At a certain level. But you have to do two things. You have to pick up a brush every day and you have to do at least a hundred paintings. And then maybe you can call yourself an artist.’”

Tuley’s dedication has earned him a place as a full member/artist represented at the Brown County Art Gallery. His tightly rendered watercolors include townscapes, rural snow scenes, floral still lifes, and even a soulful portrait of his basset-hound, Samantha. To view his work, visit the Brown County Art Gallery on Main Street, two blocks east of the courthouse in Nashville. Call 812-988-4609 or e-mail

<brncagal@aol com> for more information.