Some Like It Hot

Tom Linfield's on a pepper-painting quest

Tom Linfield isn’t sick of peppers.

This is an impressive fact given he’s on number fifty-three in a quest to draw one hundred of the veggies.

Vice president of grantmaking and community initiatives at the Madison Community Foundation and an artist with artsTRIBE, Linfield began rendering peppers in oil pastel last summer for an exhibition based on the local food movement the group held at Overture Center this spring.

While Linfield’s peppers may be red or green, black and white, abstracted or lifelike on paper, each one is based on a real, locally grown vegetable sitting in front of him. He’s surprised by how much he’s enjoyed drawing them. “It’s been a lot of fun,” he says. “It lets me be very playful.”

And he’s found striking similarities between art and food.

“Starting with a blank slate is like starting with a blank field,” he says. “You have an idea of what will come up—sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But when it does it’s really magical.”

What Linfield also finds extraordinary is the opportunity to reveal the art-making process through Madison Area Open Art Studios. The event, which he co-chairs, allows visitors to meet artists, learn techniques and see works in progress in studios and less conventional spaces, such as the Vilas Zoo visitor center, where artsTRIBE sets up.

“It’s to make art accessible,” Linfield says. “This is, ‘Come on in, ask questions and touch stuff.’”

The Madison Area Open Art Studios runs October 17–18. A related exhibition at Overture Center runs September 21–October 18. Find artist information and studio locations at

Katie Vaughn is associate editor at Madison Magazine.

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