He proudly proclaimed, "I'm the ultimate Renaissance Man–if there's ever a renaissance in Verdi, I'll be in the forefront." For several decades, Thomas Jasper Summers (1924-2002) divided his time between teaching and art. His self-published pen and ink drawings of regional landmarks were reproduced on notecards and posters and became familiar images in galleries and bookstores around Reno, Nevada.
For many who knew him, Tom Summers seemed to aptly fit the description of an eccentric. He shaped his life outside the conventional and reluctantly accepted compromise as an answer to his problems.
Born in Nashville, Tennessee, a young Summers and his mother moved to California at the height of the Depression. When he reached draft age during World War II, Summers declared himself a conscientious objector and took alternate service in the Civilian Public Service, as a smoke jumper for the U. S. Forest Service and as an attendant in the psychiatric ward of a veterans' hospital. He later reaffirmed his C.O. status during the Korean War. An opening for a cartographic draftsman in the U.S. Forest Service brought him to Reno in 1954.
Summers attended the University of California, Santa Barbara and obtained a master's degree in English from the University of Nevada, Reno in 1968. His teaching career included intervals at several Reno high schools, Truckee Meadows Community College, and the University of Nevada, Reno, where he was a part-time English instructor; teaching was often the patron that allowed Summers to engage in his favorite pursuit–drawing and painting.
Summerline Drawings was the name the artist gave to the commercial side of his artistic endeavors. From a studio in his Verdi home, Summers published and distributed reproductions of hundreds of distinctive pen and ink drawings, mostly studies of public buildings and residences around Northern Nevada. Like fellow Reno artists Thelma Calhoun (1913-1998), Lyle Ball (1909-1992), and Roy Powers (1922-), Summers gladly accepted commissions to depict major landmarks around the Truckee Meadows.
Summer's pen and ink technique involved creating a tangle of lines that, when viewed collectively, offered up recognizable shapes. When he wished for a darker value, for example the shadow side of a building, he would simply add more lines to the web. There were subjects he rendered other than buildings: birds, portraits, ruins sketched during excursions abroad, and studies of nudes that attracted a less than enthusiastic response.
Summers' obituary in the May 5, 2002 issue of the Reno Gazette-Journal stated that "the artist is survived by his mule, Gardyloo," then by his wife, followed by the usual successive kin.
None at this time.