Tim Collom maneuvers his way around Facebook and Instagram as ably as he does around his collection of vividly hued oil paints and canvases. This melding of social networking know-how and creative talent is turning the marketing-savvy east Sacramento real estate agent into a local art phenom.
One of Collom's paintings a vibrant Napa Valley landscape was chosen for the program cover of the KVIE Art Auction 2012, under way online and culminating with televised and online bidding Friday through Sunday. He earned a curator's award for the work, the honor bestowed by one of his own local heroes: Sacramento-reared landscape master Gregory Kondos. And he opened the doors of the Tim Collom Gallery in midtown in May, welcoming 2,000 Second Saturday visitors earlier this month and selling six paintings that evening.
"It's been one of those things, it's gone from zero to 60," said the unrelentingly upbeat Collom, who occasionally is told that he resembles Michael J. Fox. He has painted for pleasure for years, mainly as a release from his day job (he and his team close on 30 to 40 homes a year), but has only gone public the past four years. Even then, most of his works were left on friends' doorsteps, hung in his clients' homes as housewarming gifts or donated to charity auctions.
In truth, Collom has only recently gone commercial with his art. He started with his neighborhood Starbucks around the corner from his east Sacramento home, and has shown his paintings there four times. Every show was a sellout. And each involved no small amount of discomfort, even for a guy often featured as a home-sales expert on KCRA and HGTV.
"As public as I am in real estate, I was very hesitant," he explained. "You're exposed. You're truly exposed.
"Once (people) see your painting, it's no longer yours."
Collom has no shortage of fans. He prolifically chronicles both his artwork and his home sales on his personal Facebook page to an ever-growing online audience (1,410 friends and counting). He has an additional 304 followers on Instagram and has posted nearly 500 images on the photo-sharing site.
Many are of his art pieces: a painting of a chocolate Lab with a red rose in its mouth, left on the doorstep of a grieving friend; an aerial glimpse of a colorful patchwork of cottages, foam-whipped sea in the background. It is not uncommon for 30 or more of his friends to post favorable reviews when Collom adds new stuff.
D. Oldham Neath, owner of Archival Framing on Folsom Boulevard and a doyenne of Sacramento's visual arts scene, has pushed Collom to expand beyond cyberspace (and coffeehouses) since the first time he brought work in for framing. He freely admits the strong influence of Kondos and Wayne Thiebaud, but Neath believes the beauty of Collom's bright and airy works comes from his own hands.
"What Tim has done, he's taken the things that he loves about Sacramento and infused them into his artwork without making his copies a poor man's version of a Gregory Kondos," she said.
Neath is also the art curator for KVIE. The Sacramento PBS station is in the thick of its annual art auction. Collom entered for the first time this year, a Napa Valley vineyard landscape titled "Silverado Trail." His grapevines are thickly slathered in oils, almost childlike in their oval shapes and steeped in turquoise, reds, yellows and greens. Wavy purple hills frame the view, settled under pinkish-gray skies.
Collom won a curator's award for "Silverado Trail," one of five out of several hundred submissions. Best of all, Kondos was the juror for the "California Gold" category.
"And I don't think he even knew my last name," Collom said, still dazed by the imprimatur. The painting will be auctioned off live on KVIE Channel 6 between 8 and 8:30 p.m. Sunday.
Collom's father was an artist who, like his son, wove his hobby in and around his day jobs at various Silicon Valley firms. Collom moved to Sacramento to complete his business degree and began selling houses in 2000. Images of his face are all over the neighborhood, on bus-stop benches and in high-profile ads in monthly newspapers.
The degree of marketing clearly pays off in his real estate dealings as it does with his art, says mortgage lender Sean Jones of east Sacramento's Haven Lending. He even has a code for it, one that Jones uses in his own business plans: WWTCD (What would Tim Collom do?).
All of the marketing would be for naught if his art didn't make a personal connection, says Davis sculptor Cindy Wilson. She and her husband stopped into Collom's gallery at 915 20th St. for the first time earlier this month and left a few thousand dollars lighter.
"Its contents hit our hearts. Its color hit our souls," said Wilson of the 60-by-72-inch canvas, "Ocean City," that they purchased.
Wilson discovered the gallery while visiting an artist friend now leasing space from him downstairs. But gallery owner Neath, like Collom, believes strongly in the power of art and social media.
"It reaches that big cavern (for) somebody who's afraid to walk into a gallery. Let's face it. A gallery can be very intimidating," said Neath. "But if you come in armed with a little bit of knowledge, that makes you feel better."
Jim Cox, a union auditor from Elk Grove, has been Facebook friends with Collom for several months, connected by mutual artist friends.
The two didn't meet in person until earlier this month. Cox was drawn to the images on Collom's Facebook page. His artwork did not disappoint in person.
"Someday I'm going to own one of his paintings before they get too pricey," Cox said.
KVIE Art Auction
KVIE Public Television's 31st annual Art Auction, which showcases more than 300 works by Northern California artists, continues online today through Sunday. The live televised auction takes place over three days: 8 to 11 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.
Visit http://www.kvie.org/events/artauction/2012/default.htm for more information.