Welch artist Tom Acosta draws inspiration from home.

Tom Acosta doesn’t really know what drove him to become a painter. He had always been interested in art and, by the age of 14, he started teaching himself to paint. He was inspired by his childhood home in Welch and local artists Wood Nichols and Pete Ballard.

After painting for almost 20 years, Acosta went through some difficult times in 1990 when his parents died. He thought about giving up on painting altogether, but his sons motivated him to keep going and use art to tell the story of his life. “I felt like if I was going to continue doing it, I’d have to have a reason to do it. So I mainly paint my life, in a sense,” he says.

Today, his works are found in schools, corporate collections, private homes, and galleries all over the mid-Atlantic, including the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio. He’s represented by the prestigious Barbara Moore Gallery in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania.

Around McDowell County, Acosta is probably best known for his murals depicting ordinary people and contemporary realities. One of his favorite works so far is “Heritage,” an art nouveau-esque coal mining mural that’s displayed in Mount View High School in Welch.

Although he is proud of his murals, Acosta says he’s finished with that chapter of his career. Now, he focuses more on oil and watercolor paintings, since these media force him to limit his palette. “It seems the longer and the more you paint, the more you realize you don’t know, and you want to keep on pursuing it to get better,” he says.

In October 2017, he unveiled a special chapter of his “Dust of the Earth” series titled “Simple Virtues from McDowell County Life” featuring 30 paintings based on the coalfields where Acosta grew up. @americanrealismbytomacosta on Facebook and Instagram