Tom Maakestad seemed destined to become an artist. He grew up on a farm in Northfield as the son of Barbara and the late John Maakestad, who had been an art professor at St. Olaf College. Tom had always noticed the scenery around him, even during bus rides to and from school. “I couldn’t help it,” he says of his interest in landscape painting.
After studying art at Luther College, Maakestad began a dual career as a painter and a businessman. “It’s always been a balance,” he says. Early on in business, he moved to Hong Kong, where he worked in graphic design and communications for a trade show and publishing firm for seven years. When Maakestad and his wife returned to Minnesota 20 years ago, he continued working for a Hong Kong-based printing company.
Today, he enjoys living in Marine on St. Croix, where he has a downtown studio and finds endless inspiration for his oil and dry pastel painting. “You couldn’t find a more beautiful place to work. It’s really easy to get out on the river in a minute and be in a place that you feel could be a wilderness area miles away from anybody,” he says.
Whether he’s flying over the St. Croix Valley in a small airplane or floating down the river in his pontoon boat, Maakstad continues to be inspired by his surroundings. “It’s hard to call it a job,” he says.