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3D Technology Enhances Artistic Expression for Thomas

By Rae van Seenus on Nov 25, 2019 at 04:59 PM in UCP WORK, Inc. Blog

Artist Thomas Coffey has enjoyed attending art classes at Santa Barbara Art Works through the services of UCP WORK, Inc. since 2014.  His medium of choice is acrylic painting, but due to the challenge of holding and moving a regular paintbrush in steady strokes, Studio Manager, Jacob Allio, experimented and developed adapted art tools for Thomas to paint with. By using items he could find around the studio, Jacob wrapped paper towels and painters' tape around the paintbrush handle, which helped increase Thomas’ ability to hold it, but there were still some accommodations to be made. 

3D Technology Improves Artistic Expression for Thomas
Now, with the generous support of a grant from Santa Barbara County Office of Arts & Culture, Thomas has been given a more advanced version — a 3D designed and printed adaptive art tool, that allows for an even firmer and steadier grip. 

The 3D art tool looks and feels like a handle of a screwdriver, custom-made with a wider cylindrical base, bent at an angle, and a strap to tighten around Thomas’ hand.  “I’m impressed that they can come up with this type of technology,” Thomas shared. “It was hard to get a good grip with the old one, but this newer tool has inspired me to be more creative. Plus it helps keep the paint in the right place.”

With a strong attention to detail, Thomas’ style of artwork ranges from realism to abstract, with an interest of painting barns and other farm related subject matter.  He also enjoys history and sold a painting of Abraham Lincoln, which sold for $400. Sometimes it takes Thomas several months to complete a painting, due to pain in his arms, but art buyers are truly getting something special when he’s finished.

When you meet Thomas, you’ll discover that he is a natural comedian and has a personality that will lighten up any room.  He consistently encourages the other artists in the studio and always has a positive attitude. Fellow resident artist, Reiko Karl, shared, “Thomas makes me want be more positive.”

3D Technology Improves Artistic Expression for Thomas
What Thomas likes most about coming to Santa Barbara Art Works, is the Children’s Integrative Arts Program, especially getting to meet the kids in special education whom attend the studio’s monthly art workshops.  “I want to become a teachers’ assistant some day…to help kids do art,” Thomas said.  Fortunately, Santa Barbara Art Works does focus on employment training for people with disabilities and provides Thomas a casual mentoring opportunity, by socializing and suggesting art tips to the children in the program.

“I think the 3D printer would benefit a lot of people coming to Santa Barbara Art Works and other people with disabilities.  It allows us to be more creative and gives us more freedom to work the way we want.”

Look for more of Thomas’ work online at or visit the gallery Monday - Friday, 8:30AM - 4:00PM.