Tanner Bosma (B.F.A. ’19, Art Education – Painting) won Best in Show for his acrylic on canvas titled “Into the Night” at the College of Fine Arts Student Art Exhibition in 2019. The painting’s reflective qualities are mesmerizing. You’d swear it’s a photograph from a distance, but on closer examination, you see Tanner’s skilled hand behind every brushstroke.
When it comes to Tanner the artist, there’s more than meets the eye, too. While most painters would probably describe themselves as introspective, Tanner is also someone who’s been readily willing to put himself out there in pursuit of his education and his art.
He always knew he wanted to study something art-related, but hadn’t settled on a discipline. “I was debating between graphic design, painting or art education,” he said. “A mission trip the summer before I started college to Palestine and Israel to put on a creative arts camp solidified my desire to teach.”
Outside of having a dedicated art school, Tanner chose Western based on its affordability, location and size; he hoped to go to a school with Division 1 athletics. He was also fortunate to receive the WMU Incentive Scholarship, which covered his tuition for four years.
“I was, and still am, so thankful for this,” he said. “It made college possible since I was responsible for paying for 100% of it by my own means.”
Beyond the Incentive Scholarship, he received six other scholarships through the Frostic School of Art and a $500 Gwen Frostic School of Art grant to explore any emerging interest. He landed on non-objective abstract art. “That’s been the single most influential event to transform my painting practice,” Tanner said. “Receiving the grant allowed me to experiment with abstract art, a form of art I was never really exposed to. Growing up, I believed to be the quintessential artist you had to perfect realism; however, that is so far from the truth.”
Specifically, this grant allowed him to purchase materials to guide him on a careful and intentionally planned journey of self-exploration. “Then the art school gave me a gallery for a week to have an exhibition featuring 16 paintings,” he said. “Before my studio work was entirely realism, and now, that’s shifted to about 60% abstract and 40% realism.”
Outside of his studio, Tanner was very active with on-campus Registered Student Organizations (RSOs), including Imago Dei, Ceramics Guild of WMU, Western Student Education Association, InterVarsity at WMU, and his self-founded (with two other students) Art Education Association. He was also an RA for two years, worked as a receptionist for the Frostic School of Art, and dove on the Swim and Dive club, placing first at the National Championships for College Club Swimming and Diving.
Tanner even had the opportunity to brighten up the student lounge at Ackley/Shilling Residence Hall as part of a renovation project. (Check out Tanner’s Ackley/Shilling work here.) “I created large and immersive paintings designed to inspire an intriguing, relaxed and inviting environment for all,” he said. “Inclusion and happiness, and improving mental wellbeing were the goals.”
Painting Professor Cat Crotchett made a lasting impression on Tanner during his time at WMU. “She saw a spark in me and encouraged me to fulfill my dreams,” he said. “She was a huge influence on increasing my skills in the classroom, giving me both vital foundational skills, as well as valuable insight to push me further than I could’ve ever done on my own. She knew I was capable of more and didn’t stop until she saw the potential flourish.”
Since graduating, Tanner has worked as a behavioral specialist at an elementary school and as a full-time middle and high school art teacher at Godfrey Lee in Wyoming, MI. Despite loving his teaching job, he had other aspirations he needed to chase. “My dream has been to move to New York City to become a painter,” he said. “I moved there in the summer of 2021 and am a nanny and Trader Joe’s sign artist by day, and a painter by night and weekend.”
Although he isn’t supporting himself full time as an artist yet, he’s working hard to secure gallery representation, grow his social media network, and sell wherever and whenever he can via Etsy, Instagram, Tiktok and other outlets. Tanner’s life is a wonderful blank canvas just waiting to be filled.
For current Broncos, he encourages painting outside the lines. “Be open to new opportunities and possibilities and have an open mind,” he said. “College is an incredible time where you can truly find your full authentic self. You have so many connections, people rooting for your success, and an institution that is dedicated to your personal growth, so take advantage of it and dream big.”
“And remember what took me too long to figure out: if you don't know how to do it, ASK professors, classmates and colleagues,” Tanner added. “Someone will know or will know someone who will know, or will at least have some ideas and pointers.”
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