Professor of Art, Member of the NZ Academy of Fine Arts, Royal Society of British Artists (R.B.A.), Royal Scottish Watercolour Society (R.S.W.).
Born in Motherwell, Scotland son of a Baptist minister. His artistic career began at the age of 10 when he won 10 shillings as a prize for a sketch drawing of his father. He was educated at Buckhaven High School in Scotland before he won an Andrew Grant Scholarship to the Edinburgh College of Art in 1934, graduating with Honours. He won a travelling scholarship for Europe and began his unique paintings of the European landscapes and his life as a world class artist.
In 1934 Edith Mees won the same Andrew Grant Scholarship and attended the Edinburgh School of Art with Tom. The pair had adjacent lockers and this is where their long life together began. They were married for 65 years and had four children, Clark, Ronald, Jennifer and Dorothy, all with creative sides.
Tom gained his Diploma of Art in Edinburgh before World War Two and graduated as a Specialist Teacher of Art in Scotland before he was called to war. He rose to Captain and Adjutant of the Royal Artillery while serving from 1940 to 1946. An Imperial Relations Trust Scholarship in 1952 brought the Esplin family to New Zealand on a teacher exchange with Oliver Cox, the art teacher at Otago Boys’ High School, and the Esplin family immigrated here in 1954.
Tom was awarded a Fellowship from the Royal College of Handicraft in Oxford in 1951. He was a foundation member of the Otago Potters’ Group. He was also involved in a long-running children’s radio art show, the Junior Art Club, which promoted an interest in drawing and painting for young people, who were invited to send their work in for comments. He also fronted a television series, Design for Living, which focused on New Zealand architecture and interior design. He delivered lectures and wrote about the economic necessity for good industrial design in New Zealand which influenced the decision to set up the New Zealand Industrial Design Council. He was also President of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery and the Otago Art Society.
Tom exhibited throughout New Zealand, including with the New Zealand Academy of Fine Art but also with the Royal Society of Water-Colourists in Scotland and the Royal Society of Artists in Great Britain. His paintings of scenes from his travels throughout Europe and his vigorous impasto technique ensured his works are visually appealing and technically superb.