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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Tom Wüstenberg is an Abstract Artist Who Has Sold Works for 5,000 Euros

By Harry Minium

Tom Wüstenberg was an 18-year-old high school graduate playing soccer in Cologne, Germany. And he was bored. "I had no schoolwork, nothing to challenge my brain," he said.

So he and his two best friends and teammates, Lukas Klünter and Jannik Straube, decided to do something artsy. Wüstenberg suggested they begin slinging paint on canvas and creating abstract art.

He friends soon tired of the hobby, but Wüstenberg was hooked.

"It was insane," he said. "I loved it."

Wüstenberg, who will be a junior soccer player for Old Dominion University this fall, poured himself into his work. He studied books on colors, how to place paint on canvas and how art makes people think.

Within a year, he was a media star in his hometown of Erftstadt, Germany. He sold his first painting for 3,500 euros to a rich Berliner, who also offered Wüstenberg a weekend stay at a Berlin hotel. His answer? "Ja."

Wüstenberg sold 15 more during an art show, the most expensive going for 5,000 euros, or the equivalent of about $5,600.

He was celebrated on the front page of the Cologne Post as the Fußball player turned artist.

Future shows were set for Munich and Oslo, Norway, but his parents, Axel Striepeke and Carola Wüstenberg, had a talk with him.

"They said, 'This is all fine and good, but you need to study something,'" he recalled. "'Art can go up or down, but if you have your education, you can always do something with it.'"

So Wüstenberg came to ODU, where he is a Dean's List student and started for the 2017 Conference USA championship soccer team.

He now realizes that "my parents gave me great advice." But he hasn't given up painting.

Wüstenberg maintains an online gallery. No longer does he throw paint haphazardly on the canvas.

Tom Wüstenberg's Online Art Gallery

His work "Fruitastic" is awash with orange, yellow and green. "Diamond" portrays a swirl of figures with a multi-colored sunrise as a backdrop.

"His art is pretty amazing," said Deniz Dogan, a German teammate who shared a house with him this past school year.

He's also proved to be something of an entrepreneur, starting an athletic shoe business. Wüstenberg paints the shoes, and each pair is different.

He creates the shoes, as well as the canvasses, in the garage of his Norfolk townhouse. Wüstenberg hopes to find a spot in Norfolk or Virginia Beach to host an art showing.

He doesn't necessarily want to sell his art - just display it. A sports management major at ODU, he's not sure he wants to be a professional artist.

"I don't want people to come to me and say they want this kind of painting with these colors," he said. "I don't paint for the money. I paint what I think is beautiful.

"I tell people, 'If you guys want my art, that's fine, and if you don't want it, that's also fine.'

"For me, art isn't work. It's a joy."

Read more about Wüstenberg and four other soccer players from Germany in the summer issue of Monarch magazine. Look for it later this month at www.odu.edu/monarchmag

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