Performance painting isn’t just about the finished piece, but the journey the audience and artist share along the way.

On Jan. 29, students and employees at Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus, and the community got the opportunity to take such a journey with Tom Varano, a nationally-recognized speed painter and motivational speaker, who brought his unique show, “Emotion Into Art” to the campus for a second time. Recently, the artist performed in front of 18,000 people at Penn State University’s famed THON, the largest student-run philanthropic endeavor in the world, which was what prompted the campus to invite him back.

Varano was humbled to be asked back to the university.

“To be invited back here is beyond an honor,” Varano said at the beginning of the show. “This is where my career started. My first show was right here seven years ago.”

During his shows, Varano, who has performed all over the world, including Las Vegas, Walt Disney World, and even on Carnival Cruises, creates three to four masterpieces in minutes, choreographed to powerful music and sound bytes from history. He chooses subjects from history that are inspirations not only to Varano, but to the audience. At his most recent show on the campus, Varano painted Martin Luther King Jr., the Statue of Liberty, Malala Yousafzai, Albert Einstein…and Kobe Bryant, who just days before the performance tragically died with his daughter and seven others in a helicopter crash.

As he paints, Varano endeavors to inspire, entertain and excite audiences with his subjects, words, actions and passion.

In between paintings, Varano also shares his story of passion. His first passion, Varano explained, was photography, which he discovered after receiving a camera as a gift. He, like King, decided to go “all-in” on his dream of being a photographer and started a photography studio in his father’s house. He was broke, but happy because he was following his passion.

He encouraged everyone attending the performance to follow their passion.

“Our heartbeats are numbered. Are you dabbling?” Varano asked. “Or are you all-in on your dream?”

He comforts those who say they haven’t yet found their passion, but congratulated students for being in the best place to discover it.

“You are learning a valuable skill,” added Varano. “You are learning discipline…discipline to do something.”

He said some may have more than one passion, and that after seeing a video about speed painting, he wanted to not only try it, but master the skill. It wasn’t easy. His first attempt, which he shared with his wife and two daughters, “didn’t work out.”

But, Varano didn’t quit. He spent four months working and working on his craft until he could bring his family back down and show them he could do it. He said he wanted to be able to teach his daughters that it’s perfectly alright to fail.

That first painting he did for his family was his last painting of the performance — Albert Einstein.

“He failed math as a kid, but he kept pursuing it. He stayed the course.”

After his performances, Varano’s paintings are available to purchase, but the host venue — in this case Penn State-Fayette — gets to select a painting to display at the school.

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