Tom Rhea was trained as a painter at Indiana University, where he graduated with a BFA. He spent the next twenty years in the rigorous and demanding field of medallic arts. For a wide variety of clients, he sculpted detailed scenes on a small scale in bas-relief, for mass production in pewter and solid brass. He specialized in executing complex designs such as machinery, architecture, and portraits. Rhea continued to pursue freelance art as well, rendering detailed paintings of city and campus landmarks for local businesses and portraits for individual clients. Eventually he hired out for celebrity portraits for many national publications such as the Wall Street Journal, LA Weekly and XXL magazine.