Tom was born and raised in Marin County, California, where the rugged scenery inspired him from an early age to create landscape prints using wood blocks in a style strongly influenced by traditional Japanese prints. He studied History at UC Santa Cruz, where he was introduced to fine book printing by William Everson & Jack Stauffacher. In 1975 he produced his first illustrated book of woodcut prints, 28 Views of Mount Tamalpais, on UCSC’s Cowell Press. In 1977 Killion founded his own Quail Press, where he has printed five handmade art books depicting landscapes from California to Europe and Africa. He has created well over 400 relief prints, many incorporating increasingly sophisticated multi-block color techniques. In 2000 Killion published The High Sierra of California in collaboration with Pulitzer-prize winning poet Gary Snyder. This book was reproduced as a trade edition by Heyday Books of Berkeley in 2002; in 2009 Heyday published Killion and Snyder’s second collaboration, Tamalpais Walking, and in 2015 a third collaboration, California’s Wild Edge, won the Gold Medal at the 2016 California Book Awards.
Killion also holds a PhD. in African History from Stanford University and spent much of the 1980s and 1990s working and teaching in Africa. During 1987-88 Killion worked as an administrator in camps for Ethiopian refugee camps in Eastern Sudan and traveled in the liberated zone of Eritrea. He was an assistant professor at Bowdoin College during 1990-95 and a Fulbright Professor at Asmara University during 1993-94. He returned to California to teach in the Humanities Dept. at San Francisco State University, but in 2002 stopped teaching to devote himself completely to his work as a woodcut printmaker. Tom has participated in numerous exhibitions, as well as the 2009 PBS-TV documentary: “Craft in America: Process.” Each year he spends several months hiking and sketching for the woodcut prints he eventually produces in his Point Reyes studio. Tom sells his work in galleries and on his website: TomKillion.com.