Tommy May likes to wear his art on his sleeve. Literally. And your sleeves too.

In addition to using traditional canvases, Mr. May paints his designs on wearable clothing — pants, jackets, shirts, shoes, whatever he can find in a thrift store or what a potential customer brings to him for a one of a kind fashion statement.

As an artist Mr. May goes by the name Tommy Lee, a name he took from the street his dad grew up on and the name of the street on which his mother, an art consultant, had her first gallery. Mr. May is just 21 years old, but already his work has taken off in many directions. A few weeks ago Sylvester and Co. in East Hampton hosted a solo show for him after a piece of his had been on display at their Savannah boutique. He is also working with J. Crew, painting an installation in its Savannah store window.

His gallery on the Island is The Workshop, located at 32 Beach Road in Vineyard Haven which he shares with fellow artists Dan VanLandingham, Lauren Coggins-Tuttle and Terry Crimmen. They will host a reception on Monday, July 6, at 5 p.m., with Dukes County Love Affair providing the music.

Tommy May paints of canvases, clothes and perhaps you next. — Maria Thibodeau

Mr. May grew up in Alexandria, Va. and entered the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in 2012 as a photography major. But he soon made the shift to painting, a medium that he believes allows him greater freedom of expression.

“I feel like with photography I was recording stuff and with painting I am creating,” he said. The artist describes his style of painting as very direct, referring to the connection between what happens in his mind and what ends up on the canvas. His creative process is linear. He doesn’t prepare studies or draw on his canvases before applying paint.

Mr. May’s line paintings were born in the middle of the night, when he awoke suddenly after having watched a Jackson Pollock documentary.

“His early work before the splatters was work that doesn’t even look like the work everyone knows,” he said. “He used to paint with a tube to outline objects, and I woke up in the middle of the night to a dark, black painting I had made, took a white tube out of nowhere and filled the whole canvas with these lines. Ever since then I have been running with it and working to refine my style.”

The imagery in his paintings is primarily abstract, even when he depicts visual realities, such as human eyes, windows, televisions and animals. The genesis of the regular inclusion of certain objects in his work can be traced back to childhood journals.

“My parents looked through my old schoolbooks from when I was a kid and they said, ‘well this is where that comes from.’ They found a lineage back to when I was a little kid of those objects and I think it’s just a subconscious thing,” he said.

Mr. May has two styles of work that complement each other. His line paintings represent his surroundings in their most abstract form, while his other work elaborates on these interpretations.

“My line paintings are showing you and the other ones are telling you,” he said.

The other ones, to use his words, include a series of paintings with a sense of humor.

“Someone once told me that good artists copy and great artists steal, so that is sort of my joke. I am literally recreating their images in a jokey way.”

Mr. May interprets David Hockney’s A Bigger Splash in a piece titled Just like David. He paints Hockney’s iconic swimming pool in a periwinkle blue instead of Hockney’s cobalt blue. An atomic aircraft flies across a red sky.

“My idea is that there is this paradise but then all of this crazy stuff is going on outside of this beautiful pool.”

A layperson might see traces of Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat in much of his work, but Mr. May cites American painter Cy Twombly as the artist by whom he is most inspired.

“I am obsessed with how simple, elegant and direct his work is.”

Mr. May’s technique of painting on clothes began in his outdoor studio in Savannah, Ga. where he spends part of each year.

“We had a massive party in my friend’s backyard, and it evolved into me painting on clothes, which I had never done before. Everyone had my symbols all over their bodies. Then after that I just bought a bunch of jeans and started selling them. Now I am painting raincoats, pants, trench coats and more.”

His clothing is available for purchase online through his brand Safe Collective, and is also on display at Piknik, a fashion and contemporary art boutique, in Edgartown.

Mr. May started visiting Martha’s Vineyard after his parents bought a house on the Island when he was in high school. It has since become his family’s home base. He splits his time now between The Workshop and a second studio at his parents’ house just up the street from the gallery/workspace. At the end of the summer he will return to Savannah to open the Lee O’Neil Gallery with his photographer girlfriend, Gwen O’Neil. The pair will show their work as well as that of other artists, including his Workshop partners and Traeger di Pietro.

“We are going to open in August and we will show 15 artists’ work. We will bring some guys from up here down there and then four or five recent SCAD grads will show as well, and some people my mom knew from her business. I am a very collaborative artist and I am trying to bring to Savannah what we have here at The Workshop,” he said.