Growing up in Torrance, California, Tom Balderas lived only a few miles from the ocean, which has made nature, along with his family, the main inspiration of his paintings. Balderas attended Loyola Marymount University, where he studied film production and art. After graduating, he worked several years for NBC Productions and helped make many made-for-television movies. He then began studying under the tutelage of his photographer father, as well as Joseph Mendez, master painter and teacher. Balderas considers the time spent studying with Mendez to be the cornerstone of his growth as a painter.