Painted a year before Tomlin's death, No. 8 is an example of the mature non-objective, calligraphic technique for which he is best known. In 1945, his friendship with artists in the circle of Adolph Gottlieb and his subsequent immersion in the ideals of abstract expressionism freed Tomlin from his cubist style. In his characteristically earnest way, he experimented with automatism and gestural painting, enlarging his canvases, modernizing his signature, and assigning number titles to his paintings. Due to his tendency for contemplative restraint and perhaps because of his experience as a draftsman, Tomlin's late paintings lack the explosive quality of mainstream abstract expressionism; instead, they have a studied, rational air about them. In his mature work, Tomlin simultaneously combined elements of control and impulses of freedom, expressed through structured grids filled with spontaneous brushstrokes.
The decorative qualities in No. 8 provoked Duncan Phillips to name it a “petal painting," a term he applied to Tomlin’s works that employ thick, rhythmic brushstrokes that resemble falling flower petals. Although it appears to be a spontaneous image, close observation reveals Tomlin’s carefully calculated color and organization. After laying down initial color areas, he sketched a charcoal grid over the entire picture plane, after which he added the remaining layers of short, broad brushstrokes. Muted colors of pastel pinks, salmons, blues, grays, and lavenders in No. 8 are sporadically applied, allowing the dominant brushstrokes to create a luminous effect.
Because of their lyricism and rational elegance, Tomlin's late works were anomalies compared to the powerful, assertive creations of his colleagues. This demonstration of individuality pleased Duncan Phillips, who marveled at Tomlin's "interplay of an ordered formalism and spontaneous, expressive gesture." Phillips was so receptive to this new aspect of Tomlin's work that he presented Tomlin’s first museum solo exhibition in 1955, two years after the artist's death. Phillips considered Tomlin's creations "classics which may outlive the more excited...expressionism of the more dynamic action painters." To Phillips, they proved that art could be structurally sound yet simultaneously fluid and free in space, gesture, and color.