Spotlight on illustrator Tom Wilson
Being an illustrator
Please give us a few words of introduction about yourself
I’ve been doodling and drawing ever since I was old enough to hold a pencil really. As a kid my parents would take me on long car journeys to Wales and back and I’d divide my time in the car between listening to music and drawing or both. It’s just something I’ve always done.
What made you decide to take up illustration?
It was about 7 years ago that I noticed that people liked my work. I was working as a care assistant at a local mental hospital at the time so I’d carry a little piece of paper with me everywhere I went and sketch out cartoons throughout my shift. The nurses and other care assistants all commented on how good they were so I set about taking it seriously and started building a name for myself as ‘Mafia Illustrations.’
What training did you have?
No real official training. I have a GCSE in Art and an A-level in Grpahical communication but other than that and a LOT of comic book reading I’ve never formally trained.
What has been your best creative achievement so far?
Being published. It’s a great feeling to know that people are looking at your work and actually paying for it aswell. Being asked to exhibit some work in LA was pretty fun too and I’ve also created some pairs of shoes for some of my favourite musicians and their wives which was a massive honour. The photo that guy sent me of a tattoo he had done of one of my designs was a high point aswell.
What’s your favourite quote?
‘Don’t Worry, Be happy’ – Bobby McFerrin
Who is your favourite artist?
Ryan Ottley. He’s a comic book artist that is a master of human anatomy and the conveyance of motion in a still, 2D image. He draws Invincible which I’d highly recommend.
What are you aiming for?
I’ve already got a bit of a rep built in my local area but it’d be nice to be able to have my work shown in galleries in London and overseas more.
How will you get there?
Currently, my work is hanging in tattoo parlours and a couple of galleries in Birmingham but I’m working on some ways to get a bit more exposure and I’m also due to be published again by Accent UK comics.
Is anything holding you back?
Not especially. Outside of art I’m a community psychiatric nurse which takes up a lot of time but I still have the weekends and evenings to sketch and I find I’m at my most creative when I’m bored so going to training and meetings at work will usually result in a great idea for a canvas. Some of the people I meet in my line of work are real characters and often influence my little comics.
You and illustration
What sort of feedback to you get from people see your work?
It’s hugely positive. Always has been really. I’m my own worst critic and a real perfectionist I’ll often sketch something about 4 times before I’m happy with the composition and design before applying it to canvas so when people finally see my work they’re presented with something I’m 100% happy with.
From start to finish, how long does it take for you to create your work?
Depends really. Some of the stuff I do on photoshop can range from a few hours to a few evenings and some of my canvases have taken about 2-3 weeks. I’ll often take time off from work if I’m doing a large canvas as I like to concentrate solely on art when I start a big piece.
What music do you like to listen to when you work?
Any and everything. I have a huge collection of music all on one playlist which is set to random. That way I have no idea what I’ll be listening to when I paint/draw and it influences the final piece.
What is next in the pipeline for you?
I’ve been getting a lot of requests for prints of my work recently so i’ve got to get some high quality images of it and get some prints done that I can sell. Someone threw out a huge table in my building recently aswell so I took the top of it and intend to use that as a massive canvas in the near future. One of the tattoo parlours I exhibit in is planning an exhibiton soon and I’m on a bit of a pop culture theme at the moment too so I’ve got an American Psycho, Karate Kid and Attack the Block canvas lined-up.
Being inspired by illustration
Who (living or dead) inspires you? and why?
I was heavily influenced by comics like the Beano as a kid and used to really enjoy watching Stoppit and Tidyup as well, which I think is repsonsible for the way I draw hands and fat bellies.
What feelings, subjects or concepts inspire you as an illustrator?
Everything. I mostly try to keep it humorous and fun so that people smile when they see it but i am capable of serious work and every one of my canvases / drawings tells a story about a perticular time in my life. A man once bought one of my canvases because of the story that accompanied it.
What is your favourite work that you’ve produced so far and why?
It’s got to be ‘Surround’ I worked on that for weeks and the background was all freehand and totally off the top of my head. I’m really proud of that one and it’s also one of the biggest canvases I’ve worked with outside of live graffiti work at events.
an illustrator’s advice
What do you think it takes to make a good an illustrator?
Perseverence. I’ve got a 2-inch thick folder of rejections from companies, magazines, galleries and such but I don’t let it get to me because I’m still very happy with my work and love what I produce so i’m not going to give-up anytime soon and things are starting to take-off for me here in Brum. It’s also good to get critique from other artists rather than friends and family as they’re more honest in their opinions about your work and can offer some good constructive criticism. Try and spread yourself out as much as possible aswell and NEVER turn down a job, even if it’s free it can lead to paid work as you’re still getting your stuff seen and building your list of contacts and acquaintances.