Tom J Newell hails from Sheffield and has an incredibly distinctive Black and White style, creating images by hand and pen, his work is a breath of fresh air in the age of photoshop manipulation, from giant Murals for clients such as Kraken rum down to small sketches he posts online.
We sat down with Tom and asked him a few questions about his new piece for Skull & Heart, the amazing ‘Totem‘ and also talked about his time working as an illustrator.
Q: Hi Tom, how are you today?
A: Hello Skull & Heart. I am good, thanks for asking.
Q: Thank you so much for the amazing piece you created for us! It’s so stunning and fits the colours series perfectly!
A: It is an absolute pleasure to be a part of the series, alongside all the other artists. It’s a great thing to be a part of, and I like the purple.
Q: So, how did you get into illustration at first? What led you down this path? has it been a rocky road or smooth sailing up to this point?
A: I graduated as a conceptual artist, but always kept drawing weird, cartoony type stuff for gig posters and things. Gradually that side of my work developed as people took an interest in what I was doing, but it’s always seemed like a smooth and logical progression.
Q: Talk us through a typical illustration-based day with you, what sort of challenges do you face on a regular day?
A: I’ve just set up a home studio actually, so it’s really good to get in there each morning and just be surrounded by the drawings that I’m working on. Up until this point, I did everything sat at my kitchen table in our old flat. It’ll be exciting to see how my work will develop in a proper working environment. The challenge is always juggling jobs. Once I’ve prioritised what I’m working on, the actual process of drawing is the easiest and most enjoyable part of the day.
Q: you’re known for your very distinctive black and white style, but we’ve seen colour sneak back in nicely in the past year or so, do you see that direction continuing?
A: I love the restraints and limitations that come with working on white paper with black ink. Colour is quite often an after thought for me, but if it’s going to add something to a piece there’s no sense in dismissing it. Yeah, it’ll sneak in from time to time. Dresden Yellow is a particularly stealthy creature.
Q: What or whom would you say are your Inspirations, what do you often look to when feeling lacking in the idea department? do you turn to music, books or films?
A: There are obvious inspirations and comparisons that shine through in the work, but I do think it’s important to look to other disciplines in order to cross-pollinate ideas and develop fresh imagery. Music is a constant source of inspiration. Wether attempting to directly visualise the invisible or producing an image which can successfully accompany a collection of sounds, it’s always a hoot.
Q: Tell us about the beautiful piece you did for Skull & Heart.
A: I don’t want to enforce any specific meaning onto the image as there isn’t really one. There are plenty of things there that people can read into to develop their own idea of what’s going down though. It’s an assemblage of taxidermy, twigs and human remains. The heart seems to have been daubed onto the skull’s forehead by the hands as the fingertips are covered in purple ink. I’m not sure if the hands actually belong to the tiger, but if they do then the splinter in one of the fingers of his right hand might explain why he’s so grouchy.
Q: Can you tell us about any future projects in the works? anything exciting?
A: Group shows and collaborations with artists that are better at drawing than me. Always fun.. And amongst other jobs, I’m working one page at a time on a flipbook that I hope will emerge some time in my lifetime.
Q: And of course, Skulls or Hearts?
A: I think skulls are closer to my heart, but I do enjoy the odd anatomical heart.
All available artwork from Tom J Newell is available to purchase in our online store. Please click the images below to be directed to the item you are interested in.