Tom Frost joined us for the first time during the A to B Exhibition in 2010. His work grabbed Graham & I straight away and we knew we were on to a good thing!
Tom's work is full of playful imagery, characters and creations and all beautifully screen-printed by Tom's fair hand. His respectful nod to all things retro gives his work a timeless feel not only to his screen-prints but also commercial illustration and 3D pieces.
BB: Let's start right at the beginning.... When did you first think 'yeah I want to be a printmaker and illustrator for a living!'
TF: The printmaker bit of the equation came a lot later than the illustrator element. It was only after about seven years of working as an illustrator and developing a digital style that was in a way trying to mimic the look of screen printed images that a few friends said, 'why don't you actually try screen printing?' So I did and have never looked back. I don't want to say that I am addicted to screen printing, but I think I am addicted to screen printing!
BB: Did you find University a rewarding experience?
TF: I found it hugely rewarding. Not only was Falmouth a beautiful place to spend three years, the course is held in extremely high regard as one of the most professional illustration degrees in the country. The tutors never once made us feel like we were just spending our time doing 'art' but really gearing us up for the realities of becoming practicing illustrators. I think the fact that at least 14 of our year are still working as illustrators is testament to this.
BB: Did you find starting out after graduation difficult?
TF: I think the most difficult thing I had to adjust to after graduation was that fact you didn't have the close knit community of your friends all in the same studio to offer you advice and bounce ideas back and forth. I was lucky enough to get an agent straight out of college, but it was definitely difficult making the leap to producing artwork for a paying client.
BB: You also work as a commercial illustrator can you tell us a little bit about some of the clients and projects you have worked on, and about the up's and downs of working commercially.
TF: I have mainly done editorial commissions for people like Orange, The Guardian, Sainsburys, and The Radio Times. I think one of the more interesting projects I worked on was for The Times when I used to illustrate the sex page. It was always a challenge to come up with different ways of tackling the brief in a subtle way! The down side of working commercially is the same as any other job, where you are restricted in the final outcome due to the client wanting a definite look or image which may not always be what you want, so you have to learn quickly to compromise. On the up side, if you are getting commissioned, then there is no better way of getting a lot of people to see your work.
BB: Are there any commercial clients or companies out there that you would like to work with either for a campaign or in a collaborative way?
TF: It would be great to land a campaign where you get to have your images turned into an animation, such as an advert or short film. It would be great to see your artwork in a whole new dimension.
BB: We are loving your stunning 3D cars and creatures, can you tell us a little bit about their construction and where the passion came from to try these out?
TF: I have had a small collection of 1950's tin cars for a while and have always loved the shape and styling of these toys. Then last year I was preparing for an exhibition in London and thought it would be a good opportunity to make my own versions. A lot of ebaying to get vintage Meccano wheels, some laser cut plywood, a bit of screen printing, a touch of hand painting, some varnish, a screen printed cardboard box and four car designs later my fleet was ready!
BB: You seem to enjoy experimenting with lots of different techniques and mediums, we noticed that you recently revisited lino cuts and you are of course best known for your screen prints and 3D pieces – What formats and mediums would you still like to try out?
TF: I still feel I have only just started to scratch the surface of what is possible with screen printing, but I would love to do more lino or wood cuts and try some letterpress printing. What is really at the forefront of my mind though is to do more 3D pieces and explore different ways of constructing artworks. I love painting on old cut out sheets of plywood and I am going to start attempting to get my head around making some automatons in the near future.
BB: Are there any illustrators, artists, designers out there that are inspiring you at the moment?
TF: I think if I started to list everyone who inspires me it would be an almost unending list, but I do feel very lucky just to be in Bristol and be surrounded by so many creative friends. I think I owe a lot of my inspiration to them pushing me on to do bigger and better things.
BB: Which website's are you visiting a lot at the moment?
TF: Other than the Guardian website to do a cheeky lunchtime crossword, I always look at fffound, sharesomecandy, grainedit and itsnicethat simply for visual stimulation and endlessly interesting imagery. The other places I visit are the thousands of wonderful creative blogs that always offer a glimpse into other peoples lives and how they live and work.
BB: Tell us about your workspace
TF: For seven years I worked at home with my girlfriend in our attic, but recently after moving into Snap Studios in the centre of Bristol I find myself in another attic. I have also swapped my home girlfriend for my new work girlfriend, the talented and caring Ben Newman! It's a great place to work as it is housed in a lovely old crooked building with a gallery/shop on the ground floor and screen printing facilities in the basement. It also has that wonderful quality of being an oven in the summer and a freezer in the winter and temptingly overlooks a beer terrace!