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Pick Me Up Q&A Series: Tom J Newell

Multi talented Sheffield based illustrator Tom J Newell has applied his creativity to everything from murals and burger wrappers to DJing and curating the annual Tramlines gig poster show. He was one of the first artists to get involved with our Pick Me Up print series so we caught up with him briefly to get a better idea of his design process, inspiration and career highs.

How would you describe your style?

A balancing act of black and white, horror and humour, and points and curves.

Tell us a bit about how you developed your aesthetic.

Just striving to capture crisp and clean lines. Making a controlled mess. Drawing things that I think I’d like to see and can vaguely see in my mind’s eye, but often creating something unexpected when I try and get that out onto the page.

Hot off the press, Tom’s prints drying before being trimmed down to size.
What’s your first weapon of choice when creating new work?

The closest writing implement to me at that time. Every composition usually starts out as a small, scribbled thumbnail, which will then be sized up at some stage, chiseled out in pencil and eraser and eventually inked out over a light box.

Tramlines Gig Poster Show
Every year Tom curates and exhibits at the Tramlines gig poster show.
How different was the design process for your Pick Me Up illustration knowing that the final image would be interpreted as a screen print?

I just had to consider the eventual addition of colour. It’s sometimes difficult to contemplate when working with black ink onto white paper, but I love seeing the addition of colour during the printing process. I don’t often work with colour as I’m drawing, it seems more natural to me to bring that aspect in working collaboratively with the printmakers. The 3rd Rail team were great to work with bringing the colours to the table.

You’ve had the opportunity to work on some exciting projects, has anything made you consider a complete career change?

Tax Returns always make me half wish I could be back in a fairly monotonous 9 to 5 where the tax is deducted automatically in each pay cheque, but then I remember that I love being able to make a living from drawing things and feel very grateful that people are interested in the things that I draw.

Tom J Newell Artist Beer Visions
Tom J Newell was one of the artists who featured in our Artist Beer Visions exhibition in 2014.
And what’s been a highlight?

Receiving a finished and tangible product in the post is always a highlight. My work always exists as ink on paper drawings initially and then there’s an in between stage where I’m emailing a finished piece to be printed. Holding a real life product at the end of the process is great. Getting these Viking prints through the post recently was a buzz. Picking up a record that you’ve designed the cover for is also a lovely feeling. As a record collector, putting a record on my shelf that I’ve had a hand in producing is pretty hard to top.

Tom J Newell Screen Print

The 3 colour screen print ‘3rd Rail Viking’ by Tom J Newell is available from the 3rd Rail Presents web store now in a very limited edition of 20. To get your hands on one visit the link HERE.