FEATURED ARTISTRichard Tomlin
I was never much interested in football.
When I was a kid, every Saturday night while my dad watched Match of the Day and my mum knitted, I drew my left hand as it rested on the arm of the sofa I was sitting on. I got quite good at drawing hands.
I was only ever good at sport or art at school, and at 17 went to art school in Portsmouth where I studied graphics and photography. On graduating I moved to London and briefly worked in the graphics department of Thames TV beside Teddington Lock, a stones throw from where I now live.
TV was all black and white then and just a little restrictive creatively. So in the early 70s I joined a three man design group in Fulham looking for a graphic designer to work on projects for their client Rank Xerox, who had just set up an East European sales operation in London. I designed marketing materials in nine East European languages for RX. Not being able to speak any of them was a little like jumping into the deep end and not being able to swim.
Fast forward 30 years and I owned and ran the same design group with my business partner. We had expanded to 20 staff and were working for a very wide range of international, national and small businesses across multiple industries, from travel to technology, and in a variety of media: branding, print, exhibitions, interiors, digital design. It was fascinating, exciting, completely absorbing and highly stressful. By 2000 I was totally burnt out. I sold out and took a year off, but I loved design and started a new design consultancy from home, digital technology and communications making it highly practical. Many of my old clients came back to me, which was deeply rewarding.
I’m currently involved with a number of local art groups, Richmond Art Society, Kingston Artists, Kew Studio and Hawks Road Artists, helping with exhibitions they put on and organising on my own group exhibitions in London galleries. The skills I employed when a designer have come in very useful putting on and marketing art exhibitions.
And now 50 odd years on from when I sat on that sofa as a kid drawing hands, I still find hands fascinating. Those early years of multiple studies have brought me full circle.
I never thought that I would stop being a designer, it was endlessly challenging and helping businesses grow, very satisfying. I thought I’d be buried with my iMac. But fate took a hand and I went to see the Lucien Freud retrospective at the National Portrait Gallery just before he died and was blown way by what he could do with paint turning it into flesh….a kind of alchemy. And so decided to pick up drawing and painting where I left off, 40 odd years before.
I started producing self portraits at home.. the model was cheap. I attended life drawing classes, as I still do, and portrait painting classes at Putney School of Art and Heatherleys. Gradually spending more and more time on improving my drawing skills and at the same time running down my design clients.
Four years ago I rented an art studio in ASC Kingston where there are about 50 artists working in a wide variety of media. I continue to draw and paint most days, focusing on the human form. The work slowly evolves and moves forward. When I started I didn’t have an idea of what I wanted to do, just draw. Now 6 years on I have more ideas for images I want to create than I have time to realise them.