• UO Studio Visits: Thomas Slater

    We’re paying a house call to the London studio of illustrator Thomas Slater, whose book “Plant Portraits” is the perfect sunny antidote to winter’s chill. 
    Photos by Joshua Whitelaw

    Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do: who are you, where are you from?
    I am Thomas Slater, a freelance illustrator and artist from the midlands of the U.K. —I relocated to London seven years ago.

    How you describe the work you are drawn to creating? 
    I think this is something that changes from day to day and project to project but I want to make people laugh, I want to make people think, I don't like using too many colors, and I have a lot of fun drawing things in the way that I think they look, instead of the way that they actually look. 

    How did your style evolve to what it is today?
    I spent a long time really rejecting the use of the computer. I always drew from observation an often had to set up photos or make collages to the draw from. I think of my work in color layers almost exclusively since my first experiences of screen printing. Necessity to make changes for clients lead me to love working on the computer and also now really struggle to draw from observation. I think all of these points and a desire to approach every project at least a tiny bit differently has helped to evolve some kind of style or way of working. If all else fails I draw some natural forms.

    Tell us more about the Plant Portraits zine.
    I rented an apartment in Berlin for six weeks to galvanize a big change in my life, to spend some time with a great friend that lives over there, and to work. I was surprised to see so many windows of ground level flats and shops with weird and wonderful displays in them. Displays that didn't really have a purpose, just a few plants and trinkets for the person strolling past to enjoy. It really made me smile and I rode around town taking pictures of as many as I could. The windows make a great frame for the main character in these drawings: the plants.

    Describe a typical day in the life for you. 
    I normally wake up quite early. Porridge for breakfast for about three hundred and sixty four days of the year and then may or may not go on a bike ride in the country lanes just south of London then draw, play table tennis, drink coffee, and chase invoices in my home studio in south London.

    What's the most important thing to you when creating a piece of art? What do you hope the viewer takes away from it? 
    To not overdo anything, to avoid overcooking something that had great potential early on.  and for the viewer to enjoy, relate to, or be inspired by the work.

    Do you have any advice for young artists out there trying to find and hone their own style? 
    Just draw, don't try and force it, accept a constant desire for new things to feed the beast, and try to soak up work from fields other then your own.

    What ideas, color combinations, or art concepts have been inspiring you recently?
    The impact of a sole primary color on white. John Lautner's houses in California, Eike Koening's typographic pieces, and Lilian Martinez paintings and rugs.

    What's a personal mantra or favorite quotation? 
    I'l leave that to Tom Sachs. The 10 bullets film is a must.

    Who are some of your favorite artists? Is there anyone newly on your radar we should know about? 
    Lawrence Slater, Jay Wright, Kyle Platts, Pete Sharp, and Sam Taylor. Everyone says Matisse and Hockney right?

    Tell us three things you've been interested in lately (can be anything!)
    Racing bikes, bringing back baggy trousers, and the "Reply All" podcast.

    What’s next for you? What are you looking forward to this year? 
    Collaborating with a fashion student and friend for some challenging drawings to be embroidered onto garments, riding my bike in Majorca, reading more, making some space in my head, and trying to convince people that I meet over the internet to pay me to make drawings.

    Buy Thomas' book "Plant Portraits" at UO
    Shop Planters / Shop Books