Colwyn Thomas

This week’s artist interview is with the gifted Colwyn Thomas. Stathi Kougianos chats to him about using pen and paper in this day and age and balancing meaningful art with corporate work.

DIY: What makes your work its own? Is there a specific style you try and aim for or is it just what comes to you naturally?

Colwyn: I’ve developed my own style over the years, through borrowing from other illustrators and artists looks that I like, from developing my own skills as well as accepting the limitations of my illustration technique. That’s a big one. I’m not going to ever do photo real illustration and I can’t draw amazing shit out of my head. But I’ve find a way of drawing and things to draw that give me a great deal of satisfaction and these then become one’s style.


DIY: The scenes you construct in your work always have a deeper narrative. How much of a balancing act is it in trying to answer the clients brief as well as push yourself to create something with meaning?

Colwyn: I find it very very difficult to produce works of meaning on a commercial level. On my portfolio there is very little commercial work. It’s like being set up on a blind date. If you don’t connect with the person you can get through a pleasant enough evening but there won’t be the magic that will make you love that night. Good dates, like good illustrations, just kind of happen. Good illustration is about the magic. The commercial work is someone trying to harness the magic to sell a product. It’s not impossible but it is tough.


DIY: We had a conversation about the fact that if your work does not have a specific style running throughout, it is harder to get commissions from overseas clients/agencies. Does this frustrate you? Do you ever feel like it stifles your creativity to explore new mediums?

Colwyn: Not at all. I love creating in my style. Stylistically, illustration is possibly the most varied visual art form out there so it’s easy to spin off in endless directions and never really grow. For that reason I’ve always valued being forced to focus.


DIY: Do you think your personal growth can be seen from drawing to drawing or is it the behind the scene process which is more important and beneficial to you?

Colwyn: I guess it’s there from piece to piece. A bit of both really. I can definitely see a remarkable shift in my technical ability when I look at pieces from years ago compared to now. Interestingly, when I first started illustrating I was doing work for the sheer pleasure of it. And the pieces from those time have a charge or an innocence to them that makes them, in my mind, superior to a lot of recent work that is technically far better.


DIY: Have you ventured into the world of graphic tablets yet or are you still a paper and pen guy?

Colwyn: Paper and pen forever. Well, paper forever. I’m trying out ink. I do pretty much all my colour digitally. But I’m moving away from digital and commercial illustration towards the world of fine art again.


DIY: A couple years ago you gave a talk to third year Vega students about your work. At that time you were incorporating coffee and tea stains into your pieces. What is currently influencing and helping you create?

Colwyn: A couple years ago I discovered a Japanese woodcut artist named Hasui, from the early 20th century. I bought a print of his. Since then his style and the tones and textures of woodcut have been a major influence. I also seem to be going through a blue phase. I photographed a white wall at dusk and it came out blue and I lay it over far too many things for tonal effect.


DIY: What is it about James Jean that excites you so much?

Colwyn: Technical brilliance combined with an outstanding narrative and stylistic sensibility. Having said that, since he went more into painting I’ve become less inspired, though no less respectful.


DIY: How do you recharge when your creativity needs a jump start?

Colwyn: Peruse the web for new work. Study Hasui prints. Look at my archive of illustrators. Surf.


DIY: It seems a popular trend in this day and age for artists and illustrators to get Twitter accounts, have you jumped on the band wagon yet? How important do you think it is for artists to have some sort of social network service beyond a blog or website.

Colwyn: I have a twitter account but don’t use it. I get the feeling that, as always, you need to advertise to do well and in this sense social networking seems to be becoming increasingly relevant. But I think there can be merit in artists having social network sites in that there really is so much interesting stuff that goes into the making of art. The sketches, the day to day events that inspire, the other work that inspires. If all these things are conveyed tastefully, I think social networking can be rewarding for those who follow.


DIY: You have been working closely with Greg Lomas on the To Skin A Cat documentary, what was the motivation to be involved in a project like this?

Colwyn: The story (about leopard skins being used en mass for cultural purposes) excited me. I’m very drawn to relationships between people and animals. Plus I also love working in film. I was excited about telling a story that didn’t have to be contained in a single 2D frame.


DIY: Thanks for your time and best of luck with the project


For more of Colwyn’s work check out:

6 Responses to “Colwyn Thomas”
  1. Ozzie says:

    Amazing work! So rad to read about the influences I always imagined Colwyn had.
    Your style is a perfect meld of contemporary illustration and traditional Japanese art bro, with a small dash of Jamie Hewlett IMHO

  2. @Ewokessay says:

    Colwyns work was both the inspiration and the reference for an aerosol mural on Ebor avenue in Glenwood, behind Stella Soccer club, for the Childrens home. His characters give that whole wall its original feel and make it a fullon Durban production! Respect bro, always.

  3. Georgia says:

    Beautiful, thoughtful and honest Colwyn.

  4. Hagrid says:

    What a boss!

  5. Daisy says:

    what beautiful work! great interview!

  6. Brandon says:

    some awesome illustration there, well done. i would just like to also ask how can i make illustrating my full time job?…im stuck doing websites for a company and i cant go on like this. There’s just something in me that wants to be a free artist. im into concept art and character designs if any of you guys know how i can make some thing of my talents like Colwyn is doing i would really appreciate it.

    Thanks and again awesome work Colwyn

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