Tomopop Interview: ImaginaryThomas

4:00 PM on 09.11.2009 // Jason Millward

ImaginaryThomas is a man of many talents and a seemingly unlimited amount of imagination. He's a creator of toys and art that transcend any single medium. It would seem that if he can dream something, he will make it a reality, regardless of what he needs to learn to make it happen. From tiny robots that will takeover your desk on their way to world domination to cuddly, stuffed creatures, Thomas has a very diverse artistic portfolio. He has an amazing ability to take a something creepy and seamlessly merge it with a heart and soul to form creations of pure magic.

Take a look at his website, imaginarythomas.com, and you may find yourself busy for quite some time. The first time I visited, I found myself exploring for over an hour. There's so many pieces to see -so much imagination on display -that it's difficult to simply give a passing glance.

I had the pleasure of chatting with ImaginaryThomas recently. Our conversation and much more of his toys and art lie in wait for you after the jump.

Photo Gallery:   (you can use your arrow keys)


Big Brother

Tomopop: This whole art gig is a relatively recent thing for you. How did you get into it?

Thomas: I started about 2 years ago as sort of a "bettering myself" thing. Since I'm a programmer by trade I don't get to flex my creative muscles in my work environment. In an effort to keep them from atrophy I decided to draw, which lead to me branching out into a bunch of different areas.

There's also a store downtown called Active Surplus -which is basically a junk store. surplus hardware and miscellanea- and I fell in love with it. I'd walk up and down the aisles just picking up random things. That's how I got into the toy building.

Tomopop: Is that how it began? Did the found art creations come first?

Thomas: The drawing and paper collages came first and I took the collage mentality to junk and went from there.

Multi-Media

Tomopop: You've got a lot of different media styles on display at your site: stuffed toys, metal robots, photography, sculpture. How did that all evolve, especially over a relatively short period of time?

Thomas: Hah, I never really noticed. Probably due to my personality. I like to try and dip my toes in everything. Some days I'll crank out a papercraft overnight. others I'd be happier just coding something. I kind of work with my mood which is why some projects take months to complete. I have to wait for that same mood to come back around again, haha.
I'm very mentally disorganized.

Tomopop: That's awesome. I can relate.

Thomas: Glad I'm not the only one!

robot

Tomopop: Not at all! Are there artists that have influenced your work, or the types of pieces that you work on?


Thomas: I don't have many specific artists I draw inspiration from; more from specific pieces. I love going to book stores and leafing through art books, mostly graffiti books, and just get inspired. I do however love the works of Derek Yu, Brian Lee O'Malley as visual artists. For non-visual inspiration, I admire Author Italo Calvino. I found him about a year ago and I'm reading everything by him that I can find. He writes in this fantastic-realism style that I too like to use. Hajime Ueda and Jamie Hewlett.

Oh! Genndy Tartakovsky, too.

Tomopop: You credited Italo Calvino, in particular, as inspiration for one of your paper crafts, The distance to the moon. I really want to track down that story, now.

The distance to the moon
The distance to the moon

"Inspired by Italo Calvino’s story of the same name.
Based on the theory that the moon is progressivly moving farther away from earth at ~3cm/year. Calvino writes of a time when the moon was close and folks would take a boat out when the moon was full and would climb a ladder to the moon and collect it’s cheese. The main character, ’Qwfwq’, falls in love with the captains wife and tries to get left behind on the moon with her."


Thomas: It's in a collection called Cosmicomics. Brilliant, brilliant read.

(We geek out about Tartakovsky's Clone Wars for a bit, before moving on to talking about his favorite places.)

Thomas: Really my favourite place is probably my work desk. I've got all my tools, junk, paper pens and what have you all within arms reach. It's cramped and I love it. Outside of that probably the surplus store, haha.

Tomopop: Right on. And your favorites of the art that you've created? Which ones stand out in your mind?

Thomas: Oooh, good question. Probably, Once upon a whale. It was also the first piece I sold. Reluctantly.

Once upon a whale
Once upon a whale


Thomas: It just came to me when i was doodling and I loved the way it all came together.

Tomopop: I'm amazed because of all of the different mediums that you're into, I find that there's so much to enjoy. Your site is very huge and I've spent at least an hour or more going through it. And it's all so varied. It's hard to believe that it only represents 2 years of work.

The masked men from the woods is a perfect example. It's one of my favorites.


Thomas: I love the mask, too! It was just on a whim. I went out and got some sticks from around our building and just went for it. I'd like to do something in that style again soon.

The masked men in the woods
The masked men from the woods


Tomopop: Tell me about your creative process? Can you walk me through how you go from idea to finished piece?

Thomas: A lot of my ideas come from the bored at work doodling in the margins. Other times inspiration comes from just staring off while on the subway or someplace and just letting my mind wander. As corny as it sounds I'm a real advocate for imagination and just letting your mind run. You'd be amazed where it goes.

robot2

Tomopop: How much time do you spend creating, say, in an average month?


Thomas:
Most of my time, actually. Most of my friends are back home so I don't go out too much. I just feel really relaxed when I'm creating. Even if it's just doodling idly while watching TV. I often joked that I was their "imaginary friend" since I was never around which is where I got my pseudonym from.

Tomopop: That is awesome. I like that. In terms of the more sculpture based items, when you're creating those is there always a plan? Do you sketch them out in detail, or just put them together as you think should work as you go along?

ImaginaryThomas: I'll often start pulling things out of my junk drawers at random and kind of force the creative process. Take one thing and rotate it and wonder "what could this be?" from there I find other pieces that fit around it swaping one part for another until I feel it's the best possible composition. I rarely have a plan going into it because I'm at the mercy of the junk I have. If I don't have a specific part I can't do much about it.

Gourmand

Tomopop: Where can we get a hold of your art? Do you do gallery shows? Do you have an online store?

Thomas: I haven't done a show yet but I would love to. I really need to hold on to some of my stuff though. I sell a lot of it online or to friends. I love creating but It's a small apartment so I can't keep it all and I love being able to pass something I've made onto someone else. It's a great feeling. One thing I sold was actually as an engagement gift for someone's fiancé. I felt really special to have made something someone would give for that occasion.

Tomopop: Alright, sir! Thanks so much for your time.

Thomas: Thanks again, my friend.

ImaginaryThomas' art can be seen on his website with many items available for purchase at his Etsy Shop. He is available for commissions and can be contacted through his website imaginarythomas.com.


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