I can’t help but want a room papered in Tom Abbiss Smith’s collages. Thrilled to share the work today of the Norwich, UK-based designer, who graduated this year with a BFA from Norwich University of the Arts. Smith uses digital process to aid his practice, transferring collages and illustrations into screen prints. I was particularly drawn to the colors and compositions of his collages, and he’s been tapped for design work from fashion houses like Atelier Pichita and, more recently, Whip Appeal of Sweden. He draws from a wide range of modernist influences, which give his work a somewhat timeless feel while at the same time quite fresh.
I’m really drawn to your use of pattern and collage-inspired illustration and design — as well as your actual collages! What first interested you in collage?
I first became interested in collage half way through my last year at University whilst I was researching into Polish poster artists for my project, such as Henryk Tomaszewski. I loved his use of shape and form with typography and that really influenced me at the time and still does now.
What is your process like? How do you get started on a new piece? Do you have an idea of colors, or do you wing it?
I usually start by getting experimental with as many different mediums as I can on paper. I then cut out various shapes from the textures I achieve and starting arranging compositions until I feel happy with an outcome. Once this is done, I’ll scan the shapes and start playing about with colours and effects on photoshop. It’s always very intuitive so there’s not much planning involved, which takes the pressure away a little bit and lets me have a lot of fun!
What is your studio or work space like? How much time do you get to spend there every day?
I’d love to say I have a massive studio where I can splash paint about and churn out screen prints and what-not everyday, but at the moment I currently work in the living room of my flat in Norwich, UK. I tend to spend about 7 hours a day everyday working on different pieces, commissions and such, which is probably very unhealthy, but it’s great fun!
I noticed that you just graduated from Norwich University this year. What have you been up to since then?
I’m currently working on a few commissions, but the biggest project is with Atelier Pichita, developing work to be animated as part of promotional videos giving insight to the history of the company.
What do you feel that you need most as an artist?
I think it’s important for me to stay surrounded by creative individuals in a place where there is an artistic community. Luckily Norwich is a lovely place with a good art scene, so that is no worry here!
Anything that is particularly challenging, especially now that you are navigating the so-called art world outside of the university?
I think it’s particularly difficult to disseminate your work into the world with so many other great artists all battling for exposure and jobs. The other difficult thing is pricing your work fairly so you aren’t being exploited by companies or people interested in your work. I fear my work is being stolen or copied a lot, especially when I hear companies like Zara are stealing designs from artists such as Tuesday Bassen.
What would you consider your greatest accomplishment or moment of success so far?
I think my best accomplishment so far is getting my monkey design advertised on digital billboards across the UK as part of Creative Review’s Grad Watch Project.
Who or what are some of your major influences?
In terms of art, I’m greatly influenced by artists such as Francis Davison, Robert Motherwell, Henri Matisse, Atelier Bingo and Nous-Vous!
Hiphop is my the second strongest influence and has made me take a very different and positive perspective on the world since I started taking an interest in the culture.
Do you have any upcoming exhibitions, projects, or events?
I’ve recently been commissioned by swimwear company Whip Appeal of Sweden, so I’m excited to see all the finished products! I will also be part of Norfolk by Design art show selling some of my screen prints and other works on paper soon.
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Find more information and many more examples of the artists’ work at tomabbisssmithart.com.