CS Coates & Scarry

Tom Bagshaw on Yokai Dreams

Q: Tell us a little bit about your childhood? I tended to be the tallest in class which was good and bad in equal measure. We moved around quite a lot, mainly the South of England so I think I ended up going to about 11 schools.

Q: Where do you live? I’ve lived in the Georgian city of Bath in South West England for the last 12 years or so, the longest I’ve lived in any one place.

Q: What made you want to be a professional artist?I really don’t remember a time when i wasn’t drawing or painting. I have memories of being 4-5 and scribbling on anything I could find. Being able to do something you love for a living is such a rare thing, I’m not sure I ever really considered that I would get to a point where i would be able to do it myself.

Q: Are you self-taught or did you go to college?I spent a small amount of time at college many moons ago but it just wasn’t for me so I left pretty quickly. I chose to do a graphic design as it was the only course that had an element of illustration, it was either that or foundation art or technical illustration, neither of which really appealed to me. Of course I was pretty disappointed to find that the illustration side was pretty thin on the ground and a bit useless so i dropped out and tried to make it on my own, since then I’ve basically picked up stuff along the way. I had a really big turning point when I discovered how much using computers for creative work had progressed about 8 years ago. My only previous experience of computers was at college and their first computer room, 5 Mac classics hooked up to a basic printer and running Photoshop V2. My over-riding thoughts at the time were 'this will never catch on'. Since then of course everything had moved on and when I got my hands on Painter and a Wacom tablet I was hooked. I taught myself Photoshop, a bit of Illustrator, learnt some html and Dreamweaver and landed a web design job which paid the way while I improved my technique and gained more understanding of other software, which allowed me to go out on my own about 6 years ago.

Q: What is the most important source of inspiration for you?I’m very visually orientated so I’m more inspired by art, design, illustration, film, fashion, photography, architecture, rather than music or reading as quite a lot of other artists are. The Internet has to be my favourite source of inspiration although it can be pretty overwhelming, so it’s good to unplug from it once in awhile.

Q: What do you do to take a break from creating?If I do manage to get any spare time its usually spent with my family, trying to catch up on some films or sleep, depending on which is more needed at the time!

Q: Your last exhibition was called ‘Yokai Dreams’. Can you tell us about these dreams?The show was really my own exploration into some of the incredible Japanese folklore surrounding their creatures of legend, its an amazing subject and extremely rich in terms of individual characters and stories. Many of which are still well known in Japan today, but in the West its a largely unknown curiosity. I wanted to portray some of these stories from my own Western European perspective and create additional narratives to each, some of which make the original story quite ethereal. Yokai Dreams felt like a particularly fitting title once the body of work had come together.

Q: Why digital medium?Like any other medium its just a tool to create a piece of art. I’ve been working digitally for a while now and its a very versatile medium. Unfortunately its still looked down upon by many and its particularly difficult to place within the context of a collectors market. Its a shame that so many still see digital work as 'easier' than traditional work which is by no means the case. I spent many years painting traditionally with acrylic, oil, airbrush, pencil, pretty much anything I could get my hands on, but I really had no direction at that point. Its only the last couple of years whilst I’ve been working digitally, that I’ve started to find a voice. I did do one piece for my show that was created traditionally but I hadn’t even held a brush for ten years so I made a complete mess of it! I’m starting to experiment with combinations of digital and traditional, hopefully the results will help to bridge the gap between the two markets and perceptions of the different mediums!

Q: How long do you spend creating a piece?Some simpler pieces can take a couple of days whilst the more complex ones can take between 1-2 weeks, at least to the point where I have to let it go or risk working it to death. Digital means that pretty much everything you see has been considered, unlike traditional media, there are few happy accidents. If I want a distressed paint effect or paint runs they have to be created quite laboriously, on occasion digital is actually more problematic than traditional.

Q: What kit do you use for your creative process?I use a custom built machine, its 5 years old now and still going strong. Dual screen monitors and an Intuos 2 Wacom tablet which allows me to draw or paint digitally in an intuitive manner. In terms of software I use Painter IX.5 which is an amazing application, specifically designed for painting in a manner that anyone that’s used a paintbrush can get to grips with. I can simulate any traditional media I like from oils to chalk, ink to watercolour and control how the 'paint' responds on different types of surface like linen canvas, hot press or even rice paper. Of course it takes getting used to but as I said before, its just a tool to do the job. I also use Photoshop (mainly for colour correction and compositing painted elements), Illustrator, a small app called Artrage and sometimes dabble with a bit of 3D.

Q: Your work is dark with quirky humorous elements. Would you say that reflects your personalities?Without a doubt.

Q: I know you are a big fan of Facebook, what can social networking do for artists in an extremely competitive market?Not sure I would say I’m a big fan of Facebook, in fact it can be a real pain in the ass in terms of usability! But yeah I like the way that social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter can put your work in front of a lot of people. There’s a whole generation growing up who have no idea what it was like before the advent of the web and how difficult it was to get your work shown to people who would buy/commission you. The web can help artists in so many ways, from being able to have a web folio that anyone can access or showing off your creative process and for commercial illustration and digital artists it means that delivery of artwork can be a simple thing. Of course it does mean that now the whole world and his wife is an 'artist' so there are some drawbacks too.

Q: What plans do you have for your next show?Aside from some group shows I’m hoping to explore a little more of the Yokai Mythology but no concrete plans for a new show yet.

Q: Three loves?My family, Art, Anything or anyone that makes me smile.

Q: Three loathes? Rude people, Mac Vs PC debates (don’t ever get me started), children’s TV presenters (we have a 2yr old and end up watching quite a lot of crap with her.)

Q: Surprise us?I have an unhealthy fondness for jelly beans.

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