Illustrator and designer Tom Whalen has a way of taking our favorite movies or tv shows and turning them into retro modern works of art. He started developing his own, unique style at a very young age. In fact, he can still vividly remember the genesis of it all – when he would voraciously read comics in his grandmother’s candy store.
“It wasn’t until sometime in 1986 when I really felt the urge to create art of my own,” he tells us. “From there, I consumed every comic I could pilfer off of Nana’s spinner rack and spent endless hours at the drawing desk that my dad gave to me. “The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe” and “DC Who’s Who” served as my guides as I drew and drew and drew. I coupled a newfound passion for design and typography with that love of drawing while in college. It’s been a pretty lengthy evolution since those days in the candy store, but i am still insanely inspired by comics and love to create fan art whenever my schedule allows.”
Take a look at his work and you’ll not only see his passion for illustration, you’ll also see his love for pop culture. Read more about this amazing artist in our interview with him, below.
You’ve said you use a mechanical pencil and Adobe Illustrator for your work is that correct? Do you use any other programs?
I use Photoshop a bit, but I would say 99.4827% of my renders are done solely in Adobe Illustrator. It’s just where I’m the most comfortable, plus the latest versions are very versatile.
You’ve also said you’re inspired by “Russian constructivist poster art, the design of Saul Bass, years of comic book collecting and his 'unhealthy obsession with Japanese giant monster movies.” What is it about Saul Bass’ art that illustrators like yourself find so inspirational?
Simplicity. People really respond to concepts that are boiled down to their essence. He was the master of that.
Who are some other artists that you admire?
In no particular order: Charley Harper, Olly Moss, Mike Mignola, Eric Tan, Dave Perillo, Saul Bass, Aaron Horkey, Miss Monster, Sean Galloway, Genndy Tartakovsky, Scott Derby, John Romita Jr., Chris Warner, Darwyn Cooke, Leinil Yu, Zach Howard, and Dave Johnson.
What’s a typical day for you like?
Get up. Brush teeth. Check e-mail. Check DeviantArt. Feed cats. Head off to work (as an editorial illustrator). McD’s coffee. Bowl of Crispix or Raisin Bran. Check e-mail. Work. Come home. Check DeviantArt. Play with 2-year old son. Check e-mail. Put 2-year old son to bed. Inadvertently fall asleep. Wake up in stupor. Shake off cobwebs. Check e-mail. Hammer out freelance. Watch a bit of TV with amazingly supportive wife. Sleep for 5 hours. Repeat.
How has the internet helped shape your career?
Putting my work up for viewing on sites like DeviantArt, Twitter and Tumblr have allowed my work to be seen by an amazingly (world)wide audience. Pieces that have “gone viral” and been featured on hi-profile sites like Slashfilm.com and Drawn have brought all sorts of interesting work my way. In that “one thing leads to another” way, the internet has been invaluable to my career.
Do you feel as though you need to be passionate about your work?
Personally, without passion for work, I feel that it’s just that…work. I try to bring an energy to each of my designs, and I know if I can’t deliver on that, the project just doesn’t reach its full potential.
Finally, are there any tips you’d give to aspiring illustrators?
Draw. Draw. Draw. Stop. Take a Break. Revisit. Polish.
Thanks for the interview, Tom! Love your retro work.