Q&A with Tom Shedden

tom2Tom Shedden was born in London and studied Illustration at Central Saint Martins College Of Art.

Do scenes from literature or films inspire any of your imagery?

Not directly, I remember watching plenty of black and white Tarzan films and King Solomon’s mines type films when I was very young, and we did quite a bit of travelling then also as both my parents came from different countries on the other side of the world. I’ve not consciously looked to these experiences for inspiration, but they are perhaps there deep down. As far as literature goes, Tin tin books are about the extent of my circle of reference.

Is there an underlining story or narrative taking place in your work?

My understanding of the work grows as the paintings develop. It is more a reflection of my somewhat skewiff view of the world, than a particular narrative.


Are the new paintings set in a particular place? A zoo, a greenhouse or park maybe?

Some are based on specific places that I have visited, and documented ( including a zoo). Some relate to the memory of a combination of places I have been to, but have no specific reference for. All the locations provide a backdrop or scene, for a mix of characters to be dropped into.


There seems to be a very striking glowing light seeping out of some of the paintings (the paintings with white trees and black sky). What’s the thinking behind this?

The idea came from looking at old night time postcards, in which light sources were coloured in. postcards play a big role in my reference for paintings) I liked the striking contrast that this produced and looked to emulate in my own way.

Some of the paintings look as if the light has been reversed and you’re painting from the negative. Is this something you see too and like in the work?

At one time I was referencing a lot of colour tinted black and white photos. I was trying to recreate a photographic process with paint. I would pull the highlights out of a dark background, a bit like a mono printing process. It was a good effect but it began to become quite limiting. I have since moved over to using a more conventional way of working that allows for greater freedom, but elements of that process are still there.


There seems to be a sort of sinister magic and mysticism at play in your new paintings. Is this something that interests you?

What I am really interested in is the endless possibilities in perceiving the world. How thought and mood effect how we see something. In several of the paintings I was attempting show the split of the internal and external views, but now that process goes on in my head before the paint touches the canvas.


Nature, trees and plants frequently appear in your work, what interests you about painting them?

I like the juxtaposition of nature and the man made. One is versatile and fluid, the other more rigid. Painting nature provides endless possibilities for representation. It can be totally abstract and still recognisable, which allows for great versatility in a work.

Most of your paintings are ‘Untitled’, do you think titles would add or take something to the work?

I am working on titles, but until I have all of them I like to keep them untitled. Its not something I have traditionally found easy, for the reasons you have mentioned. Most of the ones I have come up now are pretty literal. The successful ones run in parallel with the work as opposed to adding or detracting from them.


How important to you is selling your work for you to make more work?

If I waited to sell a work before doing any more, I wouldn’t get much work done. I have fingers in other pies to keep the wolf from the door. I find showing the work is the best way for me to let go of it, and is good encouragement to keep producing more.


What kind of artwork would you make if you had a warehouse of artists working for you?

The art would be similar, but having assistance to prepare paint and canvases, would allow more freedom to work on many pieces of varying scale at once. I would not want anyone else to paint them though. I don’t believe my work lends itself to having that sort of assistance.

Do you think artists should work more like other workers – making work as decoration?

Some of the paintings with dots started to head more towards decoration so I stopped producing them , but in hindsight it was just a painting process I was going through. I don’t think it matters what methods you use to make work. For myself, I’m learning that its most important to trust in your own judgement and get on with it.


Is it important for the viewer to understand the meaning of your work?

Not really, I think its more important for me to understand what I’m doing, (which isn’t always apparent) and the viewer have their own reaction to the work without my input.

Will you continue develop this new series or do you have another theme in mind for the future?

The work has been developing in this direction for a while now. I’m pleased with where its going, and I feel more settled in my work than I have before. Time constraints may push me to work on paper for a bit, and I may try working on a larger scale when I return to canvas, but Ill keep pursuing the themes and ideas until they naturally come to a conclusion.

See more paintings by Tom Shedden