DonkeyWorx Blog:
02: Why I Wish I Was Tom Lewis

I wish I was Tom Lewis. Not literally of course, his family would be very disappointed and I've only ever met him once so know nothing of the man behind the images. For all I know he doesn't like cheese and spends his spare time training Siberian hamsters to sing opera. But artistically, that's a different matter...

Look at these images.

They might not be your kind of thing but surely the imagination and skill of their execution and their exuberance is such that you can see how they can be someone's kind of thing.

My Kind of Thing

They are definitely my kind of thing. I love curious, cartoon characters you could only ever meet in a computer game or a Japanese toy store and I love the glow of neon in the morning.

Imagine, then, my frustration to discover someone who took cartoon-like characters so seriously and created them so well they move up to the next level, beyond newspaper cartoons, beyond comics, street art and graphic novels to full blown pictorial art.

Create beautiful paintings of cartoon creatures with the same skill and reverence as Turner would afford a seascape and I'll call you genius. The trouble is that these pictures are so in tune with my imagination that I feel I should have been able to create them myself!

My problem has always been that I can only really draw cartoons - no matter how hard I try, everything I create takes an exaggerated form or gets a bit Disney. I've always envied the skill of artists who can create "real art". In my case that included striking, exciting images of strange worlds and fantastic scenes which transport you. Roger Dean and Patrick Woodroffe were favorites of the younger me who regularly wandered the roads of middle earth, or travelled with The Doctor. I never thought my clumsy, whimsical style had any place in such artscape. So I abandoned the whole idea. I sold out and stuck to commercial cartoons and puzzles, drawn quickly and sold cheaply.

But as soon as I saw the work of Tom Lewis I knew there was another way. Why hadn't I thought of that! Surely I could have done that!

Consider these two images.

One is an early and amateur creation from my "troubled" teenage years and the other is the first Tom Lewis I ever bought.

See what I mean? Vaguely similar thinking. Separated by a huge difference in execution I know, but still in the same creative ball park.

I fully accept, one is a skilled and stylish image entitled Jacob Ruptures His Ego and the other is a really just a poor attempt to impress girls which I couldn't even bother to title. It didn't work and it wasn't art.

Yet, with the right nurturing and dedication perhaps I could have got there. Perhaps if I had not almost immediately given up after this, perhaps if I'd gone to Art College instead of doing my A levels, perhaps if I'd had the prescience that, years later, street geek toons would gain artistic value... perhaps I should not have just resigned myself to drawing commercial cartoons.

On the other hand, maybe it's not too late. You're never too old to have another mid-life crisis. I mean look at these recent doodles...

Surely I could add a glow effect to one of these and put them over a grunge landscape? Then surely I would be painting like Tom Lewis...

No, you're right, very probably not. And more importantly that's not how creativity works. That's not how you satisfy your own creativity. That would just be copying and copying is just being a stalker.

To have the originality, the creativity and the skill of Tom Lewis, I'd need to be Tom Lewis and, apart from any of the metaphysical and biological issues involved, that would mean not being me. No matter how nice the guy is, that's not a sacrifice I'm prepared to make - I don't like hamsters or opera and can't go more than 36 hours without cheese. But hey, dreams are just hope unchallenged by the constraints of reality, so I can continue to dream.

I can live with wishful thinking, it honestly doesn't fester inside me like old yoghurt. And at least this way I, along with everyone else, get to enjoy Megan and the burobbu and all the other vibrant and exciting images Tom Lewis has created. And I can occasionally buy one of his prints and, in the privacy of my own basement, I can sit and scratch its eyes out.