Tom and James

Artists of the Month March 2015

This month, we've spoken to brothers Tom and James, who are based in Australia, about their collaborative approach to making art.

When and how did your interest in art develop?

Tom and I have been drawing together from a very early age. When we were little I was always drawing and naturally tom joined in. He was the best brother to grow up with, always open to playing and making things together. As we grew older our collaborations became more formalised in a way, eventually working up to organised sessions, and building up to exhibitions in galleries. Both Tom and I have always drawn and have always been fascinated by each other’s’ abilities. 

When did you start working together?

We started very young with paints and crayons, and continued to work together ever since.

How do you go about creating a collaborative piece?

We work together completely. Initially it takes a while to get into it, we sit at the blank page usually on opposite sides and someone starts to make marks. After a while we are so focussed we don’t pay any attention to the world around us, we are too busy folding our styles in together. When we are really into it our arms are almost intertwined and each of our lines are attaching to and influencing each other.

What do you feel you get out of working together?

We both have a strong appreciation for what each of us does. I have been working as a commercial illustrator for years, so I think Tom can appreciate my skills in representation, but for me, I get so much out of Tom’s ability to let go and draw abstract maps and marks that are so personal to him and the moment. His creations are so original and outside of any conscious social need to present something. 

Do you create individual work as well?

As mentioned above I work as a commercial illustrator on everything from children’s books ( see more at www.jamesgulliverhancock.com ) to advertising. Tom draws by himself, but usually it requires someone else to initiate the session, he typically doesn’t pick up the pens on his own. 

What inspires your work?

I do like to have a bunch of references on the table when we work. I usually print out some interesting things, like animals, machines etc., but these are usually more for me to have a starting point. The wonder of Tom’s drawing is that it is all coming from him; he isn’t usually looking around for things in the real world to pull into the drawing. His personal visual language is so strong that he doesn’t need it. It’s beautiful to hear him talk while we draw; sometimes he gets really silly and tells funny little anecdotes about what he’s drawing, with snakes and creatures eating things.

What do you hope the viewer gets from your work?

I hope people get to see the world in a different way. As I’ve said I’m so in awe of Tom’s visual communication that I would think people would appreciate that alternate view of the world too. At a recent exhibition it was obvious that Tom really loved that people enjoyed looking at the things we had created and enjoyed responding to questions people had. 

What has been the highlight of your artistic career?

As a duo I think it was really special to have our first exhibition in our home country. All our family and friends could be there, our dad gave a speech and there was a real sense of the community that Tom brings together. 

What is next for you both as artists?

As a duo we continue to draw and make things together. We are always working towards a next exhibition and new idea. 

Click here to see more of Tom and James' work