“To laugh at situations, at yourself, at others is great”: Tom Guilmard on his bizarre and hilarious portfolio
Despite always giving us a good chuckle, there’s a strong grounding in semiotics that gives Tom’s work an edge.
- Ruby Boddington
- 12 March 2021
- Reading Time
- 3 minute read
While the world around him has inexplicably changed, illustrator and animator Tom Guilmard tells us his day-to-day routine has remained largely the same over the last year. Describing it as “a long year inside,” he’s kept up his habit of “fumbling about trying to make work, except these days, I start my day by watching ‘golden buzzer auditions’ or ‘colourblind people seeing colours for the first time’ videos on YouTube to evoke any emotion.” Luckily for us, this monotonous routine doesn’t seem to have dampened Tom’s humour, and he’s continued to pump out the hilarious and bizarre work we’ve come to love.
This has includes a myriad of illustrations featuring his signature rough-around-the-edges characters, formed from thick digital lines, reminiscent of our youth spent on MS Paint. These characters take all manner of forms, from Mr Blobby-like pink figures to dolphins, cats, watermelons and cigarettes. This wide range of subjects is an offshoot of Tom’s playful nature when it comes to themes, which he tells us “changes all the time” in his work. He’s also a massive advocate for removing preciousness from the process, creating fast and instinctively. “I find that working quickly brings a more honest outcome to my work that I really like,” he says. “Having too much time to think is not good for me.”
When it comes to exploring new techniques, Tom has turned his attention to sculpture of late, extending his practice somewhat. “I have always wanted to realise my stupid drawings into real objects and so a few people have been kind enough to teach me some things and give me advice when it comes to trying to do this,” he explains. “I haven’t made anything worth putting out there but I’m enjoying the process.”
One constant across all of Tom’s practice, whether in 2D or 3D, is humour. It seeps through the style of his drawings, what he chooses to draw and the eloquently dry words he often pairs with his works. “The humour thing is just something that I’ve always done. I think laughing is so important,” he responds when asked whether working this way is cathartic at all. “To laugh at situations, at yourself, at others is great.” In his work, however, humour is more than simply light relief, it is a tool to disarm his viewer and subtly encourage discourse on more difficult topics. “I make jokes around things I actually believe, and if there wasn’t any humour in it then people could become defensive about it,” Tom explains, “but if they’re laughing, they’re much more open to taking in what is being said.”
The use of copy in Tom’s work is another element that he’s been utilising for a long time now. It began during university, he tells us, when he was on a mission to “simplify” his drawings. “I was obsessed with semiotics and reducing all unnecessary information in visual work, and one day I just wrote ‘Tree’ inside a circle because I couldn’t be bothered to draw one,” he recalls. This element of reduction has since developed into a core part of his practice giving it a singular tone and aesthetic, and grounding it in art theory. “I like phrases and simple, emotive sentences and rather than draw these things I just write them,” he continues.
Often-times though, he’ll create short fictional stories about celebrities which he writes up as part of an artwork, providing a hilariously abstract narrative to his pieces. It’s a series he aptly titles 100% True Stories. “In the case of the short stories about famous people – I actually woke up laughing because I had a dream about George Lucas. I wrote it down and then just kept coming up with little stories about other people that made me laugh,” he tells us.
It’s a unique – and undeniably smart – approach which keeps us coming back to Tom’s portfolio, again and again, chuckling as we flick through his new works. While seemingly simple and designed to incite exactly that response, there is depth to Tom’s illustrations and animations, brought on by his wry tone of voice and keen wit.
Looking ahead, Tom is unsure of what lies on the horizon for him. “I’d like to be part of something undeniably positive,” he posits. “Sometimes, for me, art and illustration can feel very selfish and self-indulgent. I’d like to step out of that and collaborate with people and continue to learn.”
Tom Guilmard: Past (Copyright © Tom Guilmard, 2020)
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.