Straight up I have to tell you that Tom Frost is my brother, but he also happens to be a very talented print maker and illustrator making all kinds of magic with screen printing, vintage Meccano, wood and acrylic paint. He lives in Bristol with his girlfriend, Teresa Murfin (also an illustrator), and my cute-as-a-button nephew, Harry.
A week ago we met up at The Harbourside, a cafe-bar on Bristol’s regenerated waterfront, for a working lunch (any excuse, Tom, for a sneaky lunchtime pint or two…) and talked blogs, Pinterest, writing, print making, and the potential move to a house with a barn in a Welsh village just 20 minutes from the Pembrokeshire coast (that’s Tom not me).
Before launching into the interview we tucked into a peppery bowl of broccoli and potato soup followed by lip-smackingly good Cornish Mussels with Somerset cider and cream served with black pepper fries… come on, we had to get our priorities right…
How would you describe your style of work?
Err… (laughs) … it’s going to be really difficult to get started… it’s um a bold, it’s a screen printed, um… what a terrible start… (we both end up laughing and agree that we’d both be far more professional if we didn’t know each other – honest…)
So, it’s a bold style of screen printing?
The majority of my work is screen printed, which lends itself to a strong, flat, bold style of work with strong geometrical graphic shapes. I’m influenced by 1950s packaging, labels, tin toys, folk art – just a mishmash of styles.
You’ve been ridiculously busy over the last few weeks – what have you been working on?
I’ve been finishing off prints that have been commissioned by the V&A for their Spring/Summer collection. I’ve got five Affordable Art Fairs coming up this year, London’s just out the way and Hong Kong was on the 15th – 17th March. Then I’ve got a solo show coming up in August, a group show in Brighton with two other great artists, Graham Carter and Helen Musselwhite, which focuses on our 3D work. In amongst all of that it’s just keeping on top of selling my prints in my online shop, stocking galleries, and doing other commissioned work such as cider labels for a company in Somerset, doing a poster for Selvedge, a great textiles magazine, and all sorts of other stuff like that.
Where’s your solo show taking place?
The solo show is in Bath at the Rostra Gallery. It’s the first solo show where I can really focus on my prints now I’m up and running as purely a screen printer.
You graduated from Falmouth College of Arts in 2001 with a First in Illustration, is what you’re doing now what you dreamed you’d be doing when you left Falmouth?
It is exactly what I dreamed I would be doing but not necessarily what I thought I’d be doing, if that makes any sense! When I left Falmouth we were geared up to be freelance illustrators – that’s what we trained to be and I spent ten years doing exactly that, being commissioned for editorials and book covers, but I eventually realised that I didn’t actually like doing that. I didn’t like working for the publications, it wasn’t inspiring. What I’m doing now is very similar in the fact that it’s artistic and I’m still freelancing but I’m now doing what I love doing, which is creating artworks that people will buy and put on their walls, which means they like it, rather than it just appearing in a magazine because somebody’s asked me to be in it.
What do you hope to be doing in ten years time?
I would hope to be doing exactly what I’m doing now, which is being inspired to do more personal artwork such as prints, moving into creating 3D pieces, and for galleries to continue to show my work. Just be inspired to do different things and for it, not necessarily to get bigger, but to continue to be paid for what I love doing.
Apart from Harry, what’s your greatest achievement to date?
It is quite simply being able to make a living by doing something that I love.
Which is what most people, particularly in a creative field want to be doing, myself included.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Everywhere, and from everything and anything. There are so many great blogs out there, websites like Pinterest are brilliant. Specifically my inspiration comes from things that I collect such as old tin toys, children’s books, old stamps, old packaging from the 1950s, and the fact as a creative person I’m surrounded by some brilliant people, lots of my friends are illustrators and artists, painters and writers.
Whose work do you admire?
I admire people such as Jonny Hannah, Mark Hearld, Angie Lewin, Ed Kluz and the other plethora of contemporary British print makers out there at the moment.
Name three blogs that you would encourage people to check out.
Pinterest because it’s a brilliant source for anything – it’s just very inspiring. There are lots of great interiors and illustrations and toys. As a sourcebook it’s brilliant. Also, Remodelista and All Things Considered for endless inspiration.
If you could only choose one piece of artwork to showcase what you do, what would it be and why?
I would have to choose two – just to be greedy. The first one would be the first stamp design I did, which was a puffin, simply because it was the first screen print that I did that got interest from galleries and through my online shop. It made me realise that I’m doing something that can pay the bills rather than an indulgent hobby.
The second one would be an image that’s called Even on Calm Waters, which is just a natural progression from where I started, to where I want to be. It’s been received very well; it’s the first large, more expensive print that I sold out of an edition of and cemented that I’m doing something that’s worthwhile.
If you could be any character in a book who would it be?
It just sounds like an idyllic childhood. Who wouldn’t want to go on an adventure down the Mississippi?
Did you not have a good childhood…
(Laughs) Not as good as Huckleberry Finn… it’s weird I can’t actually remember the story… when I think back on it it’s an adventure but there’s probably a lot of slavery and oppression involved… I’d have to go back and look at it again!
That’s reminded me of reading Swallows and Amazons when I was a kid, I’d quite like to be someone from that.
That’s true. Yes, a character along those lines, or the Famous Five. An idyllic childhood.
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We may not have had an adventure on the Mississippi or spent the summer camped out on a deserted island when we were kids but I can assure you that Tom and I had a very happy childhood (Mum and Dad I’m sure you’ll be relieved to hear that). With the voice recorder turned off we continue to chat over another pint and glass of rosé before heading our separate ways.
If you’d like to find out more about Tom and his work then take a look at his blog, The Boy Frost, or take a peek at his online shop. A Twitter newbie, Tom can now be found @theboyfrost and he also has a facebook page, Tom Frost Illustration.