Interview with Illustrator Tom Berry

The new series of works from illustrator Tom Berry is about looking at the mundane activities of daily life and placing a fantastical twist on them! Silhouetted figures interplaying with modern day totems such as the mobile phone. These are the things that we attach value to, sometimes more than the relationships around us.

We are in the kitchen of Tom’s home in Brockley. Paintings are everywhere, some drying, others awaiting the finishing touches ready for his latest exhibition, ‘Daily Rites’ which is soon to be showing in Deptford. It represents a change in direction. Normally known for his more intricate, detailed generally black and white illustrations, this time Tom has moved to a more graphic, bolder and more simplistic style.

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Tom Berry interviewed by Inspiring City

Poking Fun

“I’m poking fun at us really” says Tom as he makes the link between the kind of artifacts that people in history might have held a great association with and the sort of things that we hold dear in the modern day. “What I’m trying to expose is the undertones of humans that go underneath. We think we are all civilised and all developed but the same stuff is going on with us now that has been going on with us since the dawn of time.”

As such the works feature scenes from the modern day, going to work, reading a book or doing yoga. Everyday activities that are being intruded on in some way by the distractions of modern living. The need to check a status, to respond to a message or to take a selfie.

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Different types of idol! Tom Berry’s new work is mixing different types of symbolism

Books and Sketching

You might have already seen some of Tom’s work around! Book lovers will recognise the covers of titles such as ‘Capital‘ by John Lanchester which was recently made into a mini-series and ‘The Roundabout Man‘ by Clare Morrall. His detailed illustrative style has proved popular with publishers needing original designs for their covers.

Growing up in Bristol, Tom was always interested in drawing. In the early 2000’s the city was well known for it’s music and urban art. Constantly sketching in black books, he would try to master letter forms and found that this helped him to learn about composition. “I think I learnt more about composition and layout by doing letter forms than I did doing art at school” says Tom.

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Tom Berry art drying on the counter of the kitchen

Developing Style

The exhibition represents a broadening of Tom’s style! Choosing to strip things back, “what I’ve found is that I hide behind the detail a little bit” he told me. “It doesn’t take any less time to create though.” The detail is replaced by a greater need for accuracy and the introduction of colour into the work also adds another dimension.

“I think an artist should develop” says Tom. “I feel you’ve got to try things to develop and move. And the detail will come back into it but I feel you’ve got to pull the wheel of the car in the other direction and try and go off the road a little bit.”

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A business meeting where the totems of modern life are being shown off

Tom Berry was interviewed at his home in Brockley on 24 February 2018. His show ‘Daily Rites‘ will show at ‘Deptford Does Art‘ from 2-18 March 2018. The private view is on 1 March 2018 from 7.30pm.

Tom Berry Gallery

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Art from the show in the front room
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Artworks ready for the final touches to be added
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Riding the cat to work
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Dog Person plays on the importance we attach to our pets
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Distracted reading
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Yoga selfie
The Secret Lore of London. Illustration by Tom Berry
Capital illustration by Tom Berry


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