‘Edition: A Group Print Show’ is currently on view in our small gallery and features a variety of print works by local artists. One of those artists is Tom Sarmo, an established name in the illustration community and constant favorite with viewers in Helikon shows. Tom talked to us about his reasons for doing art, advice for young (or not so young) artists, some of his current visual and musical influences, and more.

1. Did you aspire to be an artist, or did you fall in love with making art?

Both, I suppose. Goofy pictures have been in my head for as long as I can remember; I began trying to draw them as soon as I could somewhat control a pencil. Pretty sure I considered myself an artist from then on. My real aspiration was getting those pictures out of my skull and onto a surface. That’s always been the reason for continually studying art and for wanting others to view my work.

2. Do you have a “day job” outside of your art?

Yes, if teaching art workshops is considered that. Before recently, I always had day jobs that were luckily art-related. Day jobs freed me up to do my art without worrying about making ends meet, and my art received a depth from them that it would otherwise not have had. I think the perception/deception that an artist is only legit if they are “full-time” is pretentious, judgmental, very limiting, and worst of all, damaging.

"The Old Witch," mixed media.
“The Old Witch,” mixed media.

3. What would you tell your younger self when you were first embarking on your artistic career?

Figure out how to block out the past and the future; be way more patient with your development; make yourself draw even when you feel like a failure; connect with an inclusive artist community; give more; and aggressively develop strategies to ignore the media bulls**t about “success,” “goal-setting,” and all other pop-culture crap that poses as sound advice.

4. Who are some of your current influences or inspirations” Have they changed over time?

Illustrators like Heath Robinson, AB Frost, Lyonel Feininger, Sir John Tenniel, and Disney animator Marc Davis, are (and always have been) major influences. But I am adding to my list of inspirational illustrators all the time. There are so many inspirational young and new-to-me artists out there. There are too many to name all, but right now I’m learning in particular from the work of Timothy Banks, Wylie Beckert, Poly Bernatene, Bernadette Carstensen, Sylvain Chomet, and Kayla Edgar.

"Frankenstein's Creature," mixed media.
“Frankenstein’s Creature,” mixed media.

5. Do you listen to music/audio while you work or do you prefer to work in silence? Any bands or albums you’ve been enthralled by lately?

I’ve always listened to music non-stop all day– my art and music are linked solidly. I briefly tried the silence theory when doing idea-formation and compositions. That didn’t work. For that stage of picture-development, either instrumental, ambient or classical helps rather than hinders. Lately I’ve been enthralled by Band of Horses and Pokey LaFarge. Almost always though, once I’m inking or painting a final piece, it’s jazz-age music from the 20s and 30s that really greases the skids.

"The Creature," mixed media.
“The Creature,” mixed media.

Thank you to Tom for participating in our interview. You can see more of his work in ‘Edition,’ on view through September 7, and online at tomsarmo.com.

For more information on Helikon Gallery and Studios, visit www.helikongallery.com.

One thought on “Five Questions with… Tom Sarmo

  1. Diana Boles says:

    Since seeing viewing Tom Sarmos’ work, I have been inspired to play with one of my favorite toys—pen & ink and paint! Thanks to Rick Emery for sharing Toms work!

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