I created BENEATH THE CYCLOPS as the answer to, "What kind of art do you do?" It's a heck of a lot easier to show someone than explain it. Why Beneath the Cyclops? Simple. John Thomas Illustration dot com sounds boring.
If you're looking for a brief bio, here’s a 3rd person hors d'oeuvre: John grew up in New Hampshire, went to college in Boston, then moved to NYC. That’s where he’s been ever since . . . drawing, painting, and writing.
Cut. Paste. Done! Now go look at some pictures. I’ll even make it easy for you.
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Still here? Fair warning; I’m a documented over-elaborator. Just ask my wife. Well, alright, let's talk!
After graduating (2001), I hung my diploma (BFA in illustration) above my mom’s sofa and drove my trusty blue pickup to New York City. Sitting shotgun was a portfolio full of illustrations that were sure to blow the socks off unsuspecting art directors. I spent that first summer lugging my work all around the city, showing every person at every magazine who agreed to have a look – plus a few who didn’t. Turns out, art directors wear Kevlar socks.
Sure, my early stuff was over stylized and slightly rigid, but the ideas were there. And they were good! Really fucking good! Even more importantly, they were my own! The trick was, convincing people that “my own” would work. I was a huge fan of the old guys (Pyle, N.C. Wyeth, Parrish, Rockwell) but I knew I'd never be able to paint like them. I didn't want to. Just thinking of painting all that junk on the table in Freedom from Want makes my toenails curl! Besides, imitation isn't in my wheelhouse. Neither is the word wheelhouse. What I could do was work as hard as them. So, that's what I did (still do) on every job, especially the ones with deadlines shorter than a backyard firecracker’s fuse.
(Overelaborating file #28639) I get that deadlines can seem scary. Here’s a trick I’ve learned: Stop worrying and get to work! Then, when the job’s done, you can walk around that hairy, slobbering thing, kick it in the ass, and get paid.
When I wasn't working on freelance jobs, I was making pictures for myself. I also got to hang out with Brad Holland for a few years. I'd help him with paperwork in his studio, then we’d go to Fanelli’s. Both are only a couple blocks from my apartment. We'd have drinks and talk about art, and traveling, and Churchill – who, by the way, knew his way around an easel. Sometimes we'd skip the paperwork.
Art was always a definite for me. Writing came later. All my pictures have stories, I just felt as though I wasn’t a strong enough writer to tell them. So I read, and studied, and read way MORE. Instead of crushing candy or scrolling feeds on the subway, I was picking through The Elements of Style. Stephen King recommended that one to me. Not in person. Through his book On Writing. I rarely recommend books to people. They never read them. But . . .
I guess it'd make sense to share a quick thought on making art before I wrap this up. Originality is effortless. Recognizing it takes manual labor. That’s true for the artist, and those working with them. When my dad started building his house, he'd hammer 3 inch framing nails through 2x4s with one swing. Bang! The nail would just vanish. Then another. Bang! Soon there was a sturdy wooden skeleton standing in the field. “Everything else is just details,” he said. That’s my tactic on making pictures. No tiny tapping. Just grab that idea and . . . BANG! Get it on paper. I trust my ideas . . . they’ll hold. Everything else is just details.
Well, this seems like a good place to let you get on with your day.