Interview: Thomas Fowler – Graphite and Ink Abuser

Tell us about yourself, who are you, where are you from, and what do you do?
I am Thomas Daniel Fowler, I’m from Sheffield. I went to Liverpool John Moores University and studied graphic arts. I’m friendly, quite weird and a man of excess. I like to think life is about trying to have fun so I try not to take myself very seriously, except when it comes to art creation. When I’m not eating, sleeping or drinking I paint and draw faces in a variety of different ways in the hope of one day becoming master overlord of all art. I love cats.

How did you get started doing what you do?
I have drawn consistently from a very young age; I don’t know why I just liked it. I remember the first portrait I ever did was of Bob Marley in year 4, it was r8 good. In school it was the only subject I enjoyed. I’m not that clever, so this it, there is no plan b.

How would you describe your style?
Creative Review’s blog once described my work as ‘controlled spontaneity’ which I really like, and ever since I’ve tried to model my work on that description. I took this to mean that it looks as if I’ve just thrown ink onto a page at times but in a somehow controlled enough way to create a face. I have literally tried this….it didn’t work in the way I had intended, but it created sublime ‘splats’ which I really like and also tiny little dots of ink all over my laptop screen.

My work always ends up being quite dark and sinister; don’t know why….It’s pretty annoying because most people don’t want scary paintings on their wall. I’m trying to make my work less harsh and more agreeable but my brain just likes intense things. I would also describe my work as having ‘balls’.

Graphite Ink Artist Thomas FowlerWhat’s your inspiration?
Sumi-e or any kind of east Asian ink brush painting, fashion photography, films, being pissed off by other artist’s work that is better than mine, the dissatisfaction of finishing a painting and realising that your nowhere close to being an art lord, the thought of doing a shit job for the rest of my life, the universe.

What is art to you?
Anything can be art, but the art I like looks really nice and is done by a skilled, talented draughtsman, and it makes me jealous.

What does your typical day look like?
Grey and rainy because I live in England.

Graphite Ink Artist Thomas FowlerHow long does it typically take for you to finish a piece?
Too long! If it’s an original, no computer wizardry involved and no deadline, about a month of constant work. I get too involved…I don’t know when to stop, I end up doing these incredibly detailed parts of the picture that no one else will ever notice, especially with graphite. If I’m doing a piece where I’m scanning things into the computer and stitching them together on Photoshop then its super quick, like days, because you don’t have to do things like stretching paper, worry about composition, mistake’s you can just clear the page and the depth of your tones can all be altered digitally so you don’t have to spend ages making the pic look good in real life.

How do you keep motivated?
Fear, stress and pressure

Graphite Ink Artist Thomas FowlerHow have your surroundings influenced your work?
I honestly don’t think they influence my work in any way.

What do you hope to accomplish with your work?
I want to make paintings that physically hurt the viewer with their technical prowess and brilliance; I want my paintings to punch people. I want to accomplish a standard of work where I can sit back, look at one of my pictures and go ‘there is absolutely nothing wrong with this picture, it’s beauty is un-flinching, I don’t feel I can do any better than this’ I want my work to make me money, enough to travel the world and support me.

Graphite Ink Artist Thomas FowlerHow have others reacted to your work?
They generally like it, people always say ‘how do you do it!?’ Some people find it quite dark and ‘not their thing’. To be perfectly honest most people are amazed, and can’t believe that I, a scruffy, mundane, normal looking chap can do such things. Then there is the important people like tutors and people in the business who are just like ‘meh..but what does it MEAN????’

What do you want others to take away from your work?
I just want people to be impressed with my art skills. I want people to walk away and be muttering under their breaths ‘wow he’s an art lord’ I don’t really have any desire to inspire people, that is not my aim, and I don’t even really want anyone to think anything when they see my work. If people happen to feel lobotomised on their way home, then that would make me feel special. I suppose I want people to take my name and contact number, give me a call and commission me.

Graphite Ink Artist Thomas FowlerWhat, if anything, would you tell your younger self?
Draw and paint ALL THE TIME because you have nothing important to do or any responsibilities because your a puny child. I would maaaaaaybe tell him not to go to Uni to do illustration but maybe like some other course more to do with the business side of it because that’s what I’m shit at, and you have the rest of your life to get better at painting.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
‘Don’t have kid’s’ by my Mother

Any words of wisdom to aspiring artists who want to pursue a similar career?
Not really because I don’t really know anything about being an artist yet. I’m not a professional, I don’t support myself with my art, I have little to no social media following…I could still fail. It would be a bit ‘nod-headish’ of me to tell others how to do it. I suppose my words of encouragement would be…even if you have no artistic skill whatsoever don’t give up because there’s loads of shite out there and people making careers out of being talentless.

Graphite Ink Artist Thomas FowlerHave any future aspirations that you’d like to share?
I just want to be a general winner in all aspects of life really, nothing too major. I would one day like my work to be politically charged but I haven’t figured out how I would do that yet. It’s very easy to look like an asshole when you’re trying to be political. Basically, travel everywhere and be able to sell work while I’m doing it, thus creating an ongoing cash flow which propels me onwards to new and exciting landscapes full of surprise and wonder!

What’s your dream project?
To be so established that I can just take shits on pieces of paper and sell them for millions.

What art supplies do you use?
Ink-wise I just use Windsor and Newton, I use Caran Dache graphite and pencils, and also Caran Dache Supracolor coloured pencils. I use Arche watercolour paper which is very expensive but worth every penny! And I used to own a laptop which I used to digitally edit work but then I punched it four times and it broke.

Graphite Ink Artist Thomas FowlerAny other artists that you would like to recommend for others to check out as well?
This is going to sound really bad but if I’m being honest, I’m not really THAT interested in other peoples’ work, I don’t seek out artist’s in order to find inspiration. I had a list on my laptop of artists I like, but I can’t remember any of them now. Gone forever. ‘Juxtapoz’ regularly features artists that I really like so check that out. Hellovon is an art lord and also Adam Lupton. I think?? He’s high-grade. Oh and Shohei Otomo is pretty neat. I’m better though fuck everyone else I’m the best.

Follow Thomas Fowler on Twitter and Tumblr!


  1. What a character and a fine artist…with such passion and drive. I particularly enjoy the first piece of work shown here – the details and the eyes are mesmerising…thank you for sharing in such an honest and forthright matter…it was refreshing… All the very best … Karen Robinson



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