Tom Down: Interview with a London based Painter
Tom Down is a London based Artist. Tom’s practice examines the inner workings of the romantic landscape taking influence from alpine vistas, desert valleys and forest idylls. Most recently he exhibited work at the 2020 London Art Fair.
What first inspired you to become an artist?
I was always creative when I was younger, and my parents were both into crafts so I guess I built up an appreciation of the skill of making things from a young age. Becoming an artist was just the natural next step. Also, for a long time in my professional life it’s been clear that I was never going to be happy working for other people, and in the end I always wanted creative autonomy, so it didn’t leave me many options.
What’s one of your career highlights so far?
My week in Liverpool in 2018 for the John Moore’s Painting Prize Exhibition and the Liverpool Biennial – everything about that trip: all the amazing culture, the people, the city itself. Hanging out with the coolest bunch of painters, badly dancing until the small hours, it reinforced a sense of belonging to the artistic community.
As a painter it can feel quite disconnecting; you spend a lot of lonely hours in the studio, and ironically that trip was the antithesis of those hours, and helped make sense of them.
What’s been your biggest learning curve as a painter?
I can’t single out one but it’s lots and lots of little failures over and over again, daily, weekly, rinse and repeat. Things get torn up, thrown in the bin, sanded over. But when things work well it’s magic. If anything, learning to deal with failure itself is the lesson.
Why do you love Art?
For the fact it taps into something older than us – I find there’s a quiet, meditative element to it. It’s a powerful thing to be able to switch off from the world and just exist in your own space, creating.
Art is for ..?
It’s very personal. It means different things to people, and all reasons are valid.
What advice do you have for aspiring artists who wish to enter the field?
Enjoy the process! Learn from others, build a network of peers and support each other. Use media to your advantage but don’t be consumed by it. Be savvy. Deal with rejection well.
What do you think the impact of Covid-19 has been to the art community, and where can people find help through these difficult times?
Covid-19 had a massive impact on our community – exhibitions have been delayed or cancelled completely, galleries and even some studios have been shut for the duration. With the UK Government’s slower response to the needs of the self-employed many artists took things into their own hands quite early on.
The most visible idea has been Matthew Burrows who set up the #artistsupportpledge which is an initiative where artists sell lower-priced works direct to collectors through social media. When artists hit £1,000 in sales they pledge to buy another artist’s work, keeping the momentum of the pledge moving.
There’s also Paper Patrons who are providing an outlet for affordable works on paper which can be easily posted. Other organisations such as A-N, AxisWeb and Morphe Arts have set up grants and benevolent funds for their members.
Covid-19 has certainly made me think about the vulnerabilities in the way I usually sell, relying on the collector physically seeing the work at exhibitions, fairs, studio visits etc. I do think with higher-value works there will always be a drive to see them in the flesh, but there is plenty of scope for certain works to be sold directly in the future.