Lets set the way back machine like 20 plus years. I'm skating in the Contra Costa area and there is a tight knit crew of guys. Tom is one of those guys. Skating and having a good time. Bang! Present day puts me knee deep in a family but getting back into it. Tom finds me on facebook and its good to hear from a cat from back in the day. I browse his profile and see a guy that is raising a killer family and has skills in the graphics department. Here we are...Tom is the second artist to honor the blog with his stuff I would like everyone to look, listen, and recognize the talent we see.
C: Name, age, location, occupation.
T: Tom Ledin
I just turned 40...feels so weird being old.
Pleasant Hill, CA
Information Technology Specialist (real job) / Graphic Designer/Illustrator(pretend job)
C: How long have you been doing design/illustration?
T: I've always drawn, but never had the confidence to try and market myself. I always understood art to be one of those things you were either good at, or you weren't, and I wasn't,...but I ALWAYS wanted to be. One day I was talking to some artist, (I wish I could remember who it was), who said, "Just like anything else, if you practice at art, you get better. If you love doing it, you'll do it, and you won't be able to help getting better." At that point I started consciously practicing, and watching myself improve was a big confidence booster, and once people started to seek me out for art, I started thinking, 'Hmm...maybe I can do this for more than just fun.'
C: Formal training?
T: No formal training. I wish I had gone that route. If I had, I would not be doing what I do for work, and that would be a good thing.
C: Is your method more traditional or digital?
T: It's more of a hybrid, and it depends on what I'm working on. For my clean looking illustrations I start with pencil and paper, then clean the original sketch up with a lightbox, scan it, clean it up digitally, and fix things that don't look right, then sometimes I ink it digitally, or I print out my cleaned up line drawing, and ink that traditionally. If there's color involved, that's always done digitally. I really kind of suck with color. I'm wearing bright yellow vans today, and my 11 year old laughed at me this morning.
C: Anywhere particular you get inspiration from?
T: I'm kind of a pop culture goon. Stuff that makes me stoked in life usually ends up on paper, movies, songs, cartoons. Most of my stuff tries to be funny, so humor plays a big part of it.
C: I have seen you do tee shirt designs, does this pay well?
T: It can. I did one shirt that sold almost 2000 shirts in a 24 hour period. I designed that art for fun, and teefury.com asked to print it, so that was like free money. My next shirt sold 400 in a 24 hour period, and my third sold like 250 in a month, I've got a couple more coming out, and I hope they do better. I need new windows in my house. Some people make tons of money doing shirts. I had one successful one, and a couple duds, but I'll keep at it because it's easy.
C: How have you hooked up with the skateboard companies you have worked with?
T: Sacrifice, was the first company I did skateboard graphics for. Rene Morales had seen some of my stencils, and asked me to cut a couple for him in trade for some decks. I was stoked, but after cutting a few stencils I remembered I hate cutting stencils. I told Rene I could make board graphics for him, and so he gave me a little art direction, and I ran with it. I ended up doing all the art, and print ads for Sacrifice for a few years. As for the other companies...once somebody sees that you know how to design for a skateboard, and understand what goes in to printing them, they come to you. Once you're out there, you're in it.
C: Could you talk with us about the Big Lebowski board series.
T: Just like everybody else, I love that movie so much. I drew a portrait of Brandt, because he makes me laugh, and from what I could tell, he had not shown up in much art. As soon as I did it, and posted it, everybody contacted me about doing other characters, and as I did them, it became apparent that it should be a series where the art covers multiple boards when displayed as a set, but each deck can stand alone as well. I didn't want to pay to print them myself, so a small company from Canada paid me for a limited run of decks, and handled the printing, and shipping. I think it sold for $250 for the set of 5, and he sold a bunch of them. Unfortunately, they were heat transferred instead of screened. That bums me out, so someday, I may get them screenprinted myself, and do another run. There's a lot of money to be made with that set, but I'm just so damn lazy it's hard to do anything...ever.
C: Are you still skating?
T: Yes, but I've broken my right ankle 3 times skateboarding, so, I'm over trying to get better. I just like to cruise around skateparks and try to go fast (kook). I built a mini-ramp in my garage about 7 years ago, and had it up for a long time, but now we've moved, and since I have a bigger yard, my plan is to re-build it, but make it taller, and wider, and have pool coping. I can't ever imagine quitting. I'm in it for life.
C: Do you work from a studio?
T: I have a little space set-up in my garage for painting, but I do most of my drawing at my regular job on breaks, and when I'm on the phone. I have a pretty wicked case of ADD, so, whenever I'm not paying attention to what I should, I'm doodling...which is always.
C: What would be a dream gig?
T: I think it would be so kick-ass to be a professional fine artist. Not graphic design, or illustration, just fine art, and not good fine art, but crappy abstract art. I'd like to wake up each day, take the kids to school, and then go to my studio to splash paint all day. If I could sell 10 paintings a month to clueless art collectors who think my spilling of paint on canvas was 'so full of feeling', and, 'tells an amazing story with color', then my life would be complete. It might sound like it, but I'm totally not kidding. I really like throwing paint around.
C: That ought to do it...thanks for your time and best of luck in the future. Any shout outs?
T: Thanks man! Shout outs to my wife and sons, also you and the old Orinda crew!