The Thomas Brothers are an artistic duo that has channelled sibling rivalry into a creative melting pot of artistic explosion. We catch up with the brothers to find out just how they’ve transformed the nostalgic struggles of a boy's imagination into epic contemporary artwork...
Who’s the oldest brother?
C: That’s Rick
R: ... but sometimes you wouldn’t think so!
Do you struggle with sibling rivalry?
R: Not really any more. When we were growing up there was a competitive element – but we have always been into similar things so it was a case of out doing each other. Playing with toys one was always the baddie, one the goodie and there was always a bit of one-up man ship as we got older.
How does you artwork reflect your relationship?
C: It’s a representation of our common interests. The paintings themselves are all the points in which our individualities overlap.
R: The duality is there, playing off the competiveness we had when younger. Both of us are into vintage toys, comics, cartoons so a lot of our interests are reflected into the work. It also has a collaborative layering, so one of us will say “hey check this thing out” and the other will go “cool, what if we add this....” We bounce ideas all the time so each piece turns out completely differently to how it would look if one of us did it solo.
Have you worked together professionally before?
R: Not professionally. We have done the odd personal thing over the years; we just thought it was about time we worked together as a team.
How do you collaborate and divide the work load?
R: It changes all the time. One of us might layout an idea or portrait illustration then swap so the other adds background elements or layers it up. It can be as simple as having an idea you like and the other working out how to incorporate it.
With our new canvas paintings we both worked on them at the same time, painting different parts or screening the layers together. The cool thing is by the end it feels really fresh. There is no idea that is wrong which also gives us freedom to experiment and just push an idea.
How has your childhood influence your work?
R: Being 80’s kids I guess we have held onto the icons and stories we grew up with. We both have growing collections of Transformers, He-Man and other toys from that time. Even our sneaker tastes are from the 80’s. Our childhood seeps into our work, from the comic style drawings to graffiti and popular culture.
C: These paintings are all about our childhood; that creative landscape you live in as a child where good guys are heroes, and bad guys are monsters
Have you had formal art training?
C: No not me.
R: I trained in Illustration and Fine Art. It’s funny, as Chris did Media and Film but we pretty much swapped in our professional careers. I ended up working in 3D graphics and he has painted for a living for over 10 years!
Where and what is your studio?
C: We both live in different parts of the country, so we both have our own working spaces, every now and again we’ll get together to work on stuff together.
R: Sometimes the Kitchen table works out pretty good!
How do you approach the actual making of your work?
C: In a kind of, let’s do this and see what happens kind of way. At the point of physically making a piece, we’ll already have the main image worked out on a screen, so it’s just about how can I get this down in a really interesting way, which usually means trying it out several different ways.
R: Yeah, it’s kind of organic. We might have a screen ready, but then chose colours right at the last minute, or paint something unplanned into the background.
What would you say are the main themes you pursue?
C: Duality, nostalgia, good vs. evil, fairy tale, consequence
How do you choose your subjects?
C: The brothers part of ‘Thomas Brothers’ isn’t just superficial, that’s the whole thing with our art, it’s the parts of our lives that form the bond between us visualised, so if there’s something we're both into, like transformers, we’ll find a way to work that into a painting.
Where do you find inspiration?
R: Sometimes it’s random – we recently went to Comic Con just to see what we could find. Other times it could be something in our own collections. Other artists can be a great source of inspiration too. You can spark an idea just seeing a piece and it takes you to a whole new place.
What are you currently working on?
C: We’re preparing a piece to be part of the Brighton Fringe festival.
Which artists do you most admire?
C: Takashi Murakami, Yoshitomo Nara, Kaws - artists like that who have been successful in making cartoon imagery into contemporary visual art.
R: Jean-Michel Basquiat, Hush, Mike Giant, Audrey Kawasaki, Katsuhiro Otomo. I like finding out about new artists too – Instagram is great for that.
Do you care whether people like your work?
C: For me not really. It’s very personal so I understand not everybody’s gunna get that.
R: We make stuff we really like. If someone else likes it too that’s cool. If they don’t then at least they took the time to look.