Gradwatch 2016: Tom Abbiss Smith

Illustration graduate Tom Abbiss Smiths speaks to CR about mark making, texture and colour, and what inspires his work

Students from Norwich University of The Arts, particularly illustrators, consistently produce strong work which has been featured on Gradwatch in the past. This year we spotted Tom Abbiss Smith.

CR: When and how did you first become interested in studying illustration? 

TS: I became especially interested in Illustration whilst studying Graphic Design at College. Although I have been surrounded by artistic people through out my life, it was specifically being in a creative environment that really inspired me to pursue Illustration.

Illustration by Tom Abbiss Smith
Blue Stacks

CR: Could you tell us a little bit more about the techniques or medium you work with? 

TS: I always take an experimental and intuitive approach to my image making. Mark making, texture and colour are prominently manipulated within my compositions. ‘Cut and paste’ techniques allow me to create components that can be taken into digital software and further played with to achieve my outcomes. Recently I’ve become interested in experimental Screen Printing and Risograph printing. I love working with various mediums, so this is extremely exciting for me at the moment.

Illustration by Tom Abbiss Smith

CR: What inspires your work and style?

TS: When I first started to take an interest in art, natural and organic environments really stimulated my mind. This is still the case within my work, however I’m now starting to source inspiration from other environments that surround me. I find that once you start looking for inspiration, it’s all around you, even in the mundane or seemingly insignificant. This makes life a lot more interesting, and of course I try to express this in my work.

Illustration by Tom Abbiss Smith
Blueberry Seed

CR: If you could acquire a new skill or talent what would it be? And why? 

TS: I’d love to be able to experiment confidently with oil paint and learn to mix my own colours so I could produce considerably large original artwork. I find it invigorating to see large scale art such as paintings, graffiti, drawings, prints. It packs a punch and can be incredibly powerful if done with finesse.

Illustration by Tom Abbiss Smith

CR: What’s the most important thing you learnt while at university? 

TS: I think the most important thing I learnt whilst being at University is to have an open mind to how your work can develop. I had so many resources/workshops to experiment with, this really helped in the development of my style.


Smith is one of the 15 graduates whose work has been selected by us to appear on 900 JCDaceux digital screens all over the UK, including at major railway stations, shopping centres and roadways as a part of CR’s Talentspotting scheme.; @tomabbisssmithart

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