Tommy Surya Interview
By Matthew J
Introduce yourself to the readers and tell them exactly who is Tommy Surya?
Hello everyone my name is Tommy Surya, I’m living on small city of Malang East Java, Indonesia. I’m 31 years old and work as a freelance illustrator, graphic designer, and, sometimes, I do paintings. I started drawing in 2007. As far as formal education is concerned, I don’t have an actual degree in art & design. I did study Social Politics at Communication College, but art has always been more interesting, to me, so I decided to pursue that path. I just want to say I have never regretted my choice to follow art, because for me art is everything. We can live life without politics, but we can’t exist without art. Know what I mean?
I know many artists don’t like being labeled or pigeonholed into particular slots, but if you had to do so, how would you describe your style?
Well, I don’t know what to say (laughing). I simply draw things I want to draw. Like many artists, my work is influenced by things that held significance when I was younger. I love [to draw] some surreal art and, comic books, as well, from back in the day and therefore much of my work is heavily influenced by those styles. Still, at the end of the day, I like to think I am putting my own twist on those influences, and making the art a reflection of me.
How did you get your initial start in graphic design, and what about that particular medium caught your attention?
I would have to say, I first started [with graphic design] in 2005. I was learning about silk screen printing (on t-shirts) when a friend of mine showed me some of the designs he was making. I was amazed by what he created, and that inspired me to start making my own designs. As they say, real recognizes real.
In my city, many people attempt to make their own shirts, but after a month or so, they fade away and quit printing. Obviously, screening is NOT an easy route to take. Tell me, if you could, what has been the most difficult aspect of screen-printing for shirts, for you? What has kept you linked to this work?
I would have to say the hardest part of screen printing, in my opinion. is to work on the film positive because I don’t have electronic printer, so i have to go down town print store to print and then go back to my place. It takes more time, which does suck BUT I still love silk screen printing. I don’t know what specifically has kept me linked to this pursuit, but there’s a sense of joy that comes from doing this work manually. Automatic machines make it easier, but there is a feeling of accomplishment, from manually creating shirts, which cannot be replaced by new technology. The DIY vibe is way more fulfilling. Also, the kinship that comes with making those limited, custom shirts, with my friends, is so rewarding — it’s priceless.
Who/what has been the biggest influence on your art? Who would say has given you the most motivation as far as your design work is concerned?
It’s hard to list specific people, because everybody is influenced by so many people and things. But if I were to name the biggest influences of mine, I would list: Salvador Dali (for sure), Rembrandt, Frazetta, Bernie Wrightson, Sergio Toppi, and Pushead. Without question, they have had the biggest influence on my work, thus far.
Motivation is key, in order to succeed; it’s what keeps a person glued to their vision. Every artist has different reasons for doing what they do, and personal reasons for chasing their dreams. I want to know what motivates Tommy Surya to create all the things he does.
Without any question, my little family motivates me. They are my center … they are all I need; they’re the driving force behind my work.
Everybody has a vision of where they want to be, someday. Career wise, where do hope to be five years from now?
Get back to me in a few years for more defined answer (laughing), but for now, I’m trying to build my own art studio, and just draw and paint. Again, I plan on consistently creating new things; improving each day. Every artist should be focused on bettering themselves.
Ok. You’re right, a lot can happen in five years — it’s too far away to speculate. Rather than looking at the next five [years], where do you see yourself in the immediate future? Besides starting up your studio, what do you expect yourself to be doing?
I have an art exhibition taking place in September, at my friend’s local art gallery, and then the rest of this year I plan to do more pencil drawings and acrylic painting. The main plan is to just draw more and more every day; sharpen my skill and improve abilities.
Beyond that, I’m going to do more surrealism [art], next year, painting & drawing. I do realize I keep repeating the idea of improving my skills, but that is what I want to do. So I will keep practicing more portraits (drawing) because, personally, I feel, that is a skill, which needs to be developed the most. Lastly, my other mission is to get more local art exhibition(s) taking place in my area.
I think it’s always important for artists to share some of the spotlight with their counterparts, so I want you to take this moment and list some of the artists/graphic designers, in your area, whom you feel are making serious waves (impact) in the world of art?
There are some truly amazing painters coming out of Indonesia, right now. Lists aren’t easy, but off the head, I would say the one people should look for are: Basuki Abdullah, Raden Saleh, Affandi & Antonio Blanco. Again, those people are amazing.
What advice would you give to fellow graphic-designers who are out there, trying to get their work noticed? Are their particular techniques or routes they should use when trying to get noticed?
If I were to give advice I would tell designers to keep working and working. You will found what you want by practice, so don’t be afraid to trying new things and expand your resume.
I would also encourage them to try and absorb all visual things around them. Lastly, and most importantly, they should try to do it (art) their own way. If they’re heavily influenced by other artists, try to move outside of their shadow and make art that is your own. In other words, design your own blueprint.
Last question, where can people find your work online? Do have any particular websites or blogs to mention?
Right now, I only have my online portfolio with Behance: www.behance.net/toohard88. If people go there, they can find my contact information, and see more of the art I have created. Thanks!