An Interview with Jimmy Thomson

Jimmy’s solo exhibition opening night at Freedom Hair Experience was on Friday night and it was great! Not only are his drawings brilliant but he is a lovely man to speak to and full of stories. He spared some time to answer some questions and gave a few drawing tips too. It’s always great speaking to artists and learning how they create their work! Here are a few photos from the night…

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Here is what he had to say when I asked him a few questions:

Jimmy, do any of the famous people  you drew own the drawings?

Yes, quite a few. They include George Melly (jazz and blues singer), Stephane Grappelli (French jazz violinist), Neil Sedaka (American singer, pianist and composer), Les Paul (American Jazz, country, blues guitarist and songwriter. Also creator of the famous guitars), Bill Wyman (former bass player of The Rolling Stones), Barry Fantoni (author, cartoonist and musician. Most famous for his work with ‘Private Eye’) and Cheech and Chong (comedy duo who appear in films and did stand-up). photo10

Did everyone like the caricature you did of them?

Yes, most people were very happy with them except for Judith Durham (Seekers) and Matt Monroe’s (singer) wife thought that I had made him look fat!

Did you get to meet the people you drew?

I have met a few of them, including Brian Auger (Keyboardist in Brian Auger and the Trinity) but I didn’t need to meet them to draw them. I took references for my drawings from photos and TV mainly.

Do you have any favourite pieces?

Eubie Blake (Amercian Jazz, Ragtime pianist) is one of my favourites. I enjoyed doing all the crosshatching and really like the final drawing. His quote “If I’d known I was going to live this long I would have taken better care of myself” is great. He lived until he was 96. Samuel Beckett (Irish novelist, poet and playwright) is also a favourite as I have reworked him several times, each time the number of lines get less and less. I also like Alice Cooper (Rock Musician).

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Samuel Beckett: Before and after

Samuel Beckett: Before and after

How many exhibitions have you had before?

This is my first solo exhibition that I have had that I have been at. I have waited sixty years for this. Ha ha! The work in this exhibition has not been previously published. Other pieces of my work have featured in several exhibitions over the years, two that immediately spring to mind are the 1992 exhibition in The Museum of Cartoon Art and the Art Of The Beatles Exhibition Tour, which started in Liverpool and went around several countries. In Japan a collector bought a few of my originals and wanted to take them immediately so I had to draw their replacements quite quickly in time for them to appear in the next stop in Cologne!

My work has also been auctioned at Sotheby’s and bought by collectors and the University of Kent have an archive of some (but not all) of my drawings. DSC_0992

What was it like working with Melody Maker?

I had to work fast when I freelanced with the Melody Maker. I could never recapture the mood of my drawings from back then as they were very much in the moment and quick. They would often request work on the Tuesday and I would have to have it posted by the Thursday. It was the same when I worked for the Scottish Daily Mail in Edinburgh.

Jimmy and Irving with one of Jimmy's Melody Maker covers

Jimmy and Irving with one of Jimmy’s Melody Maker covers

What techniques do you use when creating your drawings?

I learnt a lot of techniques from sitting next to other artists, like Doug Phillips, when I worked in DC Thomson, Dundee back when I was starting out. It was a great experience. I use a Gillot 290 nib as it is flexible and you can vary the line thickness as you create them. The only drawback with that is when the nibs break and splashes the ink but it’s worth it for the results you get.

Do you only do caricatures?

No, I like to paint and create abstracts too to keep fresh. DSC_0969

Do you still draw now?

Unfortunately not as much as it now hurts my hand.

Jimmy and his wife, Stella at the exhibition

Jimmy and his wife, Stella at the exhibition

I could have spoke to Jimmy for much longer, he was so interesting and inspiring, with so many little stories. Humble too.

Here are some more photos from the night, including some of Jimmy and Irving being photographed for The Courier newspaper…

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Artists past, present and future to have had or are to have exhibitions at Freedom Hair Experience.

Artists past, present and future to have had or are to have exhibitions at Freedom Hair Experience.

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