Where: Cape Town, South Africa
Website: toby newsome
Mister T…I was born in Cape Town and spent most of my childhood in this beautiful city. I grew up loving books, pictures and a good story. I studied graphic design, also majoring in illustration and my first job was in advertising but I soon left and went solo, mainly to do more illustration, with a dream to design album covers. I discovered book cover design instead and did that intensively for a few years. I still love doing book covers. But right now, I get excited by pure illustration and am enjoying animation – something I’ve always loved.
Presently he is…I’m illustrating, animating and designing book covers. I’m going through a bad book reading patch (hopefully it won't last long). I just got all the Tim books out of the library (wonderful children’s books by Edward Ardizzone). I also do a bit of walking and I’m learning about dogs.
Acquiring skills…I’ve always drawn (but not as much as I should have). My mom’s an illustrator too so I was exposed to the illustration processes pretty early on. I’ve always been obsessed with figuring things out on my own – not sure if that’s a blessing or a curse! I figured out a lot of the programmes I use through long hours in front of the computer. And I taught myself to play the guitar too (hence, my bad rhythm).
Then vs Now…I liked going up the mountain with my dad when I was younger. I was pretty active but was sick a lot as a child and spent most of my time listening to adventures and fairy tales on my cassette player. And reading books. I still like to read or be read to aloud.
The short version…I’m good with line. I enjoy animation. I can play a mean blues guitar lick. I like walking in the forests. I love snorkeling – I love experiencing that ‘other’ world and the quiet with just the sound of your breathing, the flashes of light and colour.
When the penny dropped…Maybe I believed I was good enough because when I used to copy surf label stickers at junior school, the other kids thought they were cool. I don’t think I thought too hard about it. I knew I wanted to be involved with images and I wanted to tell stories. Exactly how I wanted to be involved is something I’m still discovering.
Free time…Magazine illustrations, a book cover made with collage and cut-outs, an animated TV commercial, a web site, web animations and an animated video short… I have no spare time!
Likes, dislikes…I like being in charge! And being involved in the whole process of what I do (I love and hate that actually). I love trying new mediums – cut-out , collage, clay. Working on my own does feel a little isolated sometimes. But I share my studio with two great people, and the best cat in the world (Max the champion) so it’s OK.
Old world, new world…I grew up in the southern suburbs of Cape Town – middle class suburbia. When I studied, there was no specialist course in illustration available, which I think I would have done. So, studying graphic design was a little random but it worked out well. It’s also been hard focusing on being an illustrator, and especially a childrens’ book illustrator, as there are relatively few local children’s books being produced in SA and the budgets are pretty tiny.
Average day…I keep pretty regular office hours. In summer I end off most days with a quick ride to the beach or a walk somewhere peaceful. If work’s going badly, I play a lot of guitar… it’s my Valium. I constantly listen to music. I look out the window a lot. I do some stretching too.
Family ties…Generally they’re quite quiet and introspective – like me. Those qualities definitely influenced me to go solo. I like my own space. My mother’s an illustrator, and my uncle and grandmother are both painters too so I’ve always been exposed to creativity and seen as it a possibility to make a living.
Obstacles, of course…Quoting for fees has always been difficult, but I’m getting better at it. Being decisive with the direction of a project was a problem in the past too – I’d always do loads of options for my clients, which wastes time.
While drawing for a living you lose spontaneity and life goes by. I hate not having enough time. And another of my personal obstacles is not being physically flexible – I have to get supple so I can touch my toes one days!
Confidence…I’m still getting there! It’s hard to say whether I'm confident or not... I’m stubborn! I think there’s an initial confidence needed in deciding on a career, but once you’re there, you just keep going. Sometimes I have no confidence at all but at other times it’s easy. There’s an excitement when starting new projects – often I have a very clear picture of where I want it to go but even if it doesn’t work out, I still get excited all over again.
The familia approves…Yes, often, usually in a rather general way. I think my parents were worried about me becoming an illustrator from a financial point of view. And I see their point! But they’re always telling me that that they saw my latest illustration for such and such a magazine, which is really nice.
Big hoarder…I’m more of a hoarder than a collector, so it’s more about what things I should be throwing away, which happens to be a lot! I don’t really hoard specific things, it’s more about thinking, ‘Hey, I might need this plank of wood in five years…’ And when I do and can actually find it, it is so rewarding. I used to collect badges.
Books are very important to me and my collection is growing, slowly. I love old children’s books. The more I use a computer, the more I enjoy the experience of sitting down with a book. And I definitely collect music – a lot of folk and country.
If the batteries run low…I go to the library, go for a walk in the forest or near the sea or talk to a friend.
Favourites…Books always inspire me . And anything, really. I like the Sea Point Promenade, a 5km stretch of bricked promenade along the Atlantic Ocean, which is only 10 minutes away from my flat and has an adjoining garden maze, mini golf park and a train park, in beautiful disrepair. It’s home – my magic mood lifter.
People…Many of my friends inspire me. Just to see someone excited about what they do or with a strong conviction is enough.
More inspiring people…Matisse, Egon Schiele, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Gram Parsons, Jackie Wilson, Jean Luc Godard, David Attenborough, Ronald Searle, Arthur Rackham, Edward Gorey, Hergé, Yuri Norstein, Alexander Alexeieff.
Downtime…I like swimming, walking, beach bats, playing guitar and beer at sunset at a bad schwarma joint down the road.
If he could go back in time…I would cut to the chase.
The plans and dreams…Focus, focus, focus. I want to do more of my own projects or get involved in others. And I’m going on road trip up the coast.
I definitely want to do a book soon and one day own a small house in Nova Scotia, maybe – chopping wood, rugged coastlines, wild forests… sounds perfect!
If things were different…I might be a folk guitarist or a professional dodgem car driver. I love theme parks! Ooh, the bright lights!
Wise words…As an illustrator, I would say, ‘Specialise as soon as you can. Decide at what you’re best at, and go with it.’
Important lesson…Dreams only take you so far. You have to work at your talents.
Best advice he’s been given…Go with your gut feeling. And, you won’t know unless you try.