Known as TomDrawsDogs on Instagram, illustrator Tom Bingham has turned his love of canines into something of a personal brand. And it was the fun of doing something fresh and drawing what he was passionate about that dug him out of a creative rut.
Tom's work is instantly recognisable thanks to his endearingly cartoonish style and his habit of turning everyday things like broccoli and frogs into humorous characters. And a staple of his portfolio is dogs, which he illustrates for charity magazines, personal commissions, and embroidered merchandise available on his site.
Having previously worked as a commercial illustrator who was expected to deliver a very traditional style, Tom forged his own unique path to combat the frustration he was feeling. "I became bored and uninspired with what I was producing and the kind of jobs I was getting," he tells Creative Boom. "I decided to start fresh, go back to how I naturally draw things (not very realistically!) and just have more fun with it."
Seeing as he's loved dogs since he was young, our four-legged friends were a natural choice of subject for Tom's new approach. And despite his mum and dad not letting him get a dog when he was growing up - "I was allowed some fish and a few hamsters though" - they became integral to his fresh start. "I set up a new Instagram account to start showing some of the new work I was creating. Because Tom is a very common name and all other Tom based name possibilities had already been taken, I settled on TomDrawsDogs. So I thought I better draw some dogs then!"
Despite all the different shapes and sizes that they come in, Tom finds dogs one of the easiest things to draw. Particular favourites include whippets or greyhounds, or "long dogs with a big snoot", as he calls them, as well as sausage dogs, "they're just funny, aren't they?" He adds: "Each one develops its own personality, and I want the viewer to smile when they look at them and notice similarities to a dog they know in real life."
This sense of fun and connection was a perfect fit for Illustoria, the magazine for kids and their creative grown-ups, who called out for illustration pitches back in 2019. Tom leapt at the chance by creating a culinary canine character called Dog Chef. "The magazine is aimed at kids, so I thought it would be fun to do a recipe that they could follow along and make at home," Tom explains. "I sent over a scribble of this recipe to make pancakes for your dog. I needed a character to illustrate the steps, so I drew a dog in a chef's hat and thus Dog Chef was born."
Another publication Tom creates regular illustrations for is Wunderdog Magazine. His art appears in the 'Wunderdog does' features, which provide care guidance for dog owners. Upcoming articles reveal how to be the best human companion if you're adopting a dog, and Tom teases that his illustration might feature a dog playing chess.
"Wunderdog was one of the first magazines I contacted with my new portfolio," says Tom. "I'm really grateful that they gave me a chance to really let me express myself style-wise. They have never turned round to me and said, 'I like it, but can we make that dog look more like a real dog'. It's been a lot of fun working with them! It's also a magazine that is doing a lot of good for animal welfare. Helping rescue dogs is definitely something I'm always happy to get on board with."
Tom's followers will notice that a dog holding a flower in its mouth has become something of his personal mascot. First created back in 2018 when Tom was creating clay pins, the character soon turned up in paintings and became increasingly distilled down so he could paint it on tote bags. "I used to walk this massive golden retriever, and he would always stop and sniff flowers and try to eat them; maybe I subconsciously got the idea from him! Since then, I've adopted it as an unofficial logo for myself. I just recently got some stamps made up with it on to brand my packages and also have some caps with it embroidered on."
Turning your passion into a living can sometimes be a risky move, but for Tom, it's opened up new career paths and revitalised his interest in creating. He hasn't lost sight of why he likes drawing dogs, though, and he still thinks the best thing about them is their "true unconditional love".
Doggy-related prints and clothing are available to buy now in Tom's shop.
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