Skillshare Talks | The Power of Creating and Sharing with Tom Froese | Tom Froese | Skillshare

Skillshare Talks | The Power of Creating and Sharing with Tom Froese

Tom Froese, Illustrator and Designer

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2 Lessons (29m)
    • 1. Trailer

    • 2. The Power of Creating and Sharing

22 students are watching this class

About This Class

This short video is part of the Skillshare Talks series that shares footage from live conversations with our teacher community.

Join the Skillshare team at our NYC headquarters with Tom Froese - an illustrator, designer, and educator. Follow Tom as he shares how making and sharing have been integral to the success of his creative career. Hear Tom openly discuss the risks and rewards of teaching his creative process to others, how to overcome feelings of vulnerability, and push yourself to continually grow in your craft.   


Tom Froese is an illustrator and designer from British Columbia. Since 2013, Tom has illustrated for clients around the world, including Yahoo!, Chipotle, and GQ France. His whimsical style is characterized by bold, colorful shapes, spontaneous textures, and sweet playfulness. Tom is also a Top Teacher on Skillshare, where he teaches a handful of classes based on his unique approach to illustration. Tom works from his home studio in the small village of Yarrow, about an hour’s drive east of Vancouver. 


1. Trailer: suddenly there people like around the world using something that I taught to make these brilliant, beautiful illustrations. And what I love about these is that the there clearly using my inky technique. But they're totally their own. It's like a collaboration between my my technique and their voice, and that's really the ultimate goal for me as a teacher. It's not just like an imitation. It's more of, Ah, someone's taking what I've taught and building on an evolving and adding their own voice to it. 2. The Power of Creating and Sharing: So my name's Tom froze. I'm an illustrator and designer, and I'm from Vancouver, British Columbia. So tonight I'm gonna talk to you a little bit about how sharing has been important for my career and very specifically, how teaching has really played an important role in my in my career and some of the challenges I faced and kind of how I've overcome those challenges. So this is Thesiger it recipe for Coca Cola. I saw it on eBay for sale for $15 million. It hasn't really hurt Coca Cola's brand. I think they figured out a long time ago that there's more to them than just ah, cola recipe. That sort of been what I've had to do. I've had to share my own secret recipe in order to teach, and I've had to figure out myself that there's more to me as a creative as an artist, as an illustrator than any single style or technique or formula that I follow. I've always just been really excited about creativity and design and illustration particularly, and I've just always been eager to share the insights that I've gained along the way when you first have that like Oh, there's a thing called illustration or design. I want to do that. And then, like, how do I get to that? That place where you know I'm actually doing work for actual clients and stuff like that. And so my goal as a teacher is to give people kind of that leg up that I wish I had. And of course, teaching is a way of staying connected creatively. I I flew in from Vancouver, but I'm actually from a pretty small town about an hour outside Vancouver. About 1000 people, not a lot of illustrators there. So teaching online on a platform such a skill share really makes me feel like connected to that creative energy. So my teaching journey kind of started around 2015 and skill share contacted me, just asking me if I was interested in, um, making a class. And so I thought about it. And, you know, I was thinking, What? What? What could I teach what? And so I really just realize that I need I needed to do kind of three things that overlap, like one I needed to teach something I'm good at, and it's should be something that I'm uniquely good at something that I can do specifically . And, of course, something that other people probably want to learn. Right? And so, at the time, Ah, I was working a lot using what I now call inky, like an inky style where I combine analog and digital media. So these were just These are just a couple of examples from that time that I was working in so he can see kind of like these crisp vector shapes and then these imperfecta kind of textures that I would integrate in with them. And I would sometimes be asked like, How do you do that? And so I thought this would make ah, good kind of basis for my first class. This is just basically ah, a step by step overview of how the inky style kind of works. I do a sketch, then I kind of do what I call base illustration using vector like vectors and photo shop. And then I make all these inky marks and stuff on paper, scan them in, and then I kind of take that chaos and bring it back into order in a final step. And then you get this nice kind of handmade, warm kind of quality to the final illustration. Of course, this is a style that I I held very dear to me and a technique that held very dear to me and as a creative professional. This is kind of how I earn a living. So the question I had at the outside of this class is like, How can I teach without giving away my trade secret? And the answer was, I can't in order to teach something to other people and have it useful for them, I have to be willing to step out and give something that's dear to me. Basically give my my my secret recipe. So for all my classes that I've made, I always try and gear them around. A project that's fine, kind of learned by doing the project is kind of a great way to do that. Great way to learn. And so, ah, another thing that's important for me is that the project be something very simple in concept and fun for the student. And I also think that if you can make it autobiographical, students will be more likely to engage because they can really inject themselves into it. So this was a postcard I'd made to promote myself with at the time, and it's basically Ah, flat lay of my tools of the trade. So I call it a tools of the trade postcard, and I thought this would be a great project. Students can make their own tools of the trade postcard based on their own hobby or or their job, and these were some of the student projects that came in. So there's my first class, and suddenly there people like around the world using something that I taught to make these brilliant, beautiful illustrations. And what I love about these is that the there clearly using my inky technique, but they're totally their own. It's like a collaboration between my my technique and their voice, and that's really the ultimate goal for me as a teacher. Or the most satisfying thing is when it's not just like an imitation, it's more of, ah, someone's taking what I'm what I've taught and building on an evolving and adding their own voice to it. There's clearly like this analog texture going on, but then there's a very distinct style that's clearly there's and not mine which I really love. One of my goals, as I mature as an illustrator is too go into more of an expert role. So I want to keep making illustration Suffolk that. But I also like things like this public speaking. And so this has just always been something on my path, and as a result of of this class, I was able to sort of really define for myself who I was as an illustrator, because when you teach something, you have to kind of really know what and why you're teaching it. And so I was able to really ah no myself morning and gain a stronger sense of my identity as an artist. And that became the basis of, ah, talk that I applied to do at Icon, which is an illustration conference. It's every two years, and, um, it was basically the premise was the idea of, like, I'm not using photo shop brushes I'm using, like real ink for my marks. I used photo brushes now, but that's an aside, Um, and that was basically what gave me kind of a platform to talk from on the stage in front of some of like my heroes like hundreds of illustrators, and that alone was an honor. But in the audience was an art director for Abrams Publishing, and I got my first kids book out of that opportunity. So she connected. She saw me talk and then connected with me afterward, so that was a huge payoff for me. Now one of my favorite stories in Terms Off, Ah, student work is this story about Chris and Boydston, and she's an American illustrate. I think she was in Germany right now, but she was in the sciences. She took inky illustrations, and that kind of opened her world up in terms of what illustration is, and she she discovered that she's good at it and I'm definitely not taking credit. I'm sure she was already on skill share, learning lots of things. But she she says that through this ink illustrations class like that was where she realized she wanted to be an illustrated. And so, um, just some or more of her work, Amazing work. It looks nothing like mine, but she's kind of using some of the techniques, so that for me is just like to see someone kind of find them, find their true passion through something I teaches is just super inspiring. So her name's Kristen Boydston. So to summarize inky illustrations. Ah, today it has 10,000 students, around 260 projects and a very engaged student following kind of on scholarship, but also on social media. And I don't think I'd have even half the followers. I don't have a lot, but, like, I don't think I'd have even half the followers I have unless I had this really engaged skill share student following, which is which is, um, exciting. So every year I like to make a new class on school share. I do, but one a year. I wanted to follow up inky illustrations with something that took those skills and techniques and really like, brought them to the next level on them or complex project. As a commercial illustrator, you know, we get asked from time to time to do maps, and so I had to kind of figure out how do I make an illustrated map using my techniques? And so I had had this kind of basis for my next class kind of built into something I had to do, and I think that teaching or making a map could be very complicated. Like how do you figure out where things go? How do you include the streets? How do you draw them? And so I thought I would make that as my next class kind of again. Something that I'm good at, something that's unique to me, using my inky style to make the maps and something that I believed other people wanted to know how to make. And I think most people like illustrated maps because they're just so fun. So these These are a few of the maps I had been doing at the time, and, of course, here I'm working like as I'm working these maps, I'm trying to figure out like, how how are these steps? What are the steps involved in in doing this? And and so what I had to do again is I had to really refine my technique and and when you teach something, it's It's one thing to know how you do it, but it's holder thing to describe that to other people. Ah, and what's up? Simic? So I so I really had to, like, systematize how I did maps from sketches doing research, building that first like BCE illustration. Then how to get it all full of color and texture and stuff like that. And the project I made for this class again was pretty simple. In concept. Make a map of your favorite city or hometown, and and then the autobiographical component was, you know, it's your hometown of your favorite city, so something I felt like, ah, students would really be able to get into quite easily. Now one of the things about how I do maps is that I feel like I'm cheating. It's kind of embarrassing to admit this, but I basically like I'm not a map maker. I'm not a cartographer. Have to find out somehow. Ah, some way of learning the streets or whatever, So use Google maps, and I traced them and and this is just like one of those things where it just seems so, so obvious, but also kind of feels like I'm cheating and and so for me, like teaching this class specifically, I was challenged like like people are going to know that I'm just like making stuff up, you know, I'm gonna lose that. That mystique of the artists who just kind of, you know it is. This just comes out of me. I don't know how it you know, um and yeah, and that's just like I think, another thing, but teaching you you're showing how the sausage is made or your, um the where's it of eyes like peeling back The curtain for future Wizard of Oz is, and they're like looking behind the curtain, seeing like you just push this button and you look really big and cool and or scary or whatever the wizard wanted to do. And and so that's just the cost of teaching. And you lose that. You know that that feeling of like your the guardian of this, the secret technique and mystique. So this was my my student project. You are my dem approach active of my hometown and you can see kind of like how the inky style was applied to a map. And then these are some of the student projects and again blowing me away with, like how they've added their own voice and their own story to to their own project, collaborating a bit with me in terms of using my style. And you can see some some resemblance and stuff like that. But overall, these things are totally their own and beautiful and in many ways, like I'm jealous of them. So and again, my favorite kinds of projects that I see are the ones that really like you would never even have known that I that they ever saw anything that I made like these look nothing like mine . They've clearly used, you know, my my wave using textures and stuff like that. But these air just fully unique things, and I find that just immensely satisfying to see that so again, seeing the student work is a payoff unto itself. But, um, having had to really refine my process and describe it in very systematic terms, ah made me a better map illustrator. And it may be a lot more efficient and and And another thing that happened was I became known for making maps as an illustrator. So this is some I had to do seven or eight different maps for geeky France in a very short time, and these were like maps that kind of showed all the all the best ski runs across the world and all the different continents, and there's no way I would have been able to do this unless I had kind of buttoned down my process and made it really efficient. And I I suppose that I might not have been contacted, even do a map had my had not done this course, which kind of bolstered my reputation in some sense as a map illustrator. So another another big payoff from this particular class was going back to the icon conference. This is two years later, and they asked me to teach a one day workshop based on May inky maps class in Detroit. That was in the summer. So again, that kind of fed back into like, I love public speaking. I love doing workshops and stuff like that. So really, playing into that part of my career is I'm tryingto move it along. And then they also asked me to make the map that that became printed and put into all the swag bags. So hundreds of illustrators who goto icon, including my heroes, have a copy of this map, presumably somewhere in a drawer or maybe up on their wall. So for my next class, odd bodies, um, I wanted to take a turn away from the inky stuff, and this was the one that I launched in November. It's been about four months as I've been a T. At this point. I've been a teacher a little longer, and I even have a a YouTube channel where I can offer my insights and advice to answer questions. Illustration. And one of the questions I got asked a lot about is how I decided to or basically, how I approached drawing people. So I think a lot of illustrators feel like they need to draw a realistic people. Very like like figure drawing. And I decidedly, don't do that. I guess it might be partly patient thing I don't I don't have the patience to be that detailed. But also I feel like there's different ways of of using the human figure in illustration. So for me, I use I used the idea of people or the human figure 22 get out an idea or a feeling rather than just make the illustration about a person or a character. I like to kind of play around with proportion and make Joints band where they don't really bend and just be overall pretty, pretty whims of coal about how use a human figure. Or I had to ask myself, like, What is it about drawing people that that I'm unique at? And so it's clearly not drawing people like anatomically correct. So I really had to kind of dig deep and and realize, Yeah, for me, it's it's all about just like bending the bending what you could do with human figure, letting it fill the space, letting it have a feeling as much as it is just about a being a human kind of thing. A big thing about my my style, drawing people kind of the hallmark. So I guess our big pointy noses and you'll still see inky textures kind of thrown in there , and I don't know why. Inexplicably, most my characters have pointy toed, high heeled boots. And for me, that's just it's just fun. Like this isn't photography. I can do what I want, and I can do this thing as part of my This could just be my thing, and it's kind of fun and silly, and I like it. I like that. So the trick with showing people how how to approach drawing people in a more stylized, expressive way is your basically teaching style. And when you get into that territory, you're kind of it kind of feels like you're basically saying, Well, here's how I draw draw the way I draw. And clearly that's probably not what other people are asking and certainly not what I want to teach. So for me, I developed these exercises that would bring something out of each person who does these exercises basically. So the 1st 1 was, you know, you draw person from a photo. Ah, just using kind of contour lines. And when you draw person from a photo, you're sort of downloading information about your subject. And, oh, and and one of the things about these exercises there are always people doing some kind of sport or activity, cause you get these really expressive gestures that are very exaggerated. So, yeah, while you're doing that, you're as you drawing them. You're downloading information about this thing that you hadn't known before, and then the second exercise is to draw that same person, but from memory. So this is I think one of the key things is like it's one thing to draw something from a reference which I think most illustrators end up having to do. But you really start to get a sense of your own style when you draw it from memory. So you're remembering certain things and other things. You're totally forgetting and other things you think you remember. But you don't. And in those gaps were you where you actually don't don't remember in how you feel those in our clues to kind of how you approach a style, another exercise was to again Using reference photos, you draw up a page of five or so people from from photos doing the same kind of sport. And here you start to see ah sort of pattern emerge of like if they're all doing the same kind of thing you start to see, like the subtleties off of your voice and in your style, coming out like How do you draw the face? Is how do you draw hands? How did the gestures overall come out? Are your people more flat? Are they still kind of village like voluminous or three dimensional? And then I had another exercise which is basically like getting people totally away from any attempt to do realism cause. And you can see this in the in the soon projects where this class people are writing really long almost journal entries. Ah, fridge exercise. Kind of describing how they had to really struggle against that tendency toward drawing realistic people. And they said by the time they came to this, when they just had to throw that away and that was the point. So you just basically used the scissors and paper and try and draw people that way. Another thing that's important to my way of drawing people is that, like, you want to learn how to fill space of the character and just like you're you're bringing us telling you is wrong, but but it still somehow ends up looking cool. And so for this one, you draw shape, and then you just feel that shape with a person and and in this case, like the basic outline was basically what you can see around him. You kind of just have to make things up, and it messes with your logic, but you or your logical side, I should say, and he end up with some pretty fun and Zini stuff. Finally, the Ah. The last exercise was to draw an object either too big or too small on your page and then somehow draw your character to kind of wrap around it somehow or interact with the object. And so I had no idea when I drew this telescope, but the guy was gonna be around it like this, but it just sort of like one thing follows the other. And that's the point is to try and just follow your intuitions more than your what you know is right. Ah, unique challenge to this class is that I knew that by teaching this class based on style a lot of the projects, we're gonna look a lot like mine. And it was something that I wondered, like at this point, am I giving away too much? Am I going to be like, really taking away my competitive edge or my uniqueness as an illustrator? And of course, the answer is, I can't I can't really teach it unless I show how I how I do it. The you can teach a universal concept, but you can't really do it without being very specific about how you do it. So I kind of had to make the decision. If I'm going to show people how I do this, I have to show them exactly how I do it and see a lot of the projects for me. Um, they're really good and really fun, and a lot of them kind of looked like mine. And I kind of had a an identity crisis thinking like, you know, if these peoples work looks like mine and it's successful, you know, who am I isn't illustrated. It sounds kind of m O, but it's it felt like, like kind of It's just something. As an illustrator, you think you're unique, and then you see other people do you want. I think all illustrators, all artists, wanna be unique, and that's why we got very. It's very hard for us to accept when people imitate us, and I very specifically in my classes encourage people. If you need to imitate me or anyone else when you're learning, you should do that. You should never be feel from imitating. That's how we learn, and I never want people to take my classes to feel bad about that. But I encourage encourage people to build on that build on what I teach and make it their own overtime might not happen right away, but I want to happen over time. And for me, I had to realize, like I'm sharing all the secret recipes, all my trade secrets. But I'm not the guardian of one, you know, centuries old family recipe that if it gets discovered, I'm doomed and I'm out of business. You know, I'm not. I'm not just like making this one sauce. I'm like a secret sauce factory. And and that's my job is not to safeguard one sauce, but just to keep innovating and making new things. And so I came up with this thing that I posted on Instagram. The secret sauce is you and and that, for me was like the moment when I was kind of fully embraced the sense of like, yeah, it's okay to share these things, and I I think further to the point is like for other people. I want you guys to my students to also know that there's there's something deep. Their experience, their curiosity, their questions, the things they like. All those things get poured into what they do and hopefully eventually their voice becomes stronger and their work. So these air, some amazing examples of student projects for our bodies and just so much variation happening here and really fund is just like people did all six of those so long. It took me to explain those exercises, like people had to go through each one of those exercises. And and the fact that people did that is is an honor. And just seeing how people embraced the exercises and really pushed through and they're like into discovering their own style is is really amazing To see this was the page of poses. Our bodies was a really, really ambitious class for me. Um, it took me about 300 hours to produce. I had to, like, struggle with this idea of, like, my own identity or whatever, but definitely my best class. Um, I've gained 4000 students in four months, which is a record for my classes. Ah, 100 student projects. All of them are amazing. The reviews that people have given me and how this classes helped, um have been insane, very generous. And ah, um, became one of the staff picks on skill share, which for me is Ah, high honor. So just to summarize, through inky illustrations, inky maps, our bodies I have encountered these specific challenges of being vulnerable to being imitated and losing that power of artistic mystique that was specifically in inky maps where I do, you know, reveal that I'm a hack and and then, of course, an odd bodies just feeling like I've lost my sense of uniqueness. So those are the challenges. But through sharing on skill share, skin share has been truly, authentically an amazing away for me to feel connected into, I guess, use my teaching, um, Proclivities. But yeah, this is something that's been really valuable for me. And so in all these challenges, I think this quote really stood out to me, he says. If you give away everything you have, you're left with nothing This forces you to look, to be aware to replenish. Somehow the more you give away, the more comes back to you. And this has been super true in terms of meat teaching online, doing my YouTube channel sharing stuff, tips on instagram specific to skill share. It's getting me more followers and friends. It's given me a way to refine my process in my techniques, in the way I've had to sort of systematize and describe each step along the way and through that's given me exposure and opportunities like the kids book. Give me new ways to use my creativity beyond just being a Nilla straighter. And of course, there's payouts, which is which is the cherry on top. You know, the quality of what you share is only going to be as strong as the risks and sacrifices you're willing to put into it. And I guess the the best gifts kind of require the biggest sacrifice is, but they also they also yield the best rewards. That's really been my my journey and sharing. And I appreciate you guys being here and being my audience, so thank you.