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

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

      0:36
    • 2. The Power of Creating and Sharing

      28:05
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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.   

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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. 

Meet Your Teacher

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Tom Froese

Illustrator and Designer

Top Teacher

 

Tom Froese is an award winning illustrator, teacher, and speaker. He loves making images that make people happy. In his work, you will experience a flurry of joyful colours, spontaneous textures, and quirky shapes. Freelancing since 2013, Tom has worked for brands and businesses all over the world. Esteemed clients include Yahoo!, Airbnb, GQ France, and Abrams Publishing. His creative and diverse body of work includes maps, murals, picture books, packaging, editorial, and advertising. Tom graduated from the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design with a B.Des (honours) in 2009.

As a teacher, Tom loves to inspire fellow creatives to become better at what they do. He is dedicated to the Skillshare community, where he has taught tens of thousands of students his un... See full profile

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Transcripts

1. Trailer: Suddenly, there are people around the world using something that I taught to make these brilliant, beautiful, illustrations. What I love about these is that, they are clearly using my inky technique, but they're totally their own. It's like a collaboration between my technique and their voice. That's really the ultimate goal for me as a teacher. It's not just like an imitation, It's more of, someone's taking what I've taught and building on and evolving and adding their own voice to it. 2. The Power of Creating and Sharing: My name's Tom Froese. I'm an illustrator and designer and I'm from Vancouver, British Columbia. Tonight I'm going to 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 career and some of the challenges I faced and how I've overcome those challenges. This is the seeker 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 Cola recipe. That's been what I've had to do, I've had to share my own seeker 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 and when you first how that like, oh there's single called illustration or design. I want to do that and then like how do I get to that place where I'm actually doing work for actual clients and stuff like that. My goal as a teacher is to give people kind of that leg up that I wish I had. Of course, teaching is a way of staying connected creatively. I flew in from Vancouver, but I'm actually from a pretty small town about an hour outside Vancouver, about 1,000 people, not a lot of illustrators there, so teaching online on a platform such as Skillshare really makes me feel like connected to that creative energy. My teaching journey started around 2015 and Skillshare contacted me, just asking me if I was interested in making a class and so I thought about it and I was thinking, what can I teach and so I really just realized that I needed to do three things that overlap. Like one, I needed to teach something I'm good at and it 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. At the time, I was working a lot using what I now call Inky, like an Inky style, where I combine analog and digital media, so these are just a couple of examples from that time that I was working in, so you can see like these crisp vector shapes and then these imperfect textures that I would integrate in with them and I would sometimes be asked like, how do you do that? So I thought this would make a good basis for my first-class. This is just basically a step-by-step overview of how the Inky style works. I do a sketch, then I do what I call base illustration using vectors and Photoshop and then I make all these Inky marks and stuff on paper, scan them in and then I take that chaos and bring it back into order in a final step and then you get this nice handmade, warm quality to the final illustration. Of course, this is a style that I held very dear to me and a technique that I held very dear to me, and as a creative professional, this is how I earn a living. The question I had at the outset of this class is like, how can I teach without giving away my trade secret? 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 seeker recipe. For all my classes that I've made, I always try and give them around a project, that's fine learn by doing the project is a great way to do that. Great way to learn. 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. This was a postcard I'd made to promote myself with at the time and it's basically flatly of my tools also the trade. 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 their job, and these are some of the student projects that came in. This is my first-class and certainly there are people like around the world using something that I taught to make these brilliant, beautiful illustrations and what I love about these is that they are clearly using my Inky technique, but they're totally on their own. It's like a collaboration between my technique and their voice and that's really the ultimate goal for me as a teacher, or the most satisfying thing as when it's not just like an imitation, it's more of a someone's taking what I've taught and building on and 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 theirs and not mine which I really love. One of my goals as a mature as an illustrator is to go into more of an expert role. I want to keep making illustration staffs like that, but I also like things like this, public speaking and so this is just always been something on my path. As a result of this class, I was able to really define for myself who I was as an illustrator. Because when you teach something, you have to really know what and why you're teaching it and so I was able to really know myself more in and gain a stronger sense of identity as an artist. That became the basis of a talk that I applied to do at icon, which is an illustration conference. It's every two years. It was basically the premise was the idea of like, I'm not using Photoshop brushes, I'm using like real ink for my marks. I use photo brushes now, but that's an aside and that was basically what gave me a platform to talk from on the stage in front of some of my heroes, hundreds of illustrators and that alone was an honor, but the audience was an art director for Abrams publishing and I got my first kid's book out of that opportunity. She saw me talk and then connected with me afterward. That was a huge payoff for me. Now one of my favorite stories in terms of student work is this story about Christine Boydstun, and she's an American illustrator. I think she lives in Germany right now, but she was in the sciences. She took Inky illustrations and that opened her world up in terms of what illustration is and she discovered that she's good at it. I'm definitely not taking credit. I'm sure she was already on Skillshare learning lots of things. But she says that through this Inky illustrations class like that was where she realized she wanted to be an illustrator and so just some more of her work. Amazing work it looks nothing like mine, but she's using some of the techniques. That for me is just like to see someone find their true passion through something I teach is just super inspiring. Her name's Christine Boydstun. To summarize Inky illustrations, today it has 10,000 students, around 260 projects and a very engaged student following earned scholarship, but also on social media. I don't think I'd have even half the followers. I don't have a lot, but I don't think I'd have even half the followers I have unless I had this really engaged Skillshare student following, which is exciting. Every year I like to make a new class on Skillshare. 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, and a more complex project. As a commercial illustrator we get asked from time to time to do maps and so I had to figure out how do I make an Illustrated map using my techniques and so I had this basis for my next class built-in to something I had to do. I think that teaching or making a map can be very complicated. Like how do you figure out where things go? How do you include the streets, how do you draw them? I thought I would make that as my next class. 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. I think most people like illustrated maps because they're just so fun. These, these are a few of the maps I had been doing at the time. Of course here as I'm working these maps, I'm trying to figure out like how are these steps, what are the steps involved in doing this? So what I had to do again, as I had to really refine my technique and when you teach something, it's one thing to know how you do it, but it's a whole other thing to describe that to other people and what steps to make. I really had to systematize how I did maps from sketches, doing research, building that first, like base 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 then the autobiographical component it's your hometown or your favorite city, so something that I felt like 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 and it's embarrassing to admit this, but I basically like I'm not a map maker, I'm not a cartographer. I have to find out some way of learning the streets or whatever, so here's Google Maps and I trace them. This is just like one of those things where it just seem so obvious but also feels like I'm cheating. For me teaching this class specifically, I was challenged, people are going to know that I'm just making stuff up. I'm going to lose that, that mystique of the artists who this just comes out of me. I don't know how. I think another thing about teaching, you're showing how the source are just made, or the Wizard of Oz. Peeling back the curtain for future Wizard of Oz is nearly like looking behind the curtain and seeing you just push this button, and you look really big and cool, or scary whatever the wizard wanted to do. That's just the cost of teaching, is you lose that feeling of like you're the guardian of the secret technique in mystique. This was my student project, or my demo project of my hometown. You can see how the Encke style was applied to a map. Then these are some of the student projects. Again, blowing me away with how they've added their own voice, and their own story to their own project collaborating a bit with me in terms of using my style. You can see some resemblance and stuff like that, but overall, these things are totally their own, and beautiful, and in many ways. I'm jealous of them. Again, my favorite projects that I see are the ones you wouldn't ever even have known that they ever saw anything that I made. These look nothing like mine. They've clearly used my way of using textures, and stuff like that, but these are just fully unique things, and I find that just immensely satisfying to see that. Again, seeing the student work is a pay off unto itself, but having had to really refine my process and describe it in very systematic terms, made me a better map illustrator. It may be a lot more efficient. Another thing that happened was, I became known for making maps as an illustrator. I had to do seven or eight different maps for GQ France in a very short time. These are really maps that showed all the best ski runs across the world and all the different continents. There's no way I would have been able to do this unless I had buttoned down my process, it made really efficient. I suppose that I might not have been contacted to even do a map had I not done this course, which boosted my reputation in some sense as a map illustrator. Another big payoff from this particular class was going back to the ICON Conference, this is two years later. They asked me to teach a one-day workshop based on my Encke maps class in Detroit, that was in the summer. That 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 as I'm trying to move it along. Then they also asked me to make the map that became printed and put into all the swag bags. Hundreds of illustrators who go to ICON including my heroes, have a copy of this map presumably somewhere in a drawer, or maybe up on their wall. For my next class, Odd Bodies, I wanted to take a turn away from the Encke stuff. This was the one that I launched in November, it's been about four months. At this point, I've been a teacher a little longer, and I even had a YouTube channel where I offer my insights and advice to answer question about illustration. One of the questions I got asked a lot about is how I approach drawing people. I think a lot of illustrators feel like they need to draw realistic people like figure drawing. I sadly don't do that. I guess it might be partly patience thing. I don't have the patience to be that detailed. I feel like there's different ways of using the human figure in illustration. For me I use the idea of people, or the human figure to get at an idea, or a feeling rather than just make the illustration about a person or a character. I like to play around with proportion, and make joints bend where they don't really bend, and just be overall pretty whimsical about how I use the human figure. I had to ask myself, what is it about drawing people that I'm unique at? It's clearly not drawing people anatomically correct. I really had to dig deep and realize. For me it's all about just like bending what you can do with human figure, letting it fill the space, letting it have a feeling as much as it is just about being a human kind of thing. A big thing about my style of drawing people, the hallmarks, I guess are big pointy noses. You'll still see Encke textures thrown in there, and I don't know why. Inexplicably, most of my characters have pointy toed high-heel boots. For me it's just fun, like this isn't photography, I can do what. This can just be my thing, and it's kind of fun and silly, and I like that. The trick with showing people how to approach drawing people in a more stylized, expressive way, is you're basically teaching style. When you get into that territory, it feels like you're basically saying, "Well, here's how I draw. I draw the way I draw." Clearly that's probably not what other people are asking, and certainly not what I want to teach. For me, I develop these exercises that would bring something out of each person who does these exercises basically. The first one was, you draw a person from a photo just using contour lines. When you draw a person from a photo, you're downloading information about your subject. One other things about these exercises is there are always people doing some sport or activity, because you get these really expressive gestures that are very exaggerated. As you're drawing them, you're downloading information about this thing that you hadn't known before. Then the second exercise is to draw that same person but from memory. This is one of the key things. 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. You're remembering certain things, and other things you're totally forgetting, and other things you think you remember but you don't. In those gaps where you actually don't remember, and how you fill those in are clues to how you approach a style. Another exercise was to again, using reference photos, you draw up a page of five or so people from photos doing the same sport. Here you start to see pattern emerge. If they're all doing the same thing, you start to see the subtleties of your voice and in your style coming out. Like how do you draw the faces, how do you draw hands, how do the gestures over all come out, are your people more flat, are they still voluminous or three-dimensional? Then I had another exercise which is basically, getting people totally away from any attempt to do realism. You can see this in the student projects for this class. People are writing really long, almost journal entries for each exercise describing how they had to really struggle against that tendency toward drawing realistic people. They said, by the time they came to this one, they just had to throw that away, and that was the point. You just basically use the scissors, and paper, and try and draw people that way. Another thing that's important to my way of drawing people is that you want to learn how to fill space of the character. Just like your brain is telling you is wrong, but it's still somehow ends up looking cool. For this one you draw a shape, and then you just fill that shape with a person, and in this case, the basic outline was basically what you can see around him. You just have to make things up and it messes with your logic or your logical side, and you end up with some pretty fun and zany stuff. Finally, the last exercise was to draw an object either too big or too small on your page and then somehow draw your character to wrap around it somehow or interact with the object. I had no idea when I drew this telescope that the guy was going to be around it like this. But it just like one thing follows the other and that's the point. Its to try and just follow your intuitions more than what you know is right. A unique challenge to this class is that I knew that by teaching this class based on style. A lot of the projects we're going to look a lot like mine. It was something that I wondered, like at this point I'm I giving away too much? Am I going to be really taking away my competitive edge or my uniqueness as an illustrator. Of course the answer is I can't really teach it unless I show how I do it. You can teach a universal concept, but you can't really do it without being very specific about how you do it. I had to make that 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. They're really good and really fun and a lot of them look like mine. I had an identity crisis thinking, if these people's work looks like mine and it's successful, who am I as an illustrator? It sounds emo, but it felt like, it's just something as an illustrator, you think you're unique and then you see other people do you one. I think all illustrators, all artists want to be unique and that's why it's very hard for us to accept when people imitate us. 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 feel prohibited from imitating. That's how we learn. I never want people to take my classes to feel bad about that. But I encourage people to build on what I teach and make it their own overtime. It might not happen right away, but I want it to happen over time. For me I had to realize, I'm sharing all these secret recipes, all my trade secrets. But I'm not the guardian of one centuries old family recipe that if it gets discovered I'm doomed and I'm out of business. I'm not just making this one sauce. I'm like a secret sauce factory and that's my job. It's not to safeguard one sauce, but just to keep innovating and making new things. I came up with this thing that I posted on Instagram. "The secret sauce is you." That for me was like the moment when I fully embraced the sense of , yeah, it's okay to share these things. I think further to the point is for other people, I want you guys to or my students to also know that 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 in their work. These are some amazing examples of student projects for odd bodies. Just so much variation happening here. Really fun to just see. People did all six of those, so long it took me to explain those exercises. People had to go through each one of those exercises and the fact that people did that is an honor. Just seeing how people embraced the exercises and really pushed through into discovering their own style is really amazing to see. This was the page of poses. Odd bodies was a really really ambitious class for me. It took me about 300 hours to produce. I had to struggle with this idea of like my own identity or whatever, but definitely my best class. I've gained 4,000 students in four months which is a record for my classes, a 100 student projects. All of them are amazing. The reviews that people have given me and how this class has helped them have been insane, very generous. It became one of the stuff picks on Skillshare, which for me is a high honor. Just to summarize through Inki Illustrations, Inki Maps, Odd Bodies. I've encountered these specific challenges of being vulnerable to being imitated and losing that power of artistic mystique. That was specifically in Inki Maps where I did reveal that I'm a hack. Then of course in Odd Bodies, just feeling like I've lost my sense of uniqueness. Those are the challenges, but through sharing on Skillshare. Skillshare has been truly authentically an amazing way for me to feel connected into, I guess, use my teaching proclivities. But yeah, this is something that's been really valuable for me. In all these challenges, I think this quote really stood out to me. It 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 it comes back to you." This has been super true in terms of me teaching online, doing my you-tube channel, sharing stuff, tips on Instagram, specific to Skillshare. It's given me more followers and friends. It's given me a way to refine my process and my techniques and the way I've had to systematize and describe each step along the way. Through that, it's giving me exposure and opportunities. Like the kid's book has given me new ways to use my creativity beyond just being an illustrator and of course, there's payoffs which is the cherry on top. 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. I guess the best gifts require the biggest sacrifices. But they also yield the best rewards. That's really been my journey in sharing. I appreciate you guys being here and being my audience. Thank you.