[June 2, 2008 ]
Tom Nick Cocotos is a freelance illustrator based in New York City and Miami. He has an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from Columbia University and a masters degree from The School of Visual Arts. His collage work has appeared in most major publications, numerous ad campaigns and book covers, has been animated for websites and continually breaks ground. Tom is also an adjunct professor at The Fashion Institute of Technology.
Here he sits down with Jackson Taylor, poet, novelist and one of the founders of the Graduate Writing Program at The New School, to answer questions about how his career took shape.
You didn't start out studying art did you?
No. My parents were proud the day I graduated from Engineering School but I was miserable. Within a few weeks I went to them and told them "I have decided not to pursue engineering but would like to study fine art instead."
What was their reaction?
Who were the people who influenced you when you went into art?
Did you feel that you had to abandon fine art to pursue illustration?
To me illustration was and is fine art. The narrative elements of illustration appeal to any number of people and are egalitarian in their comprehension. I draw on that idea all the time especially when I'm trying to convey and bring to life the ideas of an art director. To me that narrative relationship to fine art is paralleled in poetry as well. Some schools of poetry rely on lexicon and others on syntax. The way some poets make their poems by looking up random words in a dictionary is not that interesting to me. I am interested in syntax; a point of view.
Is all the work you make for clients these days?
Have you ever thought of bringing that work more public?
Can you give some examples?
That is quite an eclectic group.
Travel. I travel widely to keep my eye active and alert. I keep studios in Miami, NYC and the North Fork of Long Island. I tend to stay in one spot while I obsess about a project. On a recent trip to Paris I spent hours on the Metro focusing exclusively on capturing the fantastically strong faces of those that live in that city. Another trip I spent days studying the large panels of Tolouse-Latrec. I'm fascinated by the way he layered canvas. When I'm in New York, I often visit a life drawing class that has timed poses. I challenge myself to incorporate collage in the brief time allowed.
The reason I explore in this way is because the freedom and discovery it affords leads me to new styles and visions. For example a few years ago one of my small pen and ink sketchbooks was on display at an art show, and the response to those images was so strong that it couldn't be ignored. I created a whole new illustrator alter-ego. I sound like Sybil- scary...scary. (laughs) But it's more playful than that! As this new style of line drawings emerged and grew popular, I named the person drawing them Dino Sotococo-- and the straightforwardness of his work-and of course he's a part of me--has appealed heavily to advertisers looking to communicate information simply and directly. (You can see his work at www.sotococo.com.)
Yes and new challenges. Recently a clothing designer has approached me about doing a line of graphic designs for him. I've been experimenting with them and I'm getting very excited.
As far as careers in art are concerned, you are a major success... in parting is there anything you haven't done yet that you'd like to try?
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