As well as accompanying me to one of my workshops (at the Forest Row Festival) we also went through the process of making a single page comic featuring Tom's own characters, The Larrys. Here's a little interview I conducted with Tom, as well as a few pieces of his fantastic artwork, more of which you can see over at his website.
Tom, can you introduce yourself - age, interests, and what you'd like to do when you leave school?
I'm Tom V. Leighton, I'm 17. I love to draw and create my own comics, I like watching films and spending time with my friends. I am in my last year of Imberhorne Sixth Form and I am studying Art and Design as well as ICT. When I leave school I would like to go to University in America (Brigham Young University) where I will study animation and hopefully get a career at one of the large animation studios.
You recently visited me one day a week for a few weeks as part of a school project, can you give some background to this - what you had to do and what you wanted to get out of it?
I had to produce a case study of the business over a few weeks, I had to learn about the trade and gain ideas for a final piece. To begin with I learned about some basic business and the process of how you created a comic strip, which I found very interesting! We had some discussion and over a few weeks we decided to produce a full six panel comic strip starring some of my own characters, The Larrys. We also attended the Forest Row drawing workshop where I helped as an assistant. This was a new experience and I felt that I would observe to see the basis of what happens at these workshops. I learned a lot from these visits and I am very grateful for the opportunity I had in doing so!
It was good fun, and I learned some stuff too! Can you introduce us to your comic characters, The Larrys - what's it all about?
Sure, The Larrys is about a group of young boys (around 7 yrs) who get up to all sorts of adventures. There are 5 of them to begin with until they take on a new member later on! They have certain adult characteristics to them and they occasionally refer to themselves as characters in a comic strip in some way or another. The adventures are based on what I would have liked to have done as a kid. There are quite a few adventures, I haven't developed all of the stories yet but all in good time! I came up with the comic idea from a dream I had; I dreamed that my Mum bought me a t-Shirt that had The Larrys on it.
Curious! We made a little 'Larrys' comic together (well, 90% you, 10% me*) - how did you find the experience? Was it very different from the way you usually work?
I found it very fun, I learned about the processes in scanning and colouring the strip and I thought it was great that we combined our two illustration styles. The process was definitely more technical than the way I would have done it without any guidance; I would have just drawn out the boxes and characters, followed by outlining it with black ink and then colouring it using comic pens. I will definitely consider the process for the future.
Sometimes it's interesting to know how other people do things, perhaps pick up a tip or two, but we all find our own way in the end. Can you tell me when and how you got interested in comics?
When I was in year 3 [age 7-8], I had a friend who 'taught' me to draw cartoons. From there I guess I became interested in different cartoons and came across different comic books. I came across a Wallace and Gromit comic book and a Garfield annual. I then became interested in The Beano when I got an annual for Christmas. I then went to Florida in 2004 and got a Fantastic Four comic book. I guess I came across other comics and started to develop my own characters and stories.
And what comics do you read now? What are your all-time favourites?
I mainly read The Rainbow Orchid, Garfield and Marvel. I did read some Adventures of Tintin and after working with you I have gained an interest in Tintin. My all time favourites are: Marvel, Garfield, Calvin and Hobbes, The Rainbow Orchid and there are probably other comics which I can't think of right now.
So, if you had to pick one comic to take to a desert island, what would it be?
That's a tough one, hmm ... If I had to pick one comic to take to a desert Island then I would probably have to take a big book of Marvel as it would be made up of lots of different stories.
Good thinking! Is there any interest in comics amongst your friends and fellow students?
A small amount, I don't really discuss comics and such, if I do then it is usually about my own works. I don't mind this as I enjoy talking about my own ideas and it implies that people are interested in my interests and hobbies.
As a young chap looking to embark on a career in comics, how do you see the current comics scene, especially in the UK? Do you feel optimistic both as a creator and a reader?
I don't really know. To begin with I genuinely thought that I would get a lot of money straight away from my comic ideas, now I see that's a bit dumb! Ha! There are many different comic ideas and there seems to be a lot of repetition over the years. I guess it is down to personal tastes and popularity. One comic may gain a lot of interest and some may not get much interest. It would probably be different in the USA. As I plan to live there when I'm older it may help as there is a different comic culture over there. If that makes sense.
Yes, it's good to have a clear plan like that. Having something to aim for is really important! At this moment in time, what is your ambition in art, comics, or any related fields? What is your ultimate aim?
At this moment I aim to get good grades in my A levels and to get into university in the U.S. and see where it takes me. My ultimate aim is to work at Pixar in many different fields of art, animation and illustration or even start up my own successful comics company. but we shall see...
Well, it seems you're certainly setting off on the right foot, so I wish you all the best with it! Thanks very much for your time and for answering my questions, Tom.
You can visit Tom's website here.