Finding your voice in the noise of the present and the past

13 Nov 2023

Reading Time: 3 minutes

This is one of those realisations that came about after a long list of things before it. My previous posts (this and that) show the progression to reach the point that I am today but it is perhaps the thoughts expressed in this post that finally opened the door for me creatively. And the idea is pretty simple really…

I am not this or that artist and I should not try to be.

Now, that seems like a very simple statement to make. So simple in fact, it comes over as one of those ‘duh’ type thoughts. But in reality, we are the product of what’s surrounded and influenced us, in the past and in the present. Regardless if you accept this idea or not, as creatives what we do is done in the wrap of our bubbles of influence.

So seeing this is all about me…

Chris Foss

I grew up on images by the likes of Chris Foss (^^^), so to me science fiction was, and in many ways still is, those images that came out of the golden age of science fiction (approx 1970-the mid 80’s). The images created by the raft of artists of that period were completely raw, uninfluenced simply because there were no influences to influence (though by the late 70’s people were starting to copy Foss etc.). They’re also images that went on to create a sphere that many today, unknowingly or otherwise, are still influenced by. Film went on to build on that but by the time science fiction made it to the mainstream screen, big and small, the ground had been more or less set by those paperback illustrators from the golden age.


With this in mind, my view, my ideas about visions of the future have always been guided by what I grew up with. Something probably exacerbated by the idea that I think after Star Wars, science fiction deteriorated visually into an endless cycle of rehashing and regurgitating – there’s not been a huge amount (from the West… Japan’s a whole different story) that I can honestly say has or does inspired me. Thus when I sat down to do an image, my point of reference was firmly planted in those images from the past.

And that was the problem.

In a nutshell, as long as you have reference points, bubbles of influence guiding what you do, you will always be comparing yourself to them, unintentionally or not. And because the reference points you look to are those that have inspired you, driven you to do that something you are doing, everything becomes some form of facsimile of the source material. If you doubt the validity of this argument, just look to a place like Artstation and try and find artwork/designs that you can call truly original.

The Pheobus Intercept - Gerard Thomas Illustration


So in the back of my head I’ve had one vision of things, my own developing interpretation of science fiction visions which ironically, was nothing at all like what I had been trying to achieve. But by the time it came to executing those ideas and concepts, my immensely strong bubbles of influence always pushed me in one direction, or more to the point, kept me held within them. And around and around I went growing increasingly unsatisfied – I’d sketch one thing, produce another. It was not until I literally decided to stop doing what I had been trying to do… be an ‘illustrator’, that I realised what had been happening.

And it was simple…

I am not Chris Foss. I am not Peter Elson, or Jim Burns, or Eddie Jones etc. etc.

I am me and I have my own visions, so why was I trying to be like them?

They’ve done it already. They’ve done it better than I could. Better than many can or will ever do. They were the first, the origin points for what came after, they set the stage for those that were to follow. Yes, I can take reference, cues, like aspects of what they did or techniques they used but to ‘be’ them, to create images like they did? That’s a bunk ideal, one that ultimately robs you of your own visions. Of your own creativity.

Don’t we all create in an aim to express something that’s uniquely ours, or are we all here just to chase other’s tails in an endless downward spiral?

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Copyright 2023 Gerard Thomas. All rights reserved.

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