Share This Article
At Geek-Art, we really fall in love with the works of Spanish illustrator and printer Tomas Hijo. We spoke about him in a previous article, but we wanted to know more ! So we contacted him to ask a few questions, and he was kind enough to answer them. Dive into the incredible story of this incredible storyteller, between Hellboy, the Middle Age and tarot cards !
1/ could you please introduce yourself to our readers ?
Hi. I am Tomás Hijo. My social media profiles say that I am an illustrator and a printmaker from Salamanca, Spain, and that’s true. Confidentially, I can confess that I am an illustration professor and sometimes an author. Too many things, I guess.
2/ what is your school / professional path (school, university etc)
Some boring drawing clases aside (that kind with plaster busts as a reference) that I didn’t hesitate to leave, I never got formal art education. I studied a thing called Communication Sciences at the University. It was a sort of vitaminized Journalism five courses run with a cocktail of classes, from Sociology to Anthropology, Laws, Politics, even Theology or Finances. As I did not enjoy that a lot, I spent my time with a gang of boys form the Fine Arts faculty. They were talented and cool, and I engaged every illustration contest and student project they were in as a member of the band. Eventually, I got the attention from one of their professors who was the Art Director of one of the main Spanish publishing houses. He criticized my work and encouraged me to illustrating and teaching. He succeeded, it seems.
3/ how did you know you wanted to become an artist ? What decided you ?
I think I have never been a natural born artist. In fact, during my teens, I was more inclined to writing and that was the reason to engage in Communication (well, Journalism) studies. I always drew for fun, but it was during that time spent with my aforementioned “artist” friends when I started thinking that illustration was a path that perhaps deserved to be tested as a way of life. Just after finishing the University courses, I tried and I got a commission for a book at my second attempt with a publisher. It was well paid for that time and it looked that more jobs would come from there, as it was. So simply I kept promoting my work, illustrating books and trying to make what they wanted better and better (what was so easy at the beginning, as I was so bad).
4/ how is it that you decided to specialize yourself in linocut ? How does the art of middle age influence you in such a way that you decided to dive into this very special universe ?
Middle age art has been always a favorite for me, along chapbook art and popular printmaking of every age. Five or six years ago, I grow tired of illustrating only children books and hit a hard wall with a failed project as a publisher in that field. I was tired of working always in digital, too. I thought in embracing a new path and I decided to work in something I really liked. My choice was to illustrate two authors whose imagery I love: Tolkien and Lovecraft. I started with Middle Earth, what I feel the perfect world to explore a “medievalized” style of drawing I was very interesting in trying. I made some scratchboards and, soon, I was advised (even by my students) to try printmaking. I think it was clear that scratchboard was a sort of alibi in order to avoid working with presses and inks. The success of that scratchboards, and the help of my printmaker colleagues from the faculty where I teach, gave me momentum to try several techniques. I fell in love with linocut as soon as I tried.
5/ what would be your artistic inspirations, in your work in general and on a daily basis ?
My inspiration comes from a bunch of old painters (the Brueghels, Bosch, medieval anonymous painters and sculptors), several printmakers from eastern Europe (being Zdenek Mezl my favorite) and lots of contemporary illustrators. Despite not close to my in style, I milked hundreds of inspiration points from the work of Mike Mignola, who is my all time champion not only as an artist, but also as a storyteller and a builder of worlds. The work of John Howe, Alan Lee and Brian Froud are my absolute reference in fantasy. Finally, I always have an eye on animation concept designers like Nico Marlet, Carter Goodrich or Peter DeSève. Despite I love middle age art, I feel that I need to fuel life to the characters I draw, and these guys are masters on that.
6/ what would be the artwork you are the most proud of, and why ?
Nowadays, I would pick my latest release, “Tarot del Toro”, for many reasons: first, it is the latest one and, thus, the better; second, it is a very large project with lots of stages and problems to resolve, and I thought I succeeded, which made me so proud; and, over all, I made it in close collaboration with Guillermo del Toro, a master I always admired and dreamed to work with. I think I have never told, but I drew some lovecraftian monsters a decade and half ago, when I heard that he was involved in the making of “At the mountains of madness”. I had a friend who had a fried who know somebody related to somebody related to Guillermo. The drawings got lost at some point of the chain. Interestingly, Guillermo contacted me, years later, when I started to promote “Nictonomicon” (a lovecraftian bestiary Kickstarter I launched) at Twitter.
7/ what would be you relationship with pop culture in general, how did you discover it and what kind of media do you prefer in this field on entertainment ? What do you think about pop culture in 2020 ?
I buy and devour and love things from every category. I dig movies, TV shows, books, comics, videogames… In fact, I left many of them unfinished due to the impulse of watching/reading/playing something that is suddenly more tempting. I am lucky enough to have been able to work on every media (except for videogames) and I feel enthusiast about everyone.
8/ what would be the dream job, if you had to work on an official license / universe ?
Guillermo del Toro (wow, check), Lord of the Rings (almost check, as I had the privilege of working recently with/for John Howe), Hellboy and anything by Susanna Clarke.
9/ could you tell us more about your technique ? The way you work ? Why did you stick to the “traditionnal” tools instead of computer ?
Simply explained, I carve a lino block with a variety of gauges (in fact, two), then I cover it with greasy ink and a roller and, finally, I press it against a humid museum quality paper with a rolling press that resembles a Russian tank. If I need to color a print for a special commission, I use watercolors (the expensive ones, by the way).
I haven’t cornered digital techniques at all, as I use them in the sketching phase (specially for the most complex designs) and for coloring or post producing the illustrations that needs to be printed by a publisher for a book or something alike.
10/ you recently released an amazing tarot based on the works of Guillermo del Toro, could you tel us more about it, how it started, the time you spent on this project ?
Yes. As I told above, I was contacted by del Toro when I was launching a Kickstarter campaign that consisted in a collection of lovecraftian beasts prints. He was very supportive and his retweets made my days and helped to fund the thing. He knew my work since some time before, when I participated in a couple of tribute shows in Los Angeles. I was told that Guillermo had bought my prints and it blew my mind, but the best was yet to come: he commissioned me for more prints and a bookplate, and invited me to visit him in Paris for a “personal deliver”. We ate sushi and chatted about a million things: Disney, Buñuel, Bernie Wrightson, Mignola, Svankmajer, Lovecraft, I Ching and… tarot. The idea for the project showed in my head fully developed and I pitched it to him in that very moment. And he liked it. When I returned home, I started pairing cards with characters and motifs from his films. After getting his gentle suggestions and approval, a list was made. He picked a publisher and the thing went ahead. At the beginning I was thinking in a Major Arcana deck only, but the publisher wanted a full deck and a booklet and I had to escalate that mountain of work and I can say that I enjoyed a lot reviewing and reviewing Guillermo’s movies and making my versions of his creatures and characters.
11/ what are your projects in the near future ?
I’m involved in the creation of a new deck related to another universe that forged my imagination as a kid. I can’t tell more at the moment, sorry.
12/ Please tell us about your online shop !
Yes! You can visit it at www.tomashijo.com! This is a thing I started by request of my friends from Facebook. I started selling some pieces by direct commission and, as the sales grew, I tried several platforms. I’m pretty happy with how it looks and works now!
13/ what would be your advice for young people who wants to work in the art / illustration area ? To the young generations ?
Manage art fundamentals. Work hard and steady. Promote yourself kindly. Draw, draw, draw. Look beyond your primary area of interest. Look back for the masters from the past. Avoid “12 manga expressions range” and “how to keep drawing ripped superheroes for ever” tutorials. Don’t give up.
Your favorite book ?
Impossible to say. From my latest readings, “Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell”, by Susanna Clarke. “The Lord of the Rings”. Above all, the Spanish writer Álvaro Cunqueiro.
Your favorite movie ?
Can’t pick one. “Nightmare before Christmas”? “Haxan”? “Pulp Fiction”? “Alien”? “Aliens”?
Your favorite video game ?
“La abadía del crimen” (a Spanish 8 bits video game based in “The name of the Rose”). Anything by Naughty Dog. And “Broforce”!
Your favorite comic book ?
Yes, I can pick one here. Hellboy. Period.
Thanks a lot Tomas !
Please go follow this amazing artist !