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Working From Home – Tom J Newell

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#workingfromhome is a way of helping out newcomers to the home studio life and hopefully reassuring people that it’s possible to be productive while everything around you is up in the air.


The second in a new series of self isolation insights, we caught up (via email) with Tom J Newell about instability being the status quo when you add a little one into the freelance equation.


Read the other #workingfromhome interview with Sam Dunn

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do…
Hey Awesome Merch. I hope this finds you as well as can be expected through these strange times. I’m Tom J Newell and I’m an artist, illustrator, record collector, and turntable tinkering disc jockey, based in Sheffield.

I draw everyday. I draw everything with pen on paper or pen on to wood, walls or whatever. I produce artworks for exhibitions and draw illustrations for clients. I sometimes play records out live in bars or for online radio sets. Two heroes that I’ve recently had the honour of working with on (separate) art projects are Madlib and Spongebob Squarepants.

2. How are you doing? It’s an odd time right now…
I’m doing well. Just trying to be grateful for what I’ve got and how I can work through the current situation and do my best to help others through it. We’re all essentially in the same boat here and we can all do something to keep it afloat for the sake of those more at risk of falling overboard.

It is an odd time, but in an odd way, for those of us with odd careers where we find ourselves isolated for much of the time, it also feels oddly normal. I have a few projects that I’m continuing to work through in my home studio. There are other projects that have understandably been postponed or cancelled, but I’m just working through ideas as best I can right now to avoid the looming insecurities of working freelance (that are always there), but are obviously set to intensify as we head into unchartered waters.

3. How are you adapting to this new normality?
My wife and I have a 5 month old baby, Eddie Mack Newell, so we’ve not really known normality since he arrived anyway. He’s an amazing little guy and we had already been pretty isolated before the lock down restrictions hit. I’m as yet unsure if that’s put us at an advantage because we’ve had some practice.. or if we’ll be the first ones to crack because we’ll have been secluded the longest.

It’s definitely a challenge to balance real life stuff with creating artwork under the same roof, regardless of our new social restrictions, but I’m finding much more focus and drive to work and to create as much as I can to reach out to the outside world and communicate with the amazing audience who continue to support my work.

4. What attracted you to our Mercht platform?
Mercht provides such a great service where I can upload an image, promote a campaign, and within a week or so give people something that they wanted sent directly to them with no wasted stock of odd sizes etc.
I often get requests to print something up and then, if I do follow through and get a specific design printed, the person who initially requested the print may not even buy one and maybe no one else will either. This print service provides an opportunity to ease that risk and to experiment with putting stuff out there and seeing how people react to it.

It’s been a vital service for me to give people the option of buying my work and I think its importance will step up through these restricted times, giving customers something to look forward to if they place an order, and giving artists an opportunity to continue to make money and to get their work out in to the world as a tangible object.

5. Do you have any productivity or organisation tips for people who are new to working from home?
I’m still in a constant state of learning how to do this myself, but, as much as you can, I’d say it’s vital to trick yourself into a mindset where the home studio is mentally detached from your home and you can function to produce work for a set amount of time without thinking about what’s happening with the dishes or the washing.

Getting dressed is the first necessity. Don’t convince yourself that you can roll out of bed into a positive headspace to produce something meaningful if you’re still wearing slippers. Leave the house in a morning and, even if it’s just walking around the block, convince yourself that the house you return to is not the same place. For the next few hours of that day make it into a place where you produce work and try to ignore the areas of the house where you sleep, eat and relax.

6. Who is inspiring you right now?
My wife Helen (@helenmcguckin and helenmcguckin.com) is my inspiration who has become the new awesome mother to our baby son, and is adapting her own creative career in fashion to fit around his needs. Both of us continue to be inspired by everything around us and we have an added urgency to want to produce work that we’re excited about and that can support his future.

Helen is actually starting to work on a socially distanced photography collaboration with our friend Owen Richards, who lives close by to us (and took the photos that are featured here of me in my home studio last year).

I’ve been inspired by the creative community in general through these past few weeks. We are set to witness the absolute glowing brilliance of humanity, supporting each other through adversities and the art, music and memes that are made over the next few months can at least bring a brief smile to the faces of those of us on the front line of this thing as we get through it together.

7. Where can people find you?
Find me reaching out digitally through instagram and twitter as @tomjnewell and on facebook as @tomjnwellart. I have an ongoing project this year to draw something onto the torn off pages of my daily calendar, so you can keep up with those those drawings and everything else I’m working on day to day through those channels.
You might find me to wave to at a distance in our local woods in Sheffield while we still have our one allocated exercise excursion allowance. In the not too distant future I hope you’ll find me out and about with the freedom to embrace family and friends and to give you all a high-five.

Much love to you all.

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