How do you get a lot
into a little?

Tom Gauld

“I wish I had a bit more time for quality mulling.”

Tom Gauld is one of the truly great cartoonists of our era. And even this is to damn him with faint praise. Every week in a few small panels in The Guardian or New Scientist his dry wit can brighten an entire day.

His tales are sometimes book length, sometimes three panels, sometimes just a single cover image, but all tell rich stories. A spare use of copy and minimalist illustration style reduce the complex to a deceptive simplicity, full of wit and nuance.

So the obvious question to ask is Tom, how do you get a lot into a little?

I’m naturally attracted to minimalism. I don’t know why.

It bothers me if things are in there when they don’t need to be. And I really enjoy the process of editing things down to their purest form. I’ve found that when you leave the right sort of space then the audience tend to put part of themselves into it.

I sometimes think of my comics as a series of stones across a river, with gaps in between. And if the gaps are just the right size, the audience gets across the river, but also enjoys making the jumps themselves. If the stones are too close it’s boring, and if they are too far the audience fall into the river and get cross.

Tom Gauld, A Curate's Egg

We sense some of your work must take quite a bit of mulling before pencil goes to paper… What are the five best ways to put off getting started?

Mulling is good. I like to have ideas sitting in my sketchbook, or rolling about my brain, for a while before I use them. Deadlines mean this isn’t always possible, and sometime spur-of-the-moment things turn out to be very good too. I like to take walks and drink coffee in cafes and think and doodle in my sketchbook. I wish I had a bit more time for quality mulling.

Tom Gauld, A Curate's Egg

As an author and illustrator, who’s in charge, the words or the pictures? ( or do they both assume they are the star of the show?)
What is in charge is the idea. Sometimes it comes as a very visual idea and I have to figure out how to use it in a story, or what words to add (or not) to make it more interesting.

And sometimes it is a very word-y idea and I have to figure out how to make it visually interesting. I drew and studied art for many years before I developed any interest in storytelling, so I’m still more confident in my cartooning and design skills than my writing. But putting words together has become more and more interesting to me.

Tom Gauld, A Curate's Egg
Tom Gauld, A Curate's Egg

Toms latest book is Baking With Kafka. It’s very funny, very beautiful and very reasonably priced. You can buy it here.

Tom Gauld, A Curate's Egg

Tom Gauld, A Curate's Egg

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