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LAist Interview: Tom Neely

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Los Angeles based artist, Tom Neely took some time out of his schedule to talk with LAist, about his new graphic novel The Blot, his current exhibit Self Indulgent Werewolf, and art & life in L.A.

LAist: Why/how did you choose L.A. after graduating from art school?

Neely: I went to grad school at the San Francisco Art Institute to get my MFA in painting. While I was in grad school I got so disillusioned with the fine arts world that I decided I wanted to get a commercial art job after graduating. I have always loved animation and had done some experiments on my own. I was lucky that one of my best friends was a web-administrator at Disney, and I had been taking a lot of road trips down to L.A. to visit him. So through the help of my friend, I managed to get a job as a Flash animator for web cartoons and games. So, I moved down here 2 weeks after graduating and started working at Disney. I left that after 2 years to become a freelancer and pursue more of my own art. Since then I've been slowly working my way up through the fine arts world and comics.

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LAist: What part of L.A. do you live in now?

Neely: Atwater Village. About 1 mile from the Black Maria Gallery where my show is hanging. I live with my fiancée and my dog. I've got a nice house with a big back yard. I love it! It's like my own little oasis where I can escape L.A.

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LAist: A lot of your art has been influenced by comics, great cartoons of the 20’s & 30’s, and also many painters—tell me a few of your biggest influences.

Neely: In comics, one of my biggest influences has been Floyd Gottfredson, who drew the Mickey Mouse comics from the 30s through the 60s. Those were among the first comics I read as a kid, and I still love them. And of course E. C. Segar who created Popeye is one of my very favorites. I'm also influenced by artists like George Herriman who created Krazy Kat, Billy DeBeck who did Barney Google, and Bud Fisher who did the Mutt and Jeff strips.

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In painting, I get inspiration from some figurative painters like Lucien Freud and Egon Schielle. Philip Guston was a huge influence on me early in my career. I've always been a big fan of the surrealists, especially Rene Magritte, who are a big influence on my story-teling and use of metaphor. I like a lot of Japanese watercolor and calligraphy artists. I'm also inspired by a lot of abstract painters and old masters.

LAist: Your interest in animation led you to a stint at Disney—what kind of stuff did you do there, and did you learn a lot?