Tom Berry Artist & Illustrator - Bristol, UK

The ‘London Circles Series’- how did these come about?

There were a number of things that made the ‘London Circles Series’ happen – Firstly I wanted to explore using elements of colour and screen printing more.

Secondly, I had already done smaller circular cities, mainly of Bristol (which is where I grew up) and one for the cover of CAPITAL by John Lanchester, so it was really an extension of these. But the overall idea was to depict the same city, within the same size circle, in different and imaginative ways.

Can you expand on your illustration for John Lanchester’s books?

Eleanor Crow at Faber & Faber commissioned this illustration after seeing my circular Bristol images. We had a few edits and to-ing and fro-ings, and came out with the final image relatively quickly. I got a lot of exposure from the project, and the book did pretty well too.

Where did the idea of putting London into a Wardian Case come from?

I saw a news article about a man who had kept a bottle garden for 25-odd years and thought that London could work well inside one – In many ways it has a climate and atmosphere all of its own, so I wanted to reflect that.. Wardian Cases were the first sealed containers of plants and were invented by a Victorian Londoner called Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward. The flowers in the print all now grow in the Victorian glass houses at Kew Gardens in London, where Wardian cases were once used to transport rare and exotic flora specimens.

Wardin –Case’

You usually work in one colour but in Wardin Case you have added red and green. Please explain?

Very simply because these bold colours complement each other, and the blacks, golds and browns in the rest of the picture.

‘Wardin –Case’ detail

Can you discuss the size of this series and also your other work?

The ‘London Circles Series’ are all on 50x50cm. Usually I stick to A-sizes for simplicity but in this case a large square fitted with the London circles much better.

I can’t go too big as the level of detail in my drawings is pretty high, so I tend to keep around the A2 size-mark.

Discuss London Lore – A map of the Capitals Lost in relations with Wardin Case?

London Lore is the wildcard of the ‘London Circles Series’- The linework is printed in an ox blood red rather than a black, and it depicts many myths and stories of London, from the remains of woolly mammoths being found underneath Trafalgar square, to the druid origins of the site where Saint Paul’s Cathedral is now built. It was immense fun to research and to draw.

‘London – Lore’

‘London – Lore’ Detail

Just as we are coping with the previous work you add a bird. Discuss “A Roost for Every Bird?

Well, the bird is a magpie, and they’re pretty common here – they have a habit of collecting sparkly objects like sweet wrappers, but also jewellery and other shimmery things… I choose the magpie as I thought they share a lot in common with

‘A Roost’

Londoners, who seem to be quite materialistic and attracted to sparkly things! (I included) Also I like the quote ‘London is a roost for every Bird’ from Benjamin Disraeli, as it implies that anybody can make their home here. Actually there is another earlier image that I drew with the same name – I really like the idea of a city growing from a nest.

‘A Roost’

‘Gromit Unleashed’ You don’t always work in 2d. Can you discuss your sculpture of ‘Gromit Unleashed’?

Gromit unleashed was a fundraising project for the Bristol Children’s Hospital in conjunction with Aardman Animation. Seventy huge fibreglass sculptures of Gromit were made, and seventy artists commissioned to decorate them. It was quite difficult adapting my typical tiny black and white lines, usually drawn on flat paper, into very thick colour ones on very curvy fibreglass. I kept myself from going too elaborate and kept to quite a simple design, and in this way was able to overcome many difficulties.


Explain about the process of the show and the sale of the work?

Each Gromit sculpture was shown outdoors for ten weeks this summer as part of a giant arts trail. After that, they were auctioned and all the proceeds went to the Children’s Hospital, I think the amount of money raised was something ridiculous, like £ 2.3 Million..

‘Drawing 3D Gromit’

Do you always do your prints in Editions of 25?

No, Just the London Circles. For the others I have done runs of 100, 60 and some smaller open editions too.

Case Printing

What do you do with your plates after the print run?

Depends on what the printmaking technique is – most of my pictures are giclee editions of original drawings, but with the London Circles, I cleaned the screens after making the edition. So aside from a few proofs I made at the time, there can never be more of these made, ever!

Do you do all of your own printing?

No, I do some myself and work with a few secret veterans of the print industry who have more patience, skill and interest in the technique than I do.

Colour Test

Can you explain where your studio is and please give us a peek inside?

No I can’t! I’m moving house and staying with family and have no dedicated space at the moment. I’m trying to move to a place with my partner and my sister, which if it all works out will have a decent space to work and create some beautiful pictures in, so fingers crossed.

Exhibitions – How do you plan this part of your time along with your illustration work?

I have generally tried to organise my own shows around Christmas, and I exhibit with other galleries at different times. To be honest whenever an illustration project comes in I usually have to do it straight away, so I just fit things in as and when they happen – there isn’t any way of predicting this, so I just have to be ready to go as and when.

London Circles Series: London Time

Contact details.


Tom Berry, Bristol, UK

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, January 2014