Dreadlabs Interviews: Tom Arena

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Tom Arena is a 25 years old allround creative from Geneva, Switzerland. He’s mostly known for his motocross and rave influenced graphic design work on Instagram. 

What got you into doing graphic design?

Ever since I was a child I’ve had this urge for drawing. Basically, I wanted to become an automotive designer. However, somewhere halfway art school the Swiss Federation did not recognise this education anymore. We suddenly changed our education against our will. After this we all became graphic designers, even though that was not what we signed up for. I had a lot of trouble doing this, because we were trained to make graphics in a “Swiss” style which is very sober and refined. I hated it and I was the worst designer of my class. After that, I started out my Instagram account, experimented and here I am now.

Interview with Tom Arena

Are you a self-taught artist? If so, how / where did you learn your skills from?

So I learned the basics of the Adobe Suite at school, but it was only like 10% of the full capacity of the software. During my master’s I came across a friend who would give me lots of Photoshop advice and tips. I started teaching myself things about 4 years ago, watching YouTube videos and experimenting in my room.

I know this kinda sounds anti-school but I think in today’s day and age we’re fortunate enough to learn almost anything through the internet. School to me is kina like watering a plant: it still has to grow by itself. It is important as long as it does not get too directive. For example, our teachers demanded we’d make our posters in InDesign. I make mine in Photoshop now and the result is the same if not better.

LOOKING AT YOUR WORK I SEE A LOT OF WORK IS INSPIRED BY RAVE CULTURE AND RACING SPORTS, CORRECT? WHAT SOURCES DO YOU DRAW MOST OF YOUR INSPIRATION FROM? (BRANDS, ARTISTS, ETC)

YES IT’S JUST I REALLY LIKE THESE TWO UNIVERSES, SINCE CHILDHOOD I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN A GREAT NOSTALGIC OF MY CHILDHOOD … I BELIEVE THAT MY INSPIRATION COMES FROM. I WAS BORN IN 1994 I GREW UP WITH THE ARRIVAL OF PLAY STATION ONE, I PLAYED TONY HAWK PRO SKATER 2, MX VS ATV … THE POGS, I DON’T KNOW IF YOU REMEMBER THESE PUCK

YES, I REALLY LIKE THOSE TWO UNIVERSES. SINCE CHILDHOOD I’VE ALWAYS BEEN REALLY NOSTALGIC OF THAT TIME. I WAS BORN IN 1994 AND I GREW UP WITH THE ARRIVAL OF THE FIRST PLAY STATION ON WHICH I PLAYED TONY HAWK PRO SKATER 2 ANDMX VS ATV. I ALSO GREW UP PLAYING WITH POGS AND YU-GI-OH CARDS IF WE WERE NOT OUTSIDE DOING BIKE RACES UNTILL ME OR ONE OF MY FRIENDS GOT HURT HAHA! I THINK MY INSPIRATION COMES FROM THAT NOSTALGIA.

I ALSO GET A LOT OF INSPIRATION OF OLD MOTOCROSS MAGAZINES, 80’S AND 90’S ADS, FLASHY COLORS, SHAPES, STYLES ETC. I HAVE THE IMPRESSION THAT AT THAT TIME WE DARED TO BE FEARLESS.

I WANT ALL OF THIS TO BE REPRESENTED IN MY WORK BY COMBINING THIS WITH A LITTLE TOUCH OF TECHNO / RAVE CULTURE. I BELIEVE THAT I AM SIMPLY A CHILD THAT DOES NOT WANT TO GROW UP.

Interview with Tom Arena

"I believe that I am simply a child that does not want to grow up."

What made you share your lettering techniques? Aren’t you afraid of people copying you this way?

I’ll admit that I don’t remember why I started to do it, I just want to give back to others. When I started I was happy that I was given advice. Inspiring others is one of the most beautiful gifts anyone can give you. A lot of people also really like it because it shows you what’s behind the scenes. I received lot’s of messages of people thanking me. I’ve seen my letters appear on other peoples projects, which made me afraid to show my process. However: people can copy my letters but not my brain, so I’ll always have a head start on hem haha!

As a designer who shares work at the rate that you do, do you ever experience a creative block or other creativity re- lated problems? If so, how do you deal with those kinds of pro- blems?

Yes, I’ve encountered this “art block” before. I’ve had cases where I’ve had little inspiration or even too much inspiration. With Instagram being a source of inspo everything goes too fast. There’s thousands of us doing this job. I have people around me who suffer from depression because all of this, myself almost included. I almost quit doing this several times.

I was lucky to have people around me who told me not to drop everything. I’ll give you a tip: if this happens to you, shut down the computer for a few weeks and do something else. To escape this I have several other passions. One of them is to take a ride on my motorcycle. Another passion of mine is owning a vegetable garden. But going out with friends is also very important. You have to get away from work and we have the right to rest for a while.

Do you have any exciting projects in the near future you can share with us?

yeah I can’t wait to do all this this year, a site, merchandising, clothings, new colabs, lot of post, videos etc

I’ll say that this year I have several things coming up such as a site, merchandising, clothing and a lot of new posts.