Melbournians will no doubt recognise Tom Gerrard’s iconic characters, who can be spotted throughout the city’s streets and, more recently, gallery walls. We sat down with the globally recognised painter to find out more about his practice, inspirations, and philosophy around collecting art. 

Tom Gerrard Leonard Joel Auctions
Tom Gerrard, Bedroom
Photo by Sean McDonald

Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your practice? 

I’m a Melbourne born painter who discovered art through painting street art and graffiti in the mid-90s. I also worked as a graphic designer for 13 years before going full time with my art. This had an impact on how I work with colour and composition. In the studio, I approach my art in a similar manner to how I would paint on the street but also with a designer’s eye. I lay down a lot of solid blocks of colour and finish it off with black paint through an airbrush. 

How did you discover Leonard Joel? 

In 2012 I was living in London and working as a graphic designer laying out catalogues at Christie’s auction house. This was my art education as I would study the artists I would see in the catalogues. The secondary marketplace was somewhere I always wanted to see my work. I contributed a piece to Leonard Joel’s Bushfire Relief Auction in February 2020 through SANDREW and since then, paintings of mine have popped up regularly at auction.   

Tom Gerrard Leonard Joel Auctions
Tom Gerrard, Potplants
Photo by Sean McDonald

We’ve seen street art on the secondary market grow hugely in popularity and value recently, what about this category do you think resonates with contemporary collectors so strongly? 

Many street artists have never had formal art training. Most art teachers teach the fundamentals of art. In general, street art is missing many of these fundamentals and I believe that this is what makes it stand out and why so many people are drawn to it. It’s a refreshing art movement and is so new that it is only appearing on the secondary market over the last decade.  

You’ve travelled extensively around the world – how have your experiences abroad inspired you and your work? 

Tom Gerrard Leonard Joel Auctions
Tom Gerrard, Records
Photo by Sean McDonald

My work is heavily inspired by my travels. A decade ago, I spent two years travelling around Latin America. I painted over 100 murals in this time using only two or three colours since I was always on the move and didn’t want to carry too much paint. To paint each of these murals I would set off solo, with my paint and the hope of finding somewhere to use it. Each day would be an adventure. I met a lot of beautiful people, and I had some close calls with others. The minimal colour palette changed my art and what I was seeing daily was creeping its way into what I was painting. I also painted 36 murals in India over a 4-month trip. I call painting in this manner ‘adventure painting’. It’s hard to capture the same spirit while in the studio. I’m looking forward to doing more of this in the future.

What is an artwork in your collection that you would never sell? 

I have a sketchbook from the early 2000s that I used while I was in the USA and UK. I had a lot of my friends and heroes do pages in there for me. It’s a time capsule of a great era of graffiti and street art and features work by Banksy, D Face, Barry McGee, Amaze, Seen, Blade and many others. It’s a prized possession and I’ll never part with it.  

Do you have any advice for those just beginning their art collections?

Find something you truly like and you want to live with. Who knows what it’ll be worth in the future?

Banner Image: Tom Gerrard in his Melbourne studio. Photo by Sean McDonald

September 2021