Tom Slaughter

Posted in Visual Arts on Dec 18, 2009

Artist, designer

Look at this – he can make culturally significant art faster than I can lace up my boots….

I’ve known about Tom Slaughter for some time because Eats lives in our bookshelves and is one of our favorites over here.  You know how you cringe when your child picks out certain books that you are so over?  Never the case with Eats — this book is like a party for your eyes.  Tom’s books are not your typical kid books, they are beautiful pop art.   eats

But kids’ books are just one piece of his incredible talent.  His overall body of work includes prints and posters, watercolors and three-dimensional pieces.  His pieces can be found in the Whitney Museum and the Museum of Modern Art.

A hallmark of pop art is that it takes a singular common object and brings it out of its context.  By isolating and manipulating it, the artist brings a whole new light to that object.  As you saw in the video above, sunglasses have never looked more interesting; below you’ll see what he does to hats, flip flops and water towers…you’ll never look at them the same!  Visit his website to see more after you visit with him below.

There’s nothing of Tom’s that I wouldn’t put on my art wall…and soon we’ll all have a chance to hang a Slaughter in our homes when his line of wallpaper comes out (see the q&a.)

tom slaughter

tom slaughter

Until then, you have a chance to win some of Tom’s work for your bookshelves.
WIN IT: Three of you will win a package of four of Tom’s children’s book titles:  Same Same, Eats, Over Under and 1 2 3. Winners will be chosen at random and notified by 12/28. To enter and win the four books, do the following during the week that Tom Slaughter’s interview is up:

Forward the e-newsletter to a friend who might be interested in Mom Culture (be sure to use the “forward” within the email on the bottom left.)
Leave a comment on this post about which of Tom’s work moves you most

Don’t miss the pics of the studio after the Proust Questionnaire (I LOVE Tom’s favorite mantra!)


While your range of art includes watercolors and sketches, much of it is graphic and often very colorful. Can you describe the medium and technique used to create these bold, graphic pieces?

work in progress

work in progress

I use primary colors, mostly because I never did take a painting class.  The Colors (primaries) worked well enough for Calder and Lichtenstein. I paint, draw, cut paper, use a computer and even an i-phone — its all the same hand.

I both paint on and cut paper.  Sometimes I just paint.  The paper cutting evolved out of the children’s books.

How did you get involved with creating those famous YES WE CAN posters for the Obama campaign?

I grew up in the 60s and its been that long since there was an election to get excited about. I remember Warhol’s McGovern poster and not many others.  Obama inspired hundreds of artist to make work posters, music and to volunteer.  I hope he leads the country with the same inspiration.

durham press making limited edition YES WE CAN posters

durham press making limited edition YES WE CAN posters


New York appears in a lot of your work — is it safe to say that New York is your muse? What else informs or inspires your art?

New York New York — they don’t write songs about Toronto.  I was born on 77th st. and always came back whenever I left for a while.  I love the country, the Cape Cod of Edward Hopper, John Marin’s painting of the Maine coast, Ed Rusha’s LA.  But NYC is in my DNA.


Certain icons, such water towers and birds, seem to show up often. Can you talk about some of your icons and what they mean to you?

Icons…. these are my alphabet.  I draw them over and over until they are part of my language. Sun glasses , bikes, hats, boats, buildings , they are all just part of an excuse to make images.



Some of your pieces combine vibrant color with pop graphics and repetition — is it safe to say that Warhol is an influence for you?  Who else influences you?

Warhol, of course.  I have worked with Jean Paul Russel at Durham Press for 20 years.  Hetomhatblocks was just a kid out of high school when he started printing for Andy Warhol.  Warhol is everything and changed all the rules for those who followed.  At the moment, I am designing Wallpaper — what could be more Warholian.

I love that you’re doing wallpaper — where is it sold?

The wallpaper will be available soon through Cavern Home.

How did you decide to do children’s books?

At the time, I was married to the brilliant children’s author Marthe Jocelyn. I had the inside connection and we have collaborated on 8 books.  I love them.  They use only only primary colors which gives the books their POP!  The new one coming in March 2010 is called Which Way.  (see Tom’s books at his website or at his publisher Tundra Books.)




Were you an artist as a child…and, if so, who helped cultivate this gift?

I had a great teacher in high school, we drew from life every day.  He introduced me to the drawings of Picasso, Matisse, Rodin. I met Keith Haring in the early 80s in NYC and he, too, was a great influence.




How do encourage your own kids’ creativity?

I have 2 daughters, both in University now.  They grew up in New York (in Soho) with two artist parents so they have no other role model than creativity.  My younger daughter, Nell, is in art school and is way more talented than I was.  I believe it’s also  really just a matter of how hard you want it.

Proust Questionnaire for Tom Slaughter:

My favorite snack is:  dark chocolate (apples in season)
Don’t ask me to:  sing
I would put into a time capsule my:  New York Times
My favorite place is:  a secret
When I have a creative block I:  draw pictures (or go to a matinee)
My favorite mantra is:  be the first to do the right thing






  • 6 responses to "Tom Slaughter"

  • Lenore
    28th December 2009 at 18:58

    hi sarah -
    you won the tom slaughter books! you’ll love them. please forward me your address — send it to congrats!

  • Laura J
    22nd December 2009 at 21:00

    I like the “Yes We Can,” because it is not just about one person, but about all of us… the home can be anyone’s home and we all have a stake in making the hope a reality, especially right now… While Obama sparked the enthusiasm, we see how quickly public opinion can turn on an individual. It’s important that we’re all part of making hope a reality.

  • Julie Swenson
    18th December 2009 at 16:23

    NY, NY, it’s in my DNA too. The pieces of NY move me the most. I think because I had such a good time at NYU. Whenever soemone mentions NY I am immediately brought back to my crazy years in the East Village.

  • Lenore
    18th December 2009 at 12:12

    @Kate Reigel
    there are images on all sides of the hat boxes, kate — and thanks for your great comments…that’s exactly the intention of Mom Culture…keep letting the art inspire and return you to your day renewed!

  • Kate Reigel
    18th December 2009 at 10:30

    Hi there,
    I adore the hat boxes. Something about their multi-dimensionality in combination with the simplicity of the primary colors and the repetition of the hat image. I want to play with it. I want to know, is there an image of the hat on the every side of every box, even on the bottom?

    The artist ought to collaborate with 3M and turn these into Post-It notes, where the image of the hats slowly disappears as the notes are used up. I would buy 100 :-)

    I really like that the work has made me think this morning about the term, “hat box.” When I saw the art, I thought, “Why are all of my hat boxes round? And how come they call them a hat box, anyway?” I get excited when art can inspire such musings, a ponderous moment stolen from the busy logistics of a day with young children.

    Thank you to Lenore and to the artist for sharing his art and insights with our group.


  • Sarah
    18th December 2009 at 9:24

    Pick one? Couldn’t. I would choose ‘Coney Island’ and ‘Black Dress’ as my top two:)