Creating During Covid: Tom Whalen and a Newfound Appreciation for Being an Artist

Wolverine art by Tom Whalen
Wolverine art by Tom Whalen
Image: Tom Whalen
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The novel coronavirus pandemic’s effects have already been felt far and wide, in comic book publishing and sales, the gaming industry, Hollywood, and beyond. But it’s also, of course, affecting people on an individual level. To that end, io9 decided to talk to some folks about what the covid-19 pandemic has done to them, their art, and the industry.

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Today’s Creating During Covid is an interview with artist Tom Whalen, a Pennsylvania based artist who regularly does work for Mondo, Gallery 1988, and Bottleneck Gallery. His bright, bold style has also made him a favorite in the toy game where he’s been known to do a Power Rangers package or two. Recently, he teamed up with artist Dave Perillo to do a gallery show called BFFs, which you can see here.

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You can find more of his work here on this page and on his website. Our interview, conducted over email, is below.


Voltron poster by Tom Whalen
Voltron poster by Tom Whalen
Image: Tom Whalen

Germain Lussier, io9: How has the pandemic impacted your industry?

Tom Whalen: In a broad sense, I feel that fellow poster artists who rely more heavily on gig poster and movie studio work have been hit the hardest. I have designed a few new screenprints during the pandemic, but the bulk of my recent work has been corporate jobs. Some of the larger companies that I work for have continued with their creative plans that were in motion before everything went down. Poster-wise, things seem to be heating up a bit as print shops get back on their feet.

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io9: Has it changed your approach to your art at all?

Whalen: I don’t think my approach has changed in any conscious way, but I can say that I am even more appreciative of the work that comes my way.

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Spider-Verse poster by Tom Whalen
Spider-Verse poster by Tom Whalen
Image: Tom Whalen

io9: With so much serious in the world, I know my job feels a little superfluous. As an artist, how do you feel about what your job means now?

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Whalen: Yeah, I definitely have had those thoughts and feelings. They hit me pretty hard in March when everything seemed so chaotic. But then I kept seeing folks responding to new work with enthusiasm and I realized that I am probably providing a distraction from real-world events. And I know how much I need those distractions right now.

io9: How has pop culture helped you in this time and have you seen it help others, maybe through your art?

Whalen: I’ve definitely been a YouTube junkie through all of this. The real world is providing more than enough drama and I find the bite-sized nature of YouTube content has kept me distracted enough to relax and create.

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io9: Have you found any challenges getting materials you need due to the situation?

Whalen: When Pennsylvania was about to issue the lockdown, I placed orders for large quantities of shipping supplies. Luckily for me, shipping is considered an essential industry here. Because of that, I’ve been able to maintain a steady supply chain in order to continue operating the mail order portion of my business.

Wizard of Oz poster by Tom Whalen
Wizard of Oz poster by Tom Whalen
Image: Tom Whalen
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io9: Are fans buying more, less, the same? Why?

Whalen: I’d have to say that fans are buying a bit more than pre-pandemic. Both the posters and originals that I’ve released during the pandemic have gone surprisingly well. And for that, I’m super thankful.

io9: When the dust settles on the pandemic, how do you see all this changing your art, your industry, etc.?

Whalen: Artists in the poster community have always been incredibly self-driven and innovative. I think that approach is immeasurably valuable right now and I wouldn’t be surprised to see that continue to flourish as we navigate these insane times.


Thanks to Tom Whalen for taking some time out to answer our questions. Again, see more of his work here. And read more Creating During Covid at this link.

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For more, make sure you’re following us on our Instagram @io9dotcom.

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Entertainment Reporter for io9/Gizmodo

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DISCUSSION

Tom is amazing, and one of my favorite pieces of art I used to pitch my own projects is a movie poster he created for me.