Gala Tomasso – Illustrator

How did you start your career as an illustrator?

When I was in high school my art teacher told me I could work in animation, etc. and I was disgusted because the rather arrogant idea of my practice was to be THE ARTIST. After a period of study in my young adult life I realised that I wanted to draw (not paint!) and through ‘practice, practice, practice’ (and the internet) I gained confidence and people started to ask me to work for them. Study was crucial.


Can you take us through a day in the life of Gala Tomasso?

At the moment I am managing and rebranding a restaurant in Barna so the day starts with emails, then dog walks, some drawing and then off to work. I love working nights because I can be productive during the day too. I work in bursts so depending on my workload I could wake in the night and get to work (i.e drawing).


Do you have any exciting projects in the pipeline?

I am excited about the new restaurant and the meshing of creative ideas, menu formats, signage, product promotion, and will be heavily creatively involved in that business for now. I’m also developing a vegan store/food concept which could well be my next big project/focus.

I’m hoping (once this period of intense business passes) to produce and illustrate an alternative cook book. I’ve started but in true Gala style some projects develop over years and some happen in minutes.


How important is it for you to live and work in the west of Ireland at the moment?

I only really draw things I like or love and that is largely due to my love of this part of the country. Creatively the culture is enthusiastic and quite giving. The encouragement is palatable and people really find joy in recognising an artist’s work. I’m an outsider though which helps/hinders. It helps because I maybe see things here in an idealistic way as I grew up in a housing estate with a world of social problems unlike here and it hinders as perhaps being Irish gives you more opportunities… I’m not sure.


Do you feel it is importance to boost awareness for the arts outside of the capital city?

Yes, the opportunities seem to be in Dublin but for many creatives, Dublin isn’t the place to find a balance, which means they and Dublin miss out. I feel inspired with every visit to Dublin but I also feel locked out of a clique… being an introvert this might be in my head and I do hope to produce more Dublin/country wide work in the future.


What Irish based artist or creative do you think people should know about?

I’m crap like that but I really want to own one of Elizabeth Flanagan’s Ceramic Dolls, and I keep an eye on my sister in her studio spaces in Tuam (Studio 9). I’d also love to own a Daire Lynch painting but haven’t got anywhere to put it. I’m more inclined to adore a well-designed menu rather than a master piece in a frame.


How would you like to see Galway evolve, from a creative perspective?

I worry we won’t be able to afford to live and work here and then artists become isolated. I know I’d be producing for the band had I not a desire to live on a wage rather than in poverty. Space is a pain… I have been searching for years for a space!


What do you hope members of the audience will take away from your talk at Above the Fold?

I was told by another art teacher in high school that I “didn’t have to become an artist straight away” and as we live in a society where we play so many roles it is important to hold on to the dream or the bigger picture and to persevere but it’s also no reason to feel bad if it takes a while. People don’t always get you but eventually they do.


What advice would you give to someone starting off in this industry?

Draw every day, share your art far and wide and don’t pay heed to what’s ‘cool’ because it changes. Take on projects and bite sized pieces of productivity to challenge yourself and find ways to incorporate your practice into your everyday if your practice isn’t your ‘every day’ kinda day.


If we are sitting here a year from now celebrating what a good year it’s been for you, what did you achieve?

I found that space.