The Northwest’s answer to Tom Finland; gay sketch artist, Craig Lomax talks about how his art helped him cope with bullying, ease his stammering and come to appreciate the male form.
We had arranged to meet in a coffee shop in Liverpool City centre for the interview. When I arrive Craig is already sat, as if he has been briefed to do so; nestled in a corner with his pen and pad. He is adding the finishing touches to a sketch of Grace Jones and, seeing his work in real life; I have an instant increase in my respect for his talent.
We order our drinks and Craig casually mentions that after this interview he’s off to post his latest orders; an original sketch and several prints on t-shirts. He shuffles in his seat, nervously admitting he is more comfortable to have others be the focus of attention than himself, and jokes that they normally have a lot more on show!
He explains how he has always loved art and sketching. As a child he was diagnosed as dyslexic and in addition has a stammer. “Maths and stuff just didn’t do it for me” he shrugs, “It wasn’t that I didn’t like school stuff; I just didn’t get it.” Bullied for most of his school career, Craig admits that he would retreat to any piece of paper available and withdraw into a world of scribbles and drawings to find peace.
“The male body is just beautiful and trying to put that on paper is such a challenge.”
“When I got to college, a few teachers had noticed I was quite good. I did a GNVQ in Art and did all sorts of different things; painting, sculpture and that. But it was sketching I loved and particularly ‘life drawing’. I’d love it when a person would sit there and I could spend ages looking at their eyes or face and just try and capture how they looked and felt. I didn’t have many friends so I had lots of spare time. I just kept drawing and trying to get better.”
Craig admits that although he wasn’t “out” at this time, his appreciation for men’s bodies was certainly already there; “I just loved drawing men’s bodies – and still do!” he adds with a grin, “The male body is just beautiful and trying to put that on paper is such a challenge.”
Most of his sketches feature topless or naked men with excellent physiques. “What about Grace Jones?” I ask (knowing that Craig has drawn several female celebrities in his time), “Oh that’s easy” he says rolling his eyes “She’s hot! Apart from that, she’s an absolute gay icon; she’s powerful and masculine with all the feminine mixed in. I loved trying to capture her androgyny.”
“Having a partner who believes in you means the world.”
I look at his sketch, which is now to the side of us. The detail is incredible. Asking how long they normally take, he replies that generally he will spend 4-5 hours on a piece – not including fag and coffee breaks! As he continues to talk, at times he pauses and closes his eyes, his stammer causing the break. He grins again, “You know, sometimes my stammer is really bad, and I have the worst ‘off days’, but when it is like that, I just put music on and get my sketch pad. Next thing a few hours have passed and I’ve kinda forgot I have the stammer ‘cause I’m just in the zone and it really chills me out.”
I ask about his boyfriend, and the several sketches of him on Instagram. He fights a private smile until it takes over his face. “Yeah Anthony is gorgeous” he beams “He’s my favourite person to draw… well, after Tom Hardy! Anthony has been so supportive of me and my sketches and recently encouraged me to go part-time in my day job, so I could focus more on my drawing. Having a partner who believes in you means the world.”
Discussing his plans for the future he suddenly takes on a more relaxed composure. “For now, I just love sketching. It’s what I love to do, so I’ll be doing it whether people buy my stuff or not. The next step is just to keep drawing and see how things progress. I suppose I’ll just have keep finding hot men to draw!”
To see Craig’s incredible sketches and samples of his t-shirts, be sure to check out his Instagram profile: @craiglomaxart