A: Tell us a bit about Thomas Gittins. If you have to describe yourself, what words would you choose?
TG: A fanatic, like I am all over the place, but with a lot of passion for what I'm doing, do you know what I mean? It doesn't matter how varied the spectrum goes, just whatever I can latch on to is what I'm passionate about.
So if I take inspiration from one thing, or if I do another thing, that's all just about passion. Fanatic and passionate, that's how I describe myself. How would you describe yourself in what you do?
A: It’s hard, slightly political. Everything I do is trying to change something or change a narrative or make the world a better place, that's something I always want to do. At university, it was questioning what a fashion photo is and trying to change that. It's always an element of being radical. If you get me? An element of daring to do what somebody else hasn't done. I think if what I do isn't changing anything, I'll lose passion for it. I don't feel purpose or passion in things that are already being done or that look good. It's got to have an impact.
TG: Yeah, it is cool that.
A: I think I'm chasing impact. I want to leave the world a better place, that's something I’m chasing. The next question is about Manchester and the creative arts scene. You are from Macclesfield, the outskirts, it borders Greater Manchester and is still a part of the same family. In terms of you integrating into the Manchester scene, how has that been for you?
TG: It's been good. If you integrate yourself in the right circles, you can cross their boundaries quickly, you can get yourself in the right networks, and they can push you across. There's a lot of people to collaborate with here, it's very quick.
A: It's a spider web in that sense.
TG: It is a spider web. You could be on that north side
of the spider web that's got the fly on it and then come down to the south side which has got the cricket on it but you can also still be working between both, taking nourishment from both sides of the web.
A: I think of Manchester as an interconnected web of creatives now, which people often call a ‘creative circle,’ but it's more like a spider web. I think I'm on a mission to build the web bigger.
TG: Yeah, say it has got 4 webs now we’re making 16.
A: Because some people feel that the web (the scene) is very small, so they have to be the only spider on that web (so they can eat). Whereas now I realise that if you build the web bigger, it will catch more food. If you build the scene bigger then more than one person or entity can exist because there's enough food to feed both. Spiders do tend to dominate a single web, so it's letting people know that this web is big enough for multiple spiders to live on (community).
TG: There's enough food flying in for everyone to get fed. I feel that.
A: So in terms of inspiration and when you create a project, when you're creating an art piece, in those moments when you decide to create, what inspires you?
TG: Everything I create is from a vision I've had. I'll be walking and I can't see anything, and the only thing I can see is the vision of seeing how to create my art. That is how I make a piece. Every face I see, and every face I draw, every bit I've seen, is like being as physical or as vivid as this image in front of me (reality). I just have to get there (the canvas) quick enough to portray it as close to the vision.
A: Before the memory fades.
TG: It’s literally like that. There's me and then there's where my creativity lies and my creativity lies in a different place, and I just have to catch that at the right point.
A: Would you say that is your subconscious?
TG: That's why every face feels like they have a character even though they're all just figments of my imagination. My head is like a bucket that's catching a leak, and I have to empty that bucket every so often or else, it's going to overflow. That leak is always dripping and I've got to empty that leak onto different designs, different things, that's why I do so many collaborations. The leak is always dripping but I have to spread that bucket into different cups or else the bucket is going to overflow.
A: Would you say that then leads to mental health in any way? I have noticed that it is something about your work that is similar to mine, in a sense.
TG: Yeah, definitely. If I'm feeling a certain way, my art is my escape. My art name is 'Portraits' because I'm letting out portraits. Whether they are actual physical portraits or just mental portraits, people can attach feelings, like anxiety or feeling down. It just all correlates into a feeling and that is what I portray.
A: I’d say my art became that after losing my nana in 2015. If you notice, especially my poetry, connecting it to experiences that you're going for and it helps. Like you were saying about it being a release. You talk about creating in your mind, if you don't release it, it builds up inside, so my art is a release. I think that's what my art has embodied for the longest period, especially in my personal projects.
TG: I made my demons (Tom's artwork) personify that, if I made my demon into a toy, it has got no power over me. Because like how can something as physical as a toy have any power over me? It can't.
A: You've attached a spiritual world to a physical world.
TG: Yeah and now it's in the physical and it has no power. I know you have your fingers in a lot of pies, but what is your favourite? What is your main pursuit that you'd want to take, or is it everything?
A: I feel creativity is what I care about. To take something from an idea, that is nothing, and turn it into its own world, think of the Big Bang. To go from a singular point into something incredible. Creating has always been the thing that I care about, the medium I create in, I have cared about less. If I want to send a message through my art and I know you are an artist, I am going to communicate a message to you in a painting because I know that’s what you will understand. I see it as a form of communication. I just communicate myself in multiple forms. I identify as a photographer more than anything else, I went to university to study fashion photography, I have a degree in it and I have also taught it at a university level.
TG: With photography, you are there to capture moments, but with your events, you are supplying the moment you are capturing, cooking the dinner, and eating it.
A: With photography especially, it is being able to sandwich a moment and freeze it in time (that I find the most interesting). When you are a child, you go to bed, get told a bedtime story, and you can escape into this other world. I want to create something that people can look at and escape from their reality into my reality to understand the depth of what I am creating.