Joining the dots

Thomas Owen’s artworks layer intricate detail and tiny spots alongside vibrant colours. Saba Salman hears from him and support worker Suzana Stoyanova

Artwork of colourful jumpers

“My circles in my drawings are round like the biscuits I have with my tea, like a wheel,” says artist Thomas Owen.

Owen, a Londoner whose artistic passion is encouraged by his support provider Certitude, explains: “I always start my drawings with a wheel. Then I draw something that inspires me, like soldiers or jumpers, and then it changes into something else as I do more.” Often, he does not know what a drawing will become.

This careful, intricate process is described by London charity ActionSpace, where he is a resident artist, as “complexly layered images that explore what is happening around him”.

According to ActionSpace, his creative skill includes great attention to detail and perspective, using different angles as he “patchworks together vibrant blocks combining abstracted and figurative forms”.

Look closely at the artist’s work and you can see how he hones in on details that others might overlook, then uses that minute element as an anchor to build or recreate a scene.

Owen, who lives in supported living, says he enjoys drawing because “it is different”: “When I finish a drawing, I feel tremendous.”

He says he has been drawing “for as long as I can remember”. “I often draw jumpers, lots of different types and colours. They’re like soldiers on a parade,” he says. “I like to draw different things I like too, like Bob Dylan or food. I also love drinking tea, but drawing is special to me.

“The people who support me understand my art is important to me. Wherever I walk, I always have my notepad and pen. It helps me communicate through my drawing.”

Owen’s support worker at Certitude is Suzana Stoyanova. A cluster manager (who manages several services), she accompanies Thomas to his nearby studio, ensuring he has his favourite art materials with him.

Stoyanova, who began supporting Owen almost two years ago, helps him on “pen day” – when he goes out to buy his pens for his art – and enables him to attend other artists’ exhibitions.

He says: “Suzana and the team support me with all parts of my day-to-day living. It is important to have good support to let me live the life I want to live.”

Stoyanova enjoys that Owen is “an amazing artist” and admires his energy and positivity: “I enjoy supporting Tom because he’s curious, and I always find our conversations very special and intriguing. It energises and inspires me to think that we all carry a gift unique to us and can inspire others.”

Stoyanova started as a support worker 10 years ago and has been a manager for five years.

“I love supporting people to live their lives, doing the things that make them happy,” she says. “And it makes me feel joyous that I contribute to making a difference to someone’s life.”

Good support involves care, love, patience, perseverance and “going the extra mile to support someone’s quality of life,” she says.

Among her favourite works by Owen is one of his many jumpers pieces, which she admires for their colours and patterns.

“I am fascinated by his patience since he uses dots mainly in producing a final piece. He looks at his surroundings, places and patterns and then combines abstract and figurative forms. In the end, it becomes a very structured piece.”

Owen, who was supported by Stoyanova to share this thoughts with Community Living, often draws as he speaks as he says it helps him talk about what inspires him.

Does he have a quick tip for anyone who wants to be creative but is too nervous? “Use a black pen – and start with 1,000 dots.”

Thomas Owen with Suzana Stoyanova
Thomas Owen with Suzana Stoyanova. Photo: Certitude