Thomas Pavitte


Written by Tshepo Mokoena
Photos and illustrations by Thomas Pavitte
31 Monday 31st October 2011

Remember how awesome connect-the-dots used to be? Or was that just me? Well clearly artist and graphic designer Thomas Pavitte must've had a soft spot for the labour-intensive but oh-so-rewarding line drawings because he devoted an entire working day to finishing one. Yeah, it was also one with over 6,000 dots to connect, so I'm sure you can understand. We chat to the creative man about what drives him to set his own work alight, how addictive Blu Tack can be and why some dot-to-dots can get boring as hell.

Main image: Michael Jackson transformation dot-to-dot in its early stages

Yes You Can Obama from Thomas Pavitte.

We’ve seen graphic design is your day job, and the art your passion. How long have you been working on your craft as an artist?

I really enjoyed the creative freedom I had when I was studying graphic design at university. At the time I didn't fully appreciate how much fun it was to work on a single project for weeks on end with no clients, no style guides to follow and my imagination as my only restriction. That all changed 5 years ago when I got my first professional job as a graphic designer. To get my creative fix, I realised that I would have to set projects for myself in my spare time to work on. I've been experimenting with various mediums ever since then.

Tribute to Alan Holloway, the inventor of Blu Tack

From where do you tend to draw your inspirations, for example for your laser-cut fruit bowl and typography invention tributes?

I remember going to a conference where I heard the designer Marion Bantjes talk about her work. She showed a beautiful laser cut poster that she had designed. After seeing it I knew that I would have to try laser cutting for myself one day. A few years later I was experimenting with some abstract 3D shapes and thought it would be a great project to turn them into a physical form.

The typography invention tributes are simply an excuse for me to make something. I remember playing with a big wad of blu tack at work and finding it quite addictive. I was always fiddling with it making little sculptures out of it. So I had the idea of making a large scale typographic sculpture with it. I liked the result, so hopefully I'll be able to do some more tribute pieces for other inventors and make it into a series.

Pavitte nearing the end of the massive Mona Lisa dot-to-dot experience/ordeal

How would you best describe the experience of not only designing but also completing the Mona Lisa dot-to-dot?

It was one of the most time-consuming and boring things I have ever done. I just so happened to be unemployed at the time, so I needed something to help fill the day with. There was an awful amount of manual labour involved in designing it. Placing all the dots one by one and numbering them took about a week. Completing it was also a very draining experience. I don't know what I was thinking, but I wanted to complete it all in one go. It took me 9 hours to connect the last dot – much longer than I had anticipated.

And are you now officially the creator of the most complex dot-to-dot? How does that accomplishment feel?

I did send out a tongue-in-cheek submission to the Guinness Book of World Records who turned it down. I would have loved to have made it into the book, but it wasn't to be. I'm happy to claim the unofficial world record instead. It's all just a bit of fun and it's great to hear from people who appreciate it.

10,000 Matchsticks: Tribute to John Walker, before Pavitte set it alight

What do you think is the purpose of art like yours, which both playfully references pop culture and elements of childhood?

My main reason for doing it, is for my own self-fulfillment. I love to experiment and to challenge myself. For a while now, I've been really interested in seeing what I can create by limiting myself to very basic – sometimes childhood techniques. A lot of my pieces look much more complex than they actually are.

Which other artists and/or creatives do you look up to at the moment?

Marion Bantjes whom I mentioned earlier and Stephan Sagmeister are two that come to mind. They both have created beautiful typographic pieces that I love. I admire the time and skill that Marion puts into her intricate pieces. Stephan has made some great sculptural typographic pieces that I also admire.

The completed Michael Jackson dot-to-dot, with both young & old MJ embedded in the lines

What’s next for you, project-wise? How do you keep things fresh?

At the moment I'm doing a few more dot-to-dot pieces – much, much less complex this time. I've recently opened an online store to sell some prints of my work. That's been a great experience so far. Hopefully I'll get some time to do another typographic tribute piece to another inventor. I'm interested in video at the moment. Maybe I'll have a go at some video projects soon. Who knows...

Check out Thomas' latest work on his site, and his Behance profile.

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