June. 16. 2023|Culture

Meet Toronto-based designer and illustrator, Tim Singleton

Tim's bright, vivid illustrations blend pop references, queer culture, and nostalgia with bold visuals and a rainbow of colours guaranteed to lift spirits.

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This year, Freehouse Collective has partnered with Absolut Vodka and Tim Singleton for Pride celebrations built around the simple idea of “Free to Be '' that will raise funds for Rainbow Railroad, an international not-for-profit that helps at-risk LGTBQIA2S+ people around the world find safety and freedom.

Q: Can you tell us about your journey as an illustrator + designer? How did you get started and what inspired your particular style?

A: I’ve been artistic since I was a toddler, but I got really into computers in middle school and after seeing my brother go to school graphic design, seeing a combo of tech and art really got me excited.

I studied graphic design at OCAD, and then after working for a few years, I studied interactive media at George Brown College. While working at an agency, I found myself missing making art, and began focusing on illustration again, as a means of self-expression and to keep myself motivated, which I began sharing online.

Q: Are there any artists, designers, or movements that have inspired your creative process?

A: Queer artists of the late 20th century, like Warhol, Basquiat, and Haring are all major influences have had an indelible effect on my work and process. Contemporary artists like Mickalene Thomas, Steven Harrington, and Bráulio Amado are also huge inspirations.

Q: As an illustrator and designer, how do you balance artistic expression with meeting client expectations? How do you handle feedback and revisions?

A: When I’m working with a client, I always remind myself that the project we’re working on is as near and dear to them as it is to me so their opinions are valid and should be heard. We have the same goal, which is that we want the end product to look amazing, so it’s about finding a path to get to that.

If there’s ever feedback that I actively disagree with, I find giving alternate suggestions and ideas, with rationale, goes a long way as opposed to just saying no. "No" will end any conversation, but posing questions and generating ideas, keeps the conversation going and often leads to better, unexpected results.

Q: What do you love most about being an illustrator + designer and what keeps you motivated?

A: I get to make stuff (almost) every day and that’s super energizing.

There’s a beautiful tangibility to starting with nothing and ending up with something, and that constant urge to make is motivation for me.

Q: What gets you in the groove when you’re designing?

A: Good music and a burning candle. Candles flickering calms me down in a way most other things can’t, which gets me into a state of flow.

Q: What's your favourite thing to listen to?

A: Beyoncé. Renaissance has been on loop since last summer and keeps me motivated, especially during tight deadlines.

Q: Is there a specific project that you’re especially proud of?

A: That would have to be my mural installation at the corner of Church and Wellesley in Toronto, “It Takes A Village”. I got the opportunity to work with the Village BIA, and wrap an older corner store in inspirational and colourful typographic messages.

Q: How important do you think social media and online platforms are for illustrators and designers today? How do you leverage these platforms to showcase your work and connect with your audience?

A: Social media is a blessing and a curse. It can get your work out in front of a huge audience, or it can throw your work into an endless void of “content”. It’s a great way to connect with others and showcase the work you want to do, and that’s what I try to focus on. 

Q: If you could give one piece of advice as a mentor, what would it be?

A: Rest is best.

Overworking and “hustling” night and day isn’t a flex and we all deserve rest, relaxation, and restoration (for both our bodies and minds).

Q: If you could collaborate with a brand/artist/musician who would they be and what would be the dream project?

A: Beyoncé or the Rolling Stones. Both are icons, legends, and superstars. The dream project would be whatever they want me to do, that’s how badly I want to collaborate with them. I’d do their dishes, make them a t-shirt, or design an album cover, and anything else they’d ask.

Q: If you’re not in front of a computer, what do you like doing and where are you hanging out? 

A: I’m outside, as far from a screen as possible. I start every day with a long walk (usually an hour or two). I’m often doing my best thinking and brainstorming during that time, while also relaxing and getting out any anxiety or restlessness I might have.

Q: 5 things you can’t live without?

1. My boyfriend
2. Coke Zero
3. A constant stream of music
4. A cute pair of comfy sneakers (I go for a long walk every morning, rain or shine)
5. My sketchbook

Q: What’s your favourite restaurant and your go-to dish? 

A: Capocaccia. It’s an Italian restaurant in midtown Toronto and they make my absolute favourite pizza, the Danté. It’s a white pizza, with prosciutto, pears, gorgonzola, walnuts, and honey and it’s BEYOND.

Q: Most amazing place you’ve traveled to, where are you going next and why?  

A: Death Valley in California. Seeing pastel-coloured mountains (the Artists Palette) as you wind through the desert is a breathtaking experience. Next up, I’d love to get back to Europe, specifically back to Portugal to spend some more time road-tripping through it.

Q: How do you like to celebrate Pride and what is your favourite thing about Pride?

A: I like to celebrate Pride by being amongst my chosen family, including my boyfriend, friends I see every week, and friends I only get the chance to see when they come into town for Pride. It’s a big, beautiful reunion. My favourite thing about Pride is seeing so many Queer people come together, and the sheer volume of unbridled self-expression that that generates.

Q: What does “Free to Be” mean to you?

“Free to Be” means leaving it all at the door, allowing yourself to let go of preconceived notions, expectations, or realities and just indulge in the beauty of being the perfectly imperfect being that you are.

Q: If you weren’t designing, what type of work would you be most passionate about?

A: I love plants and nature, and I often daydream about running a nursery or plant shop.

Q: Lastly, what advice would you give to aspiring illustrators and designers who are just starting out in their careers? Are there any lessons you've learned along the way that you would like to share?

A: Personal projects are as important as client-based projects. It not only keeps you feeling creative and excited about creating, but those projects are often what have caught the eyes of clients, leading to more work.

Having worked with brands like Starbucks, DKNY, Roots, and Kiehl’s, Tim is giving visual expression to Freehouse Collective’s “Free to Be” campaign.

Learn more about the "Free to Be" campaign here or head to your nearest Freehouse Collective location for more information.

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