Thomas Hedger Even gas stations are beautiful in this illustrator’s world

Cover Image - Thomas Hedger

From Edward Hopper to Stephen Shore, artists of various types have long been drawn to depicting the humble gas station. Although everywhere, they often go unnoticed. They form these strange, somehow desolate, “in-between” places; you stop there on your way to somewhere else. This is exactly what captured Thomas Hedger’s imagination too.

Up to this point, the award-winning artist – who has been commissioned by The New York Times, The Guardian and the Harvard Business Review – focused very much on characters. But the idea of making something completely different appealed to him. “It was nice to try to create something really structured, something that’s just visually aesthetic,” Thomas says.

The images immediately catch your eye as gas-stations, but it is hard to place them in a context. They look strangely familiar, but it’s unclear if this is because they look like every other gas-station, or because it’s the Pop Art style that seems familiar? It’s not even certain if we’re looking at a gas station from the present day or one from the 1950s.

Thomas explains, “I like the idea of completely stripping it out of context and it just being this imposing building, so I could really focus on the shading and the solid outlines. In this manner I pull the image forward; if it has characters and business happening, then the perspective would be lost. And also the colors were deliberately chosen so you didn’t know if it was day or night. They’ve all got a sun or a moon, but I abstracted it.” By doing this, Thomas creates slightly dystopian scenes, where it’s not always clear what’s going on.

Because Thomas’ style is recognizable, he usually enjoys quite a lot of freedom when working on commissions but, as a perfectionist, he puts pressure on himself – like the entire summer he spent trying to find the right shapes to depict water. “I draw mostly in straight lines and solid shapes, so creating something that looks like it’s kind of fluid or moving is a challenge,” he says.

But it’s the kind of challenge Thomas clearly revels in. He finds that it doesn’t take much to create in him the image-making urge. “Just a shape or a shadow could spark a drawing,” he says. “I like to catch them and really draw it out, really make it my style. I’ll add the story later.”