The artist's new exhibit, "Love Songs," will be on view at Side Hustle Gallery beginning on Franklinton Friday on Aug. 9

Thom Glick’s illustrations can be fantastical, sure. His drawings occasionally play with the idea of dimension, the characters' flattened limbs bending as if they were walking, talking paper dolls, and animals like squirrels and birds make frequent appearances, often wearing golden crowns that give them a human, if fuzzy, appearance.

At the same time, the pieces remain anchored in a reality that is a byproduct of Glick’s creative process.

“I’ll sit down and thumbnail the drawings and then research the ideas. Even though I’m applying my own logic to things, I want to make sure it all makes some kind of sense, and someone else can pick up on it,” Glick said in a late-July interview at his Blockfort studio Downtown. “With this series I’m working on now, it’s a bit more simple, but some of it was even just researching musical instruments to see how somebody interacts with them, and how they’re properly handled — that kind of thing.”

In one finished painting, a boxy gentleman with comically large hands cautiously holds a ukulele, his outsized features highlighting the instrument’s delicacy. In another, a guitarist, the instrument hung low on his frame, stands as if he’d just struck a power chord and was reveling in the reverb as it pulsed off the small studio’s walls.

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After completing his research, Glick spends significant time sketching, toying with how the characters sit on the page. “I need to figure out how things relate within the constraints of a canvas,” he said. “Because I do have this stiff approach to making the characters, it can be easy for them to feel lifeless. … How they are carrying themselves in the piece is important. There’s a big difference between this character crouching down and being soft and delicate versus someone wading out into the water in that one. It informs their personality.”

Glick then moves on to more refined drawings, beginning with a simple blue pencil sketch and then going over it with sharp graphite, building the line gradually rather than drawing a single, unbroken line. (If you look closely, Glick’s works can look as though they’re composed of hundreds of micro-lines, which he said gives the pieces “a little bit of variation and personality,” while preserving a desired handmade quality.)

“I love it when things come out clean and neat, but there’s still a sense of organized mess to it,” he said.

In general, Glick said he embraces a storytelling aspect in his work — an element he traces to an early fondness for illustrated children’s books, where the images often contained far more details than the minimal text. For this current, music-based series, which will be on view at Side Hustle Gallery beginning on Friday, Aug. 9, as part of Franklinton Fridays, the artist channeled his frustrated inner musician.

“Growing up, I always wanted to be a musician, but I was never as committed to it as I was to the visual arts thing,” he said. “But I dabbled, and I had friends who were talented on guitar and drums and singing, and so I’ve always had this admiration for it as this pure art form.”

Though cartoonish, the characters populating Glick’s finished paintings are often drawn from real life, sharing physical characteristics with strangers he’ll encounter in his mile-and-a-half walk between his house and studio. The artist said he’s prone to observation, and he’ll often spot someone dressed in an interesting way in public only to turn around and paint a similar outfit onto one of his creations, though each still maintains a life entirely its own.

“Once I start building them,” he said, “I try to let them tell me who they are.”