The Miles Davis Online Interview: Tom Buch

(Artist Series, Volume 6)

I liked Tom Buch’s work immediately. The digital paintings of Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Duke Ellington certainly grabbed my attention at the start, but there is much to enjoy in Buch’s collection (The Bear Bass is a must-see!).

An illustrator based in Hertfordshire, UK, Buch has a great talent for painting and drawing. But the digital component of illustration is where his art is elevated to a whole new level of creativity. Photoshop and the 3D software Zbrush are the key tools for Buch when he works, which he blends nicely with the traditional, organic side of design. Currently attending Coventry University studying Illustration, Buch was kind enough to chat about his two, wonderful Miles Davis works, how he crafted the digital paintings and what he has planned for the future.

Miles Davis Online: Let’s talk about the Miles Davis illustrations. What is it about the jazz legend that made you want to feature him?

Tom Buch: The title of my project soon became ‘jazz legends’ and my focus diverted to the men behind the music. Being 20, an illustrator and not very knowledgeable about jazz I began to research. Miles Davis’ face caught my attention instantly, bulbous soulful eyes and his expression was often fascinating for reasons I couldn’t describe. I wanted to draw him straight away and so I got to work. After learning about his life and creative process he soon became an Idol. I respected not only his music but his attitude and relentless drive to succeed. he invented and seemed to have true conviction in what he did.

As an artist I am conscious of the battle with others opinion, he seemed to have such admirable belief in his medium and I really aspire to be like this. Said to be the ‘coolest’ man to ever live I wanted to capture ‘Milesness’ and try to give a space the coolness miles obtained.

MDO: You also feature Coltrane and Duke Ellington. Do jazz artists make great subjects for art?

TB: Well I enjoy music immensely and it is always present when I work, I found jazz brilliant to work to and so initially decided to base a project on the subject. Jazz has a certain aesthetic, a laid back ease and creativity to it. A lack of rules, freedom and a fluency that I can relate to art. It seems to transcend age-groups and be universally popular without losing its underground image.

The characters behind the music began to fascinate me, the stories and more importantly faces behind the soulful sounds. I really enjoyed painting the jazz artist while listening to their works. In essence though I really liked the idea of bringing my modern mediums to such a classic and timeless topic. Turning the grainy black and white photos into something my own, it made me different from my peers who mainly focused on more modern popular culture. In my field of digital Illustration, I am very conscious of a wave of art based on fantasy, films and games. Digital art forums are a wash with concept art that doesn’t interest me, super powers, future landscapes, generic manga. Often spectacular, but for me, normally lacking in substance. Everyone in my industry is pushing for new ideas concepts and approaches, I decided to look to the past and it was extremely rewarding.

MDO: Describe the artistic process in creating ‘Miles Davis’ and ‘A Kind of Blue.’

TB: My method became increasingly complex and it pathed the way for my present style. Previously with my paintings I would have used photo reference to draw the image in pencil then scan it in and paint digitally. I didn’t like the idea of using other peoples photography and producing an image people had already seen. Simply adapting another artist/photographers image.

My way around this was to model Miles in 3 dimensions on my computer, then I could have Miles in whatever pose or light I wanted. Getting my reference was not too hard, I simply obtained many photo of Miles from different angles from the internet, i.e. a profile image a front on image etc. I always want my work to maintain a traditional quality so once the model was complete I chose my shot and then painted in my normal method. The purple Miles Image is an example of this 3D technique, an 100% original image of a young Miles Davis.


MDO: Would you ever revisit Miles Davis as a subject for your art?

TB: I definitely could revisit the subject, he still inspires me. My work is constantly evolving and I would love to bring new methods to some more portraiture.

MDO: Favorite Miles Davis album?

TB: Predictably A Kind of Blue is my favourite. The track “So What” amazes me every time.

MDO: What are you working on now?

TB: I am currently working on a graphic novel based on the Homeless entitled ‘The Square’. For more information and a teaser image join the newsletter on my site! I am working towards my final year degree show and will be ready for commissions and interested in any opportunity.


Artwork is © Tom Buch

Artwork available for purchase at


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