Tom Clayson

Foundation Diploma in Art, Design & Media Practice - Canterbury


Creativity has always been at the core of everything I enjoy and my studies over the last year at UCA have helped me identify the particular area in which I wish to specialise, namely Graphic Design and Visual Communication.

My aim for my final major project was to choose a subject that would not only keep me engaged from a research perspective and provide me with enough material to experiment extensively throughout the 10 weeks, but also provide a visually interesting and informative piece of work that would also keep the reader engaged. I also wanted to choose a subject that was completely different to my last two projects. I narrowed it down to true crime, in which I have a keen interest.

Around the time I was deciding what topic to focus on, I watched, and was fascinated by, a Netflix documentary called ‘The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel’. It looked at the case of Elisa Lam, a young Canadian woman who had mysteriously disappeared while staying at the hotel in 2013. Her body was tragically later found in one of the water tanks on the roof. The documentary also revealed that this was by no means the only strange and horrible case that was related to the hotel, which is based in downtown Los Angeles. This immediately made me consider focusing the project on the hotel. From watching the documentary and conducting initial research, I felt there was something really unique about the hotel’s dark history and I was keen to explore further. I wanted to create a dark, gloomy atmosphere for my pieces, reflecting the hotel’s horrid past. This meant creating my images in black and white, primarily using pencil and charcoal, to begin with. I found that charcoal was a great material to use. The rough and unpredictable quality combined with the ability to smudge and smear the charcoal assisted in creating dreary snapshots of an era filled with doom and gloom.

When we were allowed back into the studio, I focused on creating my work through drypoints and etchings. These techniques allowed me to create detailed pieces of the hotel. I used Adobe Photoshop to edit my experimentations, often creating a large contrast between the dark and light parts of my images. I found that this made my images even more sinister and dark. Photoshop really allowed me to play with my images, experimenting particularly with colour and adding shades of red to my work. I also began to overlap images and play around with the opacities, being influenced by Jeffrey Decoster, an artist who liked to combine and overlap images and backgrounds, often depicting emotional situations that told a story.

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Tom Clayson | Pre-degree & Foundation Studies 3
This is an etching of the hotel, combined with a print of Elisa Lam heading towards the entrance, never to leave again. The sentence at the bottom of the piece is taken from the original Cecil hotel advertising in the early 1900s.
Tom Clayson | Pre-degree & Foundation Studies 5
This piece is aimed to show Los Angeles in 1927, and provide the viewer with an idea of the time. The gentleman in the piece are the type of people the Cecil Hotel intended to attract. The piece is inspired by jeffrey Decoster, overlapping images to create a story and sense of place.
Tom Clayson | Pre-degree & Foundation Studies 4
Inspired by Sau Bass' classic horror posters, this is a piece of the Cecil Hotel, including credits of the people who made the hotel so notorious.
Tom Clayson | Pre-degree & Foundation Studies 2
A mystery still unsolved, The Black Dahlia case is one of the most infamous unsolved murders in US history.
Tom Clayson | Pre-degree & Foundation Studies 1
This is a poster of 'The Night Stalker', a serial killer who terrorised LA in the mid 1980s. I tried to emphasise this killers horrific acts by surrounding him with blood splatters. The symbols of the devil represent the killers beliefs and his obsession with satan.
Tom Clayson | Pre-degree & Foundation Studies
A portrait of Elisa Lam a year prior to her tragic death. The Hollywood sign in the background represents what Elisa Lam came to LA for, however, a suggestion that the trip didn't go to plan.

Warning - this showcase contains explicit content such as scenes of a sexual or violent nature, nudity or features strong language, and is unsuitable for under 18's.