If you're strolling in Brooklyn and you pass by a rock painted to look like a slice of cheese crushing Mickey Mouse in DUMBO, or a dumpster that has been turned into Spike Lee's "love" ring in Bed-Stuy, then you have spotted one of street artist Tom Bob's many whimsical creations.
Since 2012, the Brooklynite has been catching people's eyes as they go about their lives by turning ordinary street objects like poles, pipes and dumpsters into imaginative artworks that interact with their surroundings. All of his public artworks have a childlike feel but are incredibly sophisticated in how they are presented.
And the internet is obsessed with Bob's art. An article about his work went viral in 2017, and since then, he has gained 253,000 followers on Instagram and created more than 500 public artworks across Brooklyn and the world in his unique signature style.
"A lot of times it's like when I see a piece, sometimes it tells me what to paint it, and the idea just comes right away," said Bob, talking about the objects on the street. "And other times, I know it's a beautiful piece or an object, and I have to kind of figure out what I am going to incorporate into that."
Since childhood, Bob had dreams of moving to New York City from his Dartmouth, Massachusetts hometown. He aspired to live in the same city as his personal heroes, Jean-Michele Basquiat and Andy Warhol.
While many artists in the 1980s settled in the East Village, Bob decided he would make Brooklyn his home, which is where he fell in love with graffiti. Now, he lives in Clinton Hill.
After visiting Art Basel, an art festival in Miami, he finally decided it was time to create his own art. But Bob doesn't consider himself a graffiti artist; in fact, he said his background in graphic design and illustration helped him create a lane of his own.
"When you're younger, you only have dreams, and you have a focus of how you see yourself in the future, and it's hard to find something that identifies you individually from other people," said Bob. "A lot of times, a lot of websites will grab my image. And, you know, they don't post me as the artist, but a lot of people say, 'Hey, that's Tom Bob.' So it's nice to have a recognizable image that people exactly identify with."
Each piece is artistic in nature but holds historical importance to the neighborhood it's located in, Bob said. Before creating any piece, Bob is diligent in understanding the shared cultural references of the neighborhood to create a piece that speaks to residents in the area.
And, above all else, Bob hopes to bring a little piece of joy to the world of those who come in contact with his art.
"If it creates a smile to someone, even if it's a few seconds, it's improving their day," said Bob.