Every artist has experienced the following at some point: A well-meaning friend or relative shares with them the work of another artist whose brush or chisel is so probing that no detail has escaped them; every blade of grass is there, no stone left unturned. Unfortunately, for all that effort, the work lies there dead, smothered by details.“Wow,” the first artist is expected to say, “That is a real corker.” But, privately, he or she is thinking, “You call that Art?”
This scenario is always awkward and a bit depressing for artists who do not strive to be equally representational. It, in fact, increases their feeling of isolation, their sense that no one understands them. Only a small sector of the general public will appreciate that dogged, faithful rendering is not the goal when it comes to art. Good artists are driven by a higher purpose. They are searching and exploring with their medium. Some may not be able to name what it is they are striving towards, but these artists are driven to create as surely and inexplicably as the swallows are drawn to Capistrano.
It takes a special courage to tread the uncharted waters of abstract art. Leo artist Bryon Thompson is a classic example of an artist bravely mapping out his own course, ignoring trends and listening to his own heart.
His images tend toward abstractions or very simple landscapes. They may feature as little as one lone tree. But in painting them he achieves a depth and luminosity that suggest a journey over time, a quest, a transcendence. We stand before his two-foot square panels, contemplate the beauty of subtle shifts in color and marvel at their soulfulness.
Thompson likes to work with acrylics on wood panels. The wood brings natural warmth and texture to the piece and can stand up to his process.
“I like to scrape and grind the surface,” he says, noting that he will sometimes incorporate the sawdust back into the composition for additional texture.
At his fine art website www.bryonthompson.blogspot.com Thompson uses the term “relic” to describe the quality he is going for in his work:
“My approach in creating a “modern relic” is a way of celebrating the process of aging, nature and our desire to add value to those aspects.”
And that is exactly what his work suggests, each piece softly gleaming with a rich, warm patina. Each shows some of the history of their evolution through sheer veils of color. The artist spares us unnecessary details, conveying his message with broad layers of paint that tap surprising emotions.
Thompson pours himself into each painting partly as a release from the strictures of his day job as a technical illustrator. A 1991 graduate of IPFW, he spent a few brief years with advertising agencies before deciding to strike out on his own with Bryon Thompson Illustration in 1993. He is adept at clean, precise technical illustrations, and his work has been honored in Print and HOW magazines and by the National Magazine Awards (ASME).
But fine art allows him to let his hair down, with no client deadlines and no one to please but himself.
Although he had dabbled with paint on and off over the years, Thompson began fine art painting in earnest a little over a year ago, about the time he was given the shattering diagnosis of a malignant brain tumor.
“Yeah, the diagnosis became the proverbial wake-up call for me to take my fine art more seriously,” he states.
“Although it took some time to mentally work my way out of that diagnostic and complex ‘black hole,’ once I sorted things out and got on track, ambition and inspiration kicked in again.”
Remarkably, he was able to begin producing a large body of new work while still receiving chemotherapy.
“I took advantage of the upside of the treatment cycle,” he explains. “Energy would come back in waves, and I would ride those waves as best I could and be as prolific as possible – without burning myself out of course. I’ve learned to make naps a regular, if not necessary, part of my day. And despite the whole experience, I’ve become a better thinker, a better observer and a better participant in life.”
Also an accomplished guitarist, Thompson has five CDs of original instrumental guitar music available through CDBaby. Listening to his shimmering strings it is easy to feel you are listening to the audio version of his visual art.
“I like to work in layers, and both recording music and painting allow you to do that. The process of layering and overlapping provides a favorable way for me to express things. Another comparison might be that, to some extent, they both evoke a bit of an ethereal or lucid space. There certainly is no conflict between the two. I enjoy both.”
You can give him a listen at www.bthompson.net/cd/ and expect plenty more art and music from Bryon Thompson down the road.
“There are always more ideas coming down the creative pike, and I’m hopeful for more productivity.”
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June 20 • The Clyde