An Interview with Kerry Thompson

To start, tell us a little about your background in life and in your career.
I was born in Canada. At the end of high school I had to make a decision between science and art; I studied zoology, then came to Australia wanting to become a rural vet. I achieved that, then stopped temporarily while moving and having children.

Drawing some cartoons for a dog training club newsletter led me to follow a creative career ever since 1986, as a published cartoonist (including for “The Sydney Morning Herald”), a career illustrating children’s books and literature which began in 1990, and I have written and illustrated two books of my own; “Gordon’s Biscuit”, and “Quincy and Oscar”.

One book I illustrated, “Nim’s Island” by Wendy Orr, has been turned into a feature film in which I appear for 1 1/2 seconds.

When was it that you switched from your illustrative work to your current exploration of painting?
In 2008 I began to paint with acrylics to explore and experiment and make works larger than those for books and print media, and to “allow” to see what would happen. I have been painting and exhibiting ever since.

Have you always been so creatively gifted! When was it that you first decided to put your skills and artistic talent out in public view?
I have always had the skill to draw, and have always loved drawing. Zoology and then veterinary science were the fields I chose to study, both of which have been useful background to a career as cartoonist, illustrator and painter. When I was about 18 I sold ink sketches one summer to earn some money; my first public exhibition. I learned to paint with watercolours in a more traditional fashion many years before moving over to acrylics to let loose.

What about your inspiration, where does it come from? How do you come up with new ideas?
Inspiration comes from everywhere, internally and externally.

Whatever way I may begin a painting, I have no idea where it will end and follow ideas and accidents as they occur. The painting inspires the process. Sometimes I simply turn it upside down to shake up the direction my brain is comfortably following keeping me challenged and on my toes and the work fresh.

Many of my paintings end up being about place. As a child we moved frequently; I have just about always lived on or near the bush and trees seem to feature often in my work even though this isn’t planned. Many paintings come from places where I have been, or are painted on the spot in different locations

What can you tell us about your work? What is your process?
I make paintings in the colours that we see out of the corner of our eye. I use the interactions between colours as they work together or zing against each other to evoke the feeling of the subject, rather than painting a picture OF the subject.

I call my practice “mad scientist at preschool”, deliberately returning to the fearlessness of not knowing the “shoulds”; exploring, experimenting, allowing, inventing, discovering new ways to see springing directly from gut and instinct and curiosity.

Where do you create your art and what is your workspace like?
Unless I’m painting out of the boot of my car on from the top of a hill, I paint in my “yurt” studio, set in the bush.

What materials/tools do you prefer to work with and why?
I have been using Chroma Atelier Interactive acrylic paints. I wanted to move from watercolours to acrylics to allow me to overpaint and experiment more. The Interactive range have great colours and are slightly juicier, are slower-drying than regular paints and dry through a different process which makes them more versatile. They can be re-activated with water, then with an unlocking medium if one wishes.

I am interested to move more into oils, particularly overpainting acrylics.

I particularly love the bounce of brush on stretched canvas, but also the convenience of paper when travelling.

Can you share one thing with us that most people wouldn't know about you?
I love Dixieland jazz.

What is your day job or are you a full time artist?
I am a full time artist as cartoonist/illustrator/painter.

What are your goals/ aspirations for the future?
I want to continue experimenting and growing as an artist, and I hope lots of new and exciting challenges will pop up.

If you were to collaborate with other artists on a project, what would it be?
As a painter I’d love to work with musicians and dancers to create a dynamic performance piece. I hope I’ll experiment with sculpture at some stage, or perhaps installation work in public places - I am excited by the choreography of space and objects, light and shadow. Again, to work with other artists and curators on such a project would be fantastic.

Check out Kerry's artist page here