Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Adventures of Tommy Thompson

This has already been a very busy year on my journey through the art world. Because of my many experiences with other fine artists this year, my style of oil painting is improving day by day, or so my family says (see my latest paintings at Many more activities are planned throughout the rest of the year.

During the spring and summer, I participated in two oil portrait workshops with Michael Shane Neal and one with Dawn Whitelaw--two master portrait artists in Nashville, Tennessee. These three oil portrait workshops afforded the participants several days of painting oil portraits of live models. Each day we had a different model. This experience gave all of the participants a great sense of satisfaction as they polished their skills.

Dawn Whitelaw has said that Everett Raymond Kinstler, an American icon in oil portrait painting, told her once that she should go outside to paint landscapes if she wanted to grow as a portrait painter. I believe that there is much merit in this advice because plein air painting creates a freer style of painting and encourages a more painterly style of oil painting.

July found my wife Marie and me painting on North Haven Island, Maine, with good friends, George Walker of Severna Park, MD, and Mimi Sammis of Narragansett, RI. Mimi's art show on Rhode Island Public Television ("Mimi's Art Studio") was recently offered nationwide to all public television stations.

On October 20, we had the pleasure of attending a presentation by Michael Shane Neal at the Fall School Building in Nashville. Shane is a very gifted artist and speaker; the topic of his presentation was "The Life and Work of John Singer Sargent." John Singer Sargent is remembered as one of the greatest portrait artists of the 19th century. Everett Raymond Kinstler--the portrait artist of Presidents, First Ladies, well-known personalities, and government leaders--will most likely be remembered as the greatest portrait painter of the 20th century. He has earned the accolade of national treasure from the Director of the Butler Institute of American Art. In my opinion, Kinstler's protege--Michael Shane Neal--will become known as the greatest portrait painter of the 21st century. I feel very honored to call Shane my good friend and mentor in portrait painting.

Paintbrushes were flying on Saturday, October 21, during the Annual Oil Painters of America Great Paint Out. This event was held at the Bowie Park and Nature Center in Fairview, Tennessee from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. This annual painting exercise is open to all artists working in any media. You do not need to be a member of the Oil Painters of America. A special guest was a representative from the American Artist Magazine, who took photos of the paint-out for possible use in an upcoming issue. Last year's paint-out in Nashville attracted 43 participants, second only to Texas with 45. The purpose of the annual event is to encourage artists to paint landscapes in the open air (plein air), to study nature, and to enjoy the experience of painting oil landscapes from life. Artists across the United States participated in this annual art event. The Bowie Park offers various points of interest including wetlands, grasslands, forests, and wildlife. At the end of the paint-out Nashville artist Gayle Levee offered free critiques for any interested artists. If anyone has questions about the annual OPA/Tennessee paint-out, you may contact Lori Putnam.

During November 9-12, we participated in the Radnor Lake Art Show with the Chestnut Group. Radnor Lake is Tennessee's first official "Natural Area" located in the heart of Nashville. Visitors consider Radnor "a community that's used with love and respect," seldom found in metropolitan areas. With 1,100 acres, Radnor Lake Natural Area is the largest pocket of wilderness in the U.S. in close proximity to a major city. It is truly a quiet haven in the midst of both commercial and residential development. Rolling forested hills with twisting paths are enjoyed by thousands of visitors who come to jog, meditate, explore and to better understand the beauty of this unique protected ecosystem. Visitors discover hundreds of species of wildflowers, mosses and ferns; listen to the sounds of various songbirds; explore the lake on a midnight canoe float; and watch deer, ducks, and other wildlife. The Friends of Radnor Lake and the Chestnut Group--a nonprofit alliance of landscape artists-- sponsored the art show to benefit the preservation and maintenance of Radnor.