Dave Thompson: October Artist of the Month

October 2, 2020 By megan-harrigan

Congratulations, Dave Thompson, on being selected as the agency Artist of the Month for October! Longtime friend, fellow artist and bandmate Ted Gram Boarini interviewed Dave to lend insight into his artistic motives. Read on for the full interview:

Ted: Congratulations on being named artist of the month! What does being artist of the month mean to you?

Dave: I’d like to think it means, if nothing else, I’ve created (at least in the time I’ve been going to Arts of Life) some shall we say interesting work. To put it one way, I guess. Well, interesting in the sense of trying to be visually interesting. Interesting in the sense of when you kinda hear the thought process behind some of the pieces you think, “Ok that’s a bit deep and involved”.

T: How did you get into art making?

D: To varying degrees I first started getting involved with the various arts when I was a child. I had classes in art when I was back in grade school but it wasn’t something that I kinda really  took and developed and flourished through high school. I think the arts that I took and developed more from grade school to up and through high school was more performance art: i.e. music and theater. Though, admittedly, even in high school I kinda still had a bit of a background interest in visual art. At least in the sense of most summers there was this art fair I went to that was held on the third weekend of July back in my hometown of Griffith, Indiana.

Dave Thompson, 10th Grade Nightmares, 2018, acrylic on canvas

T: Cool. What age were you when you started doing art? 

D: At least performance art I’m inclined to say I started taking drum lessons back when I was 10 or 11 years old. Visual art—I probably started when I was younger than that but I can’t remember precisely when the first time I made visual art was. You’re dealing with someone who is pushing 50 here, Ted! After a while you kinda forget what you kinda did when you was kinda less than 10 years old! You know what I’m saying?

T: Ha! In the music and the art world sense, you might be what’s known as a prodigy. What does that mean to you to be known as a prodigy? Meaning you’ve done this stuff for a long, long time.

D: Truth be told, back when I started playing percussion back then I really didn’t think of myself as a prodigy. I think if I kind of find myself thinking I’m anything close to anything like a prodigy in music at this point it’s just to the point of having stuck it out for many, many years. 

T: That’s cool.

D: I mean if I’m considering any drummer a prodigy I might be inclined to consider Neil Peart more of a prodigy than I am. Rest in Peace, Neil.

T: You and I both know about his work but let’s move on. Next question…

D: Before we go on further, wasn’t I the one who introduced you to Rush or did somebody else introduce you to Rush?

T: Yeah. You introduced me to Rush.

D: I think we want to make sure we get that for the record, and yeah that’s stuff that my older brothers were listening to way back in the day when they were teenagers.

T: I will honor you and say that you introduced me to Rush. How did you get involved with Arts of Life?

Dave Thompson, Triangle and Two Cowbells, 2020, colored pencil on paper

D: I think, truth be told, the answer would be looking straight at you if you looked in the mirror, Ted. 

T: Ha!

D: And of course there’s a little backstory on this too for those of you viewing the transcript and/or watching the video at home. But to elaborate on this further—because to anything there is a backstory and to appreciate my little comment about our interviewer you have to have the backstory to this! So pretty much I had met said interviewer, TGB, over in Evanston at Center for Independent Futures. I want to say it was about 2 years ago pushing on 3 now, we were both in attendance at this fundraiser called Spark and I think the long and the short of it was at that moment Vangogo was looking for a percussionist. Yeah, I think old Ted seen me doing drums on the band’s trap set while members of the group was off taking a break. So Ted saw that and he recruited me to play in the band. That’s the long and the short of it. 

T: Yes! That is what happened. That is absolutely to this day correct. I’m glad I put you on to do this at a time we needed someone to do it.

D: I’ll say this much—there’s been days when the adventures with the band have been worth a trip and a half! You know?

T: Yes, adventures! What mediums do you use?

D: Well starting off with the visual mediums. When I first started going to Arts of Life I worked primarily in acrylic paint along with graphite pencil to kinda draw out the rough outlines and then sometimes when I’m kind of doing certain detail parts of a piece. As of late since the pandemic I’ve been working predominantly in colored pencils. And as far as paint goes, I’m thinking I’ll get back to that eventually, it’s just a matter of when, I guess.

T: How has working with colored pencils been going?

D: So far this year I’ve been able to do a pretty decent amount of work in colored pencils. Admittedly, part of that was due to the fact that I was on furlough from my other job for a couple of months. So I had the extra time to kinda sit and do some work on colored pencils that I normally don’t typically have. Coming to the studio to do the paints a couple times a week, if that even. Some of my painting pieces are a bit involved so those kinda take a while to flesh out completely.

T: I’ve seen some of the work you do. You do amazing work.

D: Well, only time will tell on that one whether my art ends up in infamous galleries after I’m dead. You know what the standard joke is about artists, if you will. You don’t really know if you truly made it until after you are dead.

T: Let’s not even go there yet, man! Infamous!

D: Well that might be true for some artists. Some artists might get their level of infamy even while they’re still alive. Wasn’t Andy Warhol one of those guys who got a little bit infamous for doing his paintings while he was still alive for making pictures of various consumer products if you will? Pop cans and soup cans and what not.

Dave Thompson, Kuyper Belt Asteroids Edition, 2019, acrylic on canvas

T: Yes, and the like. What inspires your work? Is it what you see or is it your imagination?

D: Admittedly there’s probably multiple things that probably inspire my work if you will. If you really sift through and analyze my pieces there’s at least a couple of different art movements in the relatively modern era that have inspired my work. Impressionism and realism have influenced my work to varying degrees. One might argue cubism might influence some of my work too. I think stuff in the mass media tends to influence some of my work. I’ve been drawing influences on some of my pieces about what was occurring in the news at the time as well as video games. And, yes, if you are wondering about the video games check out my piece Kuyper Belt: Asteroids Edition. Memories from my life for some of my pieces too, if you will. My piece 10th grade nightmares kind of reflects on trying to manage an insane high school biology class while also confronting the prospect of my grandfather kicking the bucket. There I go again with the death reference.

T: I bet that wasn’t easy for you was it?

D: No. 10th grade was a challenging year. Let me put it to you that way.

T: The last question….

D: Well I think there was other stuff I wanted to touch upon.

T: Ok.

Dave Thompson, Mathematical Oxymoron, acrylic on canvas, 2019

D: Sometimes I’m not afraid to draw upon humor in my work too,  especially my mathematical oxymoron piece where I incorporate humor involving pie the dessert and pi the greek constant that is kind of incorporated into circle equations.

T: That’s an ingenious piece. How did you come up with that?

D: Oh that was just me brainstorming the humorous aspects of how pie the dessert and pi the greek circle concept can be interrelated. Figuring out what I can say about pi that makes it seem like it’s true, but it’s actually false. And then for good measure I incorporated a subtle reference to, I think, 5 decimal places in reference to that. Or at least it’s hidden unless you know exactly how to look for it and where to find it. 

T: I’ve got one last question man. How do you come up with the images?

D: At least for my paintings I’ve come up with relatively rough sketches of what I think that the final drawing might look like. That being said, the sketches are more of a preliminary framework than this is absolutely positively what I’m going to, do so to speak. It’s like the sketches give me an idea of what it’s going to look like and go from there. It’s just a matter of refining it to try to figure out, “Ok does this work? Where do I put this?” So it’s like sketching gives me ideas but it doesn’t always necessarily give me what ultimately gets put down on the final piece. You know what I’m saying?

T: Yes.

Dave Thompson, Pink Floyd Battles COVID-19, colored pencil on paper, 2020

D: And then for some of the pieces I’ve done in the colored pencil realm. I think some of what I’ve been doing has kind of been tracing with different things to kind of get the shapes. Like using rulers to place lines. Sometimes I have to resort to looking at a picture to get an idea of the shape of something. So there’s various techniques at play to get from what I’m thinking I want to incorporate into a piece to how the final piece turns out. 

T: Yes. 

D: Sometimes even when you look at certain things like the syringe from my piece Pink Floyd Battles COVID-19. I had to take a little bit of artistic license with the syringe and make it look like a bit of a spaceship.

T: I’ve actually been listening to Pink Floyd to get ready for this interview because I knew we’d be talking about this. It’s a terrific piece. Well it’s been an honor talking to you about how you do your art so thank you very much.