Our featured artist for August is Tom Stimpson MBE. Tom started making artwork whilst undertaking art therapy and has been developed his practice over the last ten years. Emerging as an artist he is fascinated and intrigued by portraits, landscapes and abstract expressionism. As an Outside In ambassador, Tom has recently embarked on a series of portraits of his fellow Ambassadors, and you can read the full interview with him here.
Why and when did you start making art?
My journey into the world of art has been a road of challenges. The constant thread of gold that has enabled me to endure with resilience is multifaceted, and the thread of gold has been the opportunity to create art, to place an image on canvas or to create something. I remember having a piece of paper put in front of me whilst undergoing treatment. That simple act of an empty piece of white A4 paper hit me like a bolt of lightning. It stopped me as the overwhelming emotions welled up inside of me, like a high tide in a quaint fishing village at El Nino in the depths of winter. Struck by the power of this simple act, unbeknown to the art teacher I walked out. It opened the door into the world of art and creativity. I will be forever grateful as that act has enabled my mind to flourish and create art.
How would you describe your work?
I am on a creativity journey and on many paths but steering towards landscapes and portraits. These are exciting to me, to have people and places, the opportunities are endless…..
Do you follow a set process or does it vary?
I do like to stick to a process, looking at composition and ways that the eye may be drawn into a painting, to ask more questions of the viewer and to hope the image will resonate with them. Sketch in firstly in burnt umber and then begin blocking in the darkest colours, working towards the lighter colours to provide contrast and depth. Perspective fascinates me, so I always like a distant view if possible. My early works were robotic and neutral and were based on the recovery journey.
What inspires your work?
The planet and the universe we live in, a unique and amazing world. That is why looking after it is crucial. Nature and the vibrant colours that it brings.
Do you have any creative role models?
Yes, a wide variety of artists I admire are the leading lights in the art world today. I’m grateful to the RA In Practise events, but there are a small number of people to whom I am very grateful – Art Therapy, all the charities that have supported me on the ongoing journey of recovery, and the amazing portrait artist Lindey Allfrey.
Are there particular themes that run through your work? If so, what are they?
I understand my work is evolving from the initial process of recovery to developing my style. I have multiple bodies of works in my mind that will now be produced over the next 10 years and will catalogue the journey of trauma stages of recovery and change within a human, capturing thoughts emotions and feelings. The initial phase will be portraits and landscapes and will regress backwards, deconstructing the human mind.
What do you hope a viewer/ audience gets from your work?
Connected to see something they like and want to have a moment with, that has been observed, captured and holds a story behind it of the artist. That connection becomes deeper than a painting – a nod to the past present and future.
What is your favourite work of art (by another artist)?
There are many I admire, too many too mention, but two standout pieces are The Light of the World painted between (1851-1853) by William Holman Hunt and Supper at Emmaus by Caravaggio (1601)
Is there an artwork you are most proud of/ favourite piece?
I have as an artist an internal struggle that a piece is never finished – there is always more that can be done. To say I am proud of any particular piece … I have felt that the Ambassador portrait project has been a highlight, as, to me, it captures the essence of the Outside In community – which, if wider society all stopped and took a moment to view it and learn about the stories, would open minds, touch people’s own lives and make people understand the benefits of creativity to the mind, body and soul. I was fortunate to have three pieces at the Mall Galleries as part of the Creative Force exhibition. A painted item I created for charity raised £2,000 and that was humbling.
What has been the standout moment for you as an artist so far?
Over the last 12 years, art has been my constant go-to when I needed to lift the soul from those early days. Those moments continue today. I am amazed seeing new that works other artists create. Being an Ambassador for Outside In has been a standout moment for me and to hopefully encourage others who may have struggles in their lives that being creative and producing art has a beneficial impact on your well-being…
You have been embarking on a project to paint portraits of fellow Outside In Ambassadors. Can you tell us about this?
The Portrait project for Outside In came from a moment in my life of struggle – awaiting surgery during a pandemic was always going to be a challenge. The charity is amazing and I hope more people across the United Kingdom and beyond will support them. The Ambassadors promote the charity and become involved in the aims and objectives. It to me was an ideal opportunity to offer to paint a number of the Ambassadors, to shine a light on them as individuals and help develop my technique and style of painting.
What I did not expect was the project would bring to me, talking to amazing individuals for whom challenges are part of their lives and art has been there to be that golden thread. For me, the whole experience of focussing on an image before me soon had additional benefit of distractions from the pain of both pre- and post-surgery – it acted like an anaesthetic. The creative part of my brain was blocking the pain signals. Once I stopped painting and within an hour, the pain would return.
The challenge was to paint a portrait a week of the 12 portraits of Ambassadors who stepped forward. They have slowly began to appear in the studio when I paint. It had taught me that painting from a photograph is challenging – seeing skin tones and dark and light tones. I then enrolled on a photography course which I am doing currently to be able to get good source material and which will be helpful in my efforts going forwards.
An initial sketch was completed on 8×10 canvas board using Windsor and Newton oils. This would be done in charcoal then sprayed with fixative. I would then add a coat of burnt umber and solution over the board. I would enjoy this toning down of the stark white canvas, maybe my mind jumping back to that overwhelming piece of A4 white paper. I initially thought I would complete one at a time and move on. I struggled with this idea and found myself working in groups of 3 or 4 portraits and bringing them through, but holding a feeling of there is more to do on them. My eyes and mind have been opened by the creativity of the Ambassadors I have painted with a rich mix of art from photography to glass painting to braille art, poetry to the use of materials and textiles to weaving. It has made me want to try different aspects of art to learn more and create more. I cannot see a day now when I am not painting,… The warming and comforting reality is that there are a family of artists that are part of Outside In who, through adversity and challenge, have found the art of creativity.
You are also embarking on an Instagram-based art project #Creativehearts2021 and #heartsforarts2021 – can you tell us about this, what you want to achieve and how other artists can get involved?
I joined Instagram only a few weeks ago and saw a post regarding the floods in Europe. Followers have slowly started joining and found the community of likeminded creatives supportive. The idea was for artists and creatives to post a heart image to the hashtags, to get 100 images and then print a one-off unique image that could be sold to the highest bidder. All proceeds would then go to the @Germanredcross, a recognised charity that are on the ground now dealing with the situation. My hope is that we as an artistic community can come together to produce something that is unique and can be duplicated to help others in a time of crisis. I would like to achieve £1000 to help those in need. If any artists want to get involved, please use the hashtags above, post your work and please tag your photo. If they could follow me on Instagram @tom_stimpson I can then update as we progress – it’s a great way to communicate. A big thankyou to those that do get involved – I am grateful to the artists who have kindly already stepped forward from all around the world.