Wednesday 29th May 2024
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Of oil and water – the world according to Thomson

If you see Fay at this year’s Franklin Arts Festival, you’ll be one of many to do so,
because this local artist appears to pour herself into every painting she creates,
as JON RAWLINSON discovered.

While Fay Thomson’s name may be relatively new in the local phone book, her signature has run along the bottom of paintings displayed at the Franklin Arts Festival for years.

Along with her husband Ian, Fay moved to Waiuku from Tauranga – where her work was also well received – in 2015.

Since taking up the brush relatively late in life (during her 50s) this talented artist has made up for lost time. Using oils and watercolours she paints the world her way.

“I get a lot of enjoyment from art. I can honestly say, when I’m painting I’m in my happy place. It’s also fantastic to think that other people are getting pleasure from something I’ve produced too. I have a wonderful husband, who has started cooking since I started painting, which is very useful; when I’m on a roll, I just don’t want to stop!”

Fay Thompson. Photos Wayne Martin

Painting has become a self-sustaining hobby netting enough from sales to cover her costs for paints, canvases, books, exhibition entry fees and the like.

“I paint all sorts of subjects, whatever inspires me – but I’m moved by nature in particular. Whenever my family takes photos, I look through them until I find something that just grabs me; something I just have to paint.”

Boats often bob up in Fay’s work; unsurprising considering her sweetheart once rode a ship on the sea.

“My husband grew up on a farm in Feilding but before we were married, Ian was in the merchant navy. He later worked for the NZ Dairy Board in shipping. He loved that job because it meant he could be home at night.”

Raising children and working as a legal secretary didn’t allow much time for hobbies, Fay attests, and yet, in the 1990s, she discovered in herself an untapped wellspring of creativity. “I saw an exhibition by [acclaimed New Zealand artist] John Speedy and I fell in love with his work! Both Ian and I later put our names down for a workshop.

Afterwards, I kept on painting but Ian, well, there’s no room for two artists in the
family!” she laughs. Although there’s no arts degree (of any degree) to Fay’s name, through workshops and books, she has garnered knowledge from the best.

“I’ve learnt plenty of techniques by painting in the styles of various artists. You can learn so much online these days too,” she confirms. “If I had trained formally, I guess I’d be an advocate for it but, for me, the best way to learn has just been to do it. The more paintings I finish, the better I get; it’s that simple, really.”

From Susan Harrison-Tustain and Richard Robinson, to Tim Wilson, her list of tutors is a veritable ‘who’s who’ of the Kiwi contemporary art scene.

“Susan is an amazing watercolourist. She taught me, right from the word ‘go’ to use the best materials. She became a good friend as well as a great teacher, telling me which books and magazines to buy. “And, last year, Tim [Wilson] sold a painting for $550,000, so he’s good; no, not just good, he’s exceptional! I put my name down quickly for his workshop about six years ago and learnt a lot from him as well.”

In a relatively short time, Fay has met with plenty of acclaim picking up a number of accolades and twice reaching the finals of the prestigious Miles Art Award.

“Awards are good for the CV,” she believes, “Art is hard to judge because it’s
subjective by nature, but it is lovely to be recognised.”

Early this year, the Franklin Arts Centre exhibited Fay’s work.

“I saw Nansi [Thompson] at the Franklin Arts Centre – I’d heard the gallery was often booked about a year in advance – but there had just been a cancellation, so it was great timing,” she says. “I’ve had my paintings in other exhibitions but that was my first solo. We had a great turnout at the opening and a lot of encouraging feedback; it was very worthwhile.”

The local art community has also proven most welcoming. “Through Nansi I’ve been in touch with various people. It’s important to network, but it’s also just about getting together and inspiring one another, really.”

Fay to favour Fest’
There are no small artists but there are small works of art. Waiuku’s Fay Thomson knows this better than most, especially since one of her paintings claimed first in the Franklin Arts
Festival’s Miniature Painting Category a few years back.

This year, this gifted painter will exhibit again and, this time, she hints there’s a chance her submission could include a locally-inspired piece.

“I have some photos taken up on the [Awhitu] peninsula so I could definitely think about entering something local. However, because some of my watercolours take weeks, I’m not sure if I’ll have time.”

Landscapes resulting from recent trips to Queenstown and Taupo could also be included in her portfolio of three full-sized and one miniature work. The Franklin Arts Festival runs
from September 1-10.

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