Painting local interest

Madison's Thompson pains,
promotes local art

Contributing Writer

MADISON, Ind. – "I am not a native of Madison, but I consider myself a Madisonian," says artist Kerry Thompson.
Like many artists, Thompson has chosen Madison for his hometown. Perhaps the most significant quality that sets him apart is the depth and variety of his artistic talents. His biography from a poetry performance venue describes him as "a man of many talents, Kerry writes, paints, does beautiful calligraphy and plays a mean piano."
A published poet, Thompson has often delighted local audiences with his sharp wit and thoughtful insight to the world. He finds inspiration for his poetry and prose in the work of his other talents. Some of Thompson's most memorable work has been written while relaxing in the back yard of his First Street home, which he shares with his mother, Sharon Thompson.
The Thompsons' garden has been included in the "Madison in Bloom," and both the Spring and Summer Garden Tours.
While Sharon Thompson has been responsible for the majority of the landscaping and floral design, Kerry has focused on an herb garden and water features, including four fountains, a waterfall and goldfish pond.
The gardens also offer subjects for Thompson's paintings. "I consider my artwork and the landscaping of the water gardens to all tie together," he said. "There is no separating the arts."
The influence of his favorite Impressionistic artists, such as Renoir and Matisse, can be seen in his floral renderings. Although he has been interested in art since age 3, Thompson admits it wasn't until 15 years ago that he began to take his talents seriously. That was when Hazel Baker, artist, art instructor, and former Madison resident, asked Thompson to model for some of her students.
During these sessions, Thompson regained his interest in painting. Under Baker's tutelage, he began the task of creating and perfecting his unique style. Of that, Thompson says, "I am currently working in an Impressionistic style, but I have covered everything from abstract to formal portraiture."
About modern art, Thompson adds, "I don't like it. I appreciate it, but I don't like it."
Thompson's continued affiliation with Baker, first as a student, then as a friend and painting companion, led to his present position as manager of Visions, an exhibition of work by local artists.
In 1996, Baker formed an alliance with The Pines Restaurant on Madison's hilltop to exhibit works by the Madison Art Club's members. The works hang on the restaurant's walls.
The concept was well received by restaurant and allowed club members a central location to show and sell their work. Two years later, Baker handed the reigns to Thompson when she moved to Clarksville, Tenn. Since then, Visions has flourished under his care.
The exhibit is open to any local artist, regardless of age. Thompson notes that several exhibitors were originally restaurant customers who were inspired by the paintings and drawings.
"Some had not touched a brush in many years," he said. "But after seeing what others were doing, they began painting again."
Artist Gigi Straub is among those who has displayed her work at The Pines. "As an exhibitor, I enjoy getting feedback from the community. When someone tells me they saw a particular painting I've done, it gets my creativity flowing."
Straub also lauded Thompson's artistry and dedicationto the arts community. "Kerry is so energized about everything he does. He's artistic with his painting, music, cooking and gardening. He's a man of many facets, just like a little prism."
In addition to his paintings, Thompson offers several examples of his calligraphy in the exhibit. He began doing calligraphy in 1986 and calls it "a natural extension of reading." His fascination of the art form led him to seek instructional books but found they were all written for right-handed people. It was some time before he discovered left-handed pens and nibs.
"I had to reteach myself everything," he recalled.
Since then, Thompson has done many types of calligraphy jobs, from name tags and badges to invitations and announcements. His most ambitious undertaking to date is a 4x7 room screen decorated with ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics and their English translations.
All that might be enough to keep the average artist busy, but it's not enough for Thompson. He also stays busy with his other "love of my life" – music. Thompson began taking piano lessons at age 6.
"At first, Mom had to beat me to get me on the piano bench," he recalls, then adds with a smile, "pretty soon, she had to beat me to get me off the piano bench."
As his playing became more accomplished, Thompson added a new outlet for his creativity. He discovered music in everything, including his paintings, gardening and even cooking.
"He's a creative cook," says The Pines assistant manager, Patty Reeves. Improving on existing recipes and creating new ones has made Thompson a valuable employee at the busy hilltop restaurant, where he serves as assistant manager/kitchen manager.
Restaurant manager Mary Beth Hamilton says Thompson's creativity crosses over from his painting to his cooking. "He has an artistic flair even with the dishes he prepares for the restaurant. He adds flavor and spice to his cooking that makes the usual unusual. That's something you look for in the restaurant business."
Hamilton said the art exhibit has added a lot to the atmosphere of the restaurant, adding, "I could never do what he does with all the paintings. He has a good eye for color and does such a good job of coordinating all the different types of work. He's a very talented person."
Using all that talent can be tiring, so Thompson can often found relaxing in his backyard garden after a busy day. "The gardens, music, artwork, they're all a form of relaxation for me."
There is still another quality that sets Thompson apart from other artists – few stay so busy relaxing.

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