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Marie Thompson
Portrait Artist

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Marie Thompson

Marie Thompson
Portrait Artist

by Rachel Perry
photo by George Bredewater

Upstairs in the Village Green Building, Marie J. Thompson's studio and gallery overlook Main Street in Nashville. Several artist studios are housed in the same building.

Marie Thompson's bright and comfortable rooms invite visitors to linger over an extensive display of oil paintings and pastels or to look through her representative portfolio. Walls and storage racks display a sampling of formal still lifes, detailed renditions of individual flowers and portraits of all ages and types of people.

Portrait work is Marie Thompson's top priority. "There is always a demand for portraits," she declared. "Some artists don't like to do portraits because they feel that someone else controls the final product. I work with clients to have a thorough understanding before we start. They come in, see what I do and we talk everything through."

A big reason for Mrs. Thompson's success with her clients is her personal involvement with them. "Anyone can learn to draw or paint and become a good technician. When you get to know the client and put feeling into the painting, you capture the individual." The children's portraits, in particular, demonstrate her sensitivity to unique traits in each subject.

Marie Thompson has gotten to know many people in her 40 years of painting. Her client list reads like a "Who's Who" in the Indiana business world and includes executives and family members from H.H. Gregg, Indianapolis Power and Light, and the Indianapolis Star, among others. A painting familiar to many county residents is her portrait of Judge Judy Stewart which hangs in the Brown County courthouse.

Mrs. Thompson does not limit herself to portraits of humans. Beloved horses, dogs and cats are also carefully rendered for nostalgic owners. She began painting animals when her eldest son showed an interest in horses. He went on to become a world class hunter-jumper equestrian. This past spring, Mrs. Thompson's grandson graduated from Purdue Veterinary School.

Before beginning a full time commitment to artwork in the early l960s, Marie Thompson devoted her time and energy to her family. The mother of five sons, she and her husband lived in Indianapolis where he worked as an organic chemist for Eli Lilly Company. "Around the time of my third son's birth, I decided I needed to do something to get out of the house one day per week," Mrs. Thompson confessed. "I decided to take up painting."

Mrs. Thompson began taking lessons and painted whenever she could fit it in. "It was difficult," she admitted. "Usually I'd begin painting when the kids went to bed, but I'd be painting until two in the morning!"

Her determination gained swift results. "Within a year I was teaching art at the Indianapolis Art League," she said. In 1960, Marie Thompson began entering and winning area exhibitions with her drawings, pastels and oil paintings. Her list of awards includes the Indianapolis Art League, Indiana State Fair, Hoosier Salon, Indiana Heritage Arts and the Indiana Artists Club.

Their children grown, the Thompsons planned to retire in Brown County. When Mr. Thompson died suddenly in 1972, Marie decided to make Nashville her permanent home.

Dedicated to continually improving her work, Mrs. Thompson has studied with several well-known artists and traveled to workshops throughout the world. Teachers have included Paul Strisek, Albert Handell, Irving Shapiro, Daniel Greene, Don Getz, Elmer Taflinger, Simon Baus, Marilyn Bendell and George Burrows, among others.

Many of Marie Thompson's pastel paintings follow Albert Handell's technique. "After you do your drawing, you do a watercolor, which takes the place of a toned paper," she explained. "You already have your colors in place with the background wash and the colors for the subject. When the watercolor dries, then you go in with the pastels."

An occasional instructor herself, Mrs. Thompson has definite ideas about teaching art. "Still life is your best teacher," she maintains. "When I have beginning students, I will always put a still life up for them because you can learn everything from it. When you can do a good still life you're prepared for anything else. It's all there: form, composition, values and textures."

There's no question that years of fine-tuning her specialty have made portraits by Marie Thompson much in demand. A full accounting of her past clients is now too extensive to fit into the portfolio, and a commissioned portrait of a girl awaits completion on her easel. If a portrait is something you are considering, take the time to visit Marie Thompson's studio, open weekdays and Saturday mornings.

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