“What I dream of is an art of balance, purity and serenity devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter – a soothing calming influence on the mind rather like a good armchair which provides relaxation from physical fatigue.” – Henri Matisse
Inspired by Matisse’s artistic quest, I also want to create paintings that illuminate, soothe and vitalize. Discovering my purpose has been a life-long journey that started when I was young. Being a middle child, I was often overlooked. I don’t regret the lack of attention as it gave me space to create and develop independence. As long as I played quietly and behaved reasonably, I was given freedom to make my own choices. I grew to love this freedom. So much so, I chose a career in fine art. Even today, as long as I am considerate of others, freedom to express remains top priority. I believe that creative freedom is essential for happiness.
My career choice to be an artist has been both rewarding and difficult. In pursuit of my dream, I moved to Switzerland at age seventeen. After working as an Au Pair and learning German I was accepted into an art school in Zürich. I studied art and photography for four years. After earning my diploma, I studied painting in Germany and Hungary. During my stay in Europe, I lived alone and focused on art. Ironically, despite pursuing what I loved, I agonized over my purpose and pondered questions like… What is the meaning of life? Why paint? What value is there in art? What can I do to make a difference in the world? How will I survive? These questions could not be answered; they had to be solved through years of real life experience.
After returning to Canada in 1981, I met my future husband, Ted – a guitar maker. He helped me to appreciate living a balanced, healthy life. Balance was what had been missing while I was in Europe. Without balance, happiness is hard to achieve.
I was always interested in Eastern philosophy, yoga and meditation. In 1983, I attended my first 10-day Vipassana meditation course. Vipassana is a technique said to be discovered by Buddha and passed on from teacher to student for 2600 years. Vipassana means “to see reality as it is” and requires the student to calmly examine sensations inside the body. Sensations would include heat, cold, pressure, pain, throbbing, itching – vibrations of any kind. The student makes an effort to observe both the pleasant and unpleasant sensations without reacting, as the mind habitually does. The process gradually dissolves unconscious habits and harmful conditioning. After a 10-day course, one comes away with a sense of freedom, perhaps a feeling similar to overcoming an addiction.
The Vipassana experience helped me to realize that I had been reacting to unconscious sensations all my life. One minute I would feel painful sensations and react with aversion; the next minute I would feel enjoyable sensations and react with craving. I saw that my art making was perpetuating this habit of reacting. If I was angry or emotional, I would paint angry images. These paintings would in turn cause me and others to feel anger. I wanted to stop the reactive cycle and paint images that at least perpetuated peaceful feelings. Vipassana also helped me to see how everything, all matter, is constantly changing – nothing stays the same. Scientists confirm that on a molecular level all matter is moving. However for me, experiencing change inside and becoming aware of my reactions was enlightening.
I wanted to find ways to express these insights through my art. In 1990, I eliminated all references to “realism” in my paintings. Realism is all about external images. I wanted to find images that expressed my inner world. Once I started painting “nothing”, the challenge was to create images that felt meaningful. This was not easy. I looked to non-objective colour field painters like Mark Rothko, Yves Klein, Paul Jenkins, Joseph Marioni, Natvar Bhavsar and Mark Tobey for help. It took several years of studying abstract art to develop a feeling for it. Even now, there are only a handful of abstract paintings that resonate with my emotions.
I started painting compositions using only colour, light, movement and space – visual elements we see in nature. I explored two styles – mono-colour and multi-colour. My monochromatic paintings became fields of one predominant colour comprised of countless overlapping lines, splatters, dots and specks of light. These paintings somehow evoke calm, uplifting energy. My multi-colour pieces are layers of colour that resemble a patina and express energy, movement and impermanence. To see my painting process please visit: Acrylic Painting Process – YouTube
Living a balanced life and connecting with my inner world have influenced how and what I paint. When I am agitated, my work is agitated. When I am calm, my work is unified and harmonious. My paintings mirror who I am. If I want to create beautiful work, I must create beauty within. When young artists ask me for advice – I suggest that they rely less on external stimuli and withdraw into a balanced, meditative lifestyle. Art is rooted in experience. We have a choice to what kind of experiences we want. Artistic creations that flow from one’s eternal source become timeless. Great artists are often emancipated individuals – working beyond their time. Yet, long after these artists pass away, others begin to recognize the wisdom of their work. In his book, Quest of the Overself, philosopher Paul Brunton writes, “The ideas which hold sway today are frequently the rejected notions of tomorrow, and only those who have emancipated themselves in advance of their own epoch can help others to do likewise.”
I have been painting colour fields for twenty-five years and have experienced how color generates energy, vitality and stimulates mental and physical health. Harmonious colours help to lift one out of depression. Light filled colours spark joy and optimism. Even researchers confirm that certain colours can calm the nervous system, activate brain centers, and influences behavior. The latest findings show that we actually glow with colour and light! Colour is a language that cannot be understood by the brain. Colour is like love – you only know its power when you feel it. When we emotionally respond to colour we are transported into a mystical, maybe even spiritual world within.
My life as an artist has been a long journey of discovery – discovering who I am and what purpose I serve. After years of exploration, trials and tribulations, I conclude – I am on this planet to shed ignorance, grow aware, and connect with the eternal within. My goal is to be happy, and find ways to share my happiness with others. My journey may be the same journey we all share. We open our eyes at birth and spend the rest of our lives seeking purpose and Truth. As we experience enlightening moments that liberate us, we are motivated to share our insights. Creating art is a way to share. The more balance, health, peace, wisdom and love we experience, the more beautiful our artistic expressions become. Manifesting beauty becomes our greatest purpose. I believe that it is beauty that can heal the world.
All Images Are © Heidi Thompson
Heidi Thompson Artist Bio Heidi Thompson was born in Vernon, British Columbia. After graduation, she moved to Europe and studied art. From 1975-1979 she attended the University of Art & Design Zürich earning a Swiss Diploma for Professional Photography. In 1980, Thompson studied painting at the Nürnberg Art Academy. Her final year in Europe was attending the Hungarian State University for Fine Art in Budapest. In 1982, Thompson returned to Vernon where she worked as a freelance photographer and painter. In 2001, Thompson received her BFA from Open University of British Columbia. Later she attended the University of Victoria and earned her B.C. Teaching Certificate. In 1994, Thompson started a book publishing company Coldstream Books. She wrote and published “Calm Focus Joy: The Power of Breath Awareness (www.calmfocusjoy.com) and “Recapitulation – A Journey by Sveva Caetani”, which won the VanCity Book of Excellent Award. Currently, Heidi Thompson paints full-time and exhibits her paintings in San Diego, Montreal, Florida and Switzerland.
Blog / Website: Heidi Thompson