Simone Zeffiro Meets the UK-Based Visual Artist Catherine Thomas

Simone Zeffiro interviews Catherine Thomas

Cathy Thomas is a very talented English painter from the county of Cheshire, England where she lives and works from her art studio. Her love for making paper and painting started at a very early age when she was only a teenager and, while she was completing her degree in Design for Communication Media at the Manchester Metropolitan University, she received her first award: The Designers’ and Art Directors’ Student Award for Illustration. After university she began working as illustrator and a few of her more notable achievements include having a piece of her work used for an album cover for the great Jazz musician Dave Brubeck and providing illustrations for The Times Newspaper magazines. This year she received the People’s Choice Award at The Harley Gallery Open Exhibition and exhibited at a number of important art galleries such as The Stockport Gallery in Manchester. She has been recently featured in the Saatchi Online Barely There: Nude Figures Collection and she is represented by Jack Sevens Art Yard Gallery based in Cheshire.

Catherine 'Cathy' Thomas

LM: Cathy it’s truly a pleasure for me having the opportunity to talk to you. Looking at your artworks collection it seems to me your main artistic interest is the human form, whether with acrylic on made paper, watercolour or pencil. What are your drawing and painting preferences?
CT: I have used all different types of media in the past from watercolours to oils, but my preferred medium is using acrylic paint on my own paper that I make in the studio.  As a teenager I struggled to find a surface upon which I wanted to draw and paint.  Paper and canvas have always felt very clinical to me and I was always concerned with the fact that these manufactured surfaces dictated the basis of my paintings. Discovering making paper was a revelation and for the first time I felt that what I was creating was all mine.  I was responsible for the textured crevices and as the relationship between made paper and paint grew, I learnt to respond to its irregularities and began to use it to inform mood, colour and composition.

LM: We have been friends now for almost two years, and we know that painting and photography are similar in many aspects. The attention to detail, the management of space and light and composition are fundamental. The aspect that I think is more important is the determination of the subject, the “story” it represents, and the feeling it communicates. How do you find the right starting point to develop your own artworks?
CT: As you know I agree.  The subject matter and the emotion that it communicates is the most important part of my paintings and this is why I focus on the human form.  When producing commissions for clients I have to have some understanding of the sitter, some insight into who they are in order to produce a painting or drawing that has an essence of character.

LM: Throughout history, artists of all kinds have been inspired, transported or in the worst case blocked by unexpected events of life. In your case, unfortunately, I am aware that a very sad event has changed the way you see life and consequently the way you interpret your art. Are you happy to divulge to our readers how and why your work has changed over the years?
CT:
The sudden deaths of my twin and elder sister in the late 1990’s had a huge impact on my life and I stopped painting for about ten years.  I had little desire to create as I struggled with the loss of my siblings and for the next few years I focused on my family and began teaching.  The turning point was seeing a painting by Stuart Pearson Wright hanging in The National Portrait Gallery in London on a school trip with students.  The sincerity of the portrait overwhelmed me and it prompted me to paint again. I produced a figurative self-portrait in 2011 and realised my work no longer resembled the brightly coloured stylised illustrations, that I had so previously enjoyed painting.  The portrait proved that I had changed as a person and therefore so had my painting style.  I view the transition as something positive and see through my painted figures a desire to show a sense of moving forward.

LM: Often artists have the need to not only create art but to convey their passion to other people. You are an artist and an art teacher. How do you manage to carry out your artistic projects and devote time to those who may be artists of the future?
CT: I thoroughly enjoy teaching and I know that I will always teach in some capacity as I enjoy the interaction.  Creating is an opportunity to express and an extension of being and it is such a privilege to see my students making progress and achieving.  I would prefer to have more time in my studio but I realise that I am really quite fortunate to have the best of both worlds.

LM: We talked about your past and your present, and I’m really happy that you decided to accept my interview. Now I would like to know what are your intentions for the future. Is there any specific project you’re working on? Are you planning new exhibitions?
CT: I will shortly be focusing on a series of male figurative paintings for an exhibition next year.

Catherine Thomas is not only a great artist but a great friend and I’ve been really pleased to have the possibility to present her to our readers. I have chosen to show only a small amount of her work, but I invite everyone to visit her official website to see a more comprehensive range of paintings and drawings and for her contact details.

www.cathythomasstudios.com

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