Granted, her career path has meant thousands of hours of hard work, discipline she wasnt sure she possessed, and nail-biting risk-taking. But this Northern Michigan native has found her groove and is enjoying the rewards. The lessons learned along the way are ones she freely shares
with customers as they browse Valerie Studio & Fine Art Gallery in Petoskeys Gaslight District.
Describing her paintings as impressionistic landscapes and still lifes created in the style of the masters from the 1890s, Thomson might be able to draw a parallel between her work and other aspects of life.
If a painting is not working in the first 15 minutes, I tell students and aspiring artists, destroy it. Just start over, said Thomson. Painting should be enjoyable. So, scrape that canvas clean and try it again. It took me awhile to figure this out that big empty canvas can be very intimidating.
Trial and error has led to other discoveries for this pert, diminutive 1977 Petoskey High School graduate. Keeping enough inventory in stock can cause a lot of pressure and anxiety as requests for paintings, commission work and specific subjects begin to mount.
That is why Thomson relies on high-quality reproductions of her artwork. Known as giclées (pronounced zhee-clay- the French word for spray on), these are fine art reproductions. The original painting is captured through the use of drum scanners and digital cameras. The result is a replica with depth of color, subtle hues, and intricate detail that mirrors the original. The image is printed on fine art paper or canvas using pigmented inks that are guaranteed not to fade under normal light conditions for over 200 years.
For this part of her business, Thomson turns to the experts. Mary Taylor, owner of Image Arts, Inc. of Traverse City has been producing giclées for Thomsons gallery since her paintings became popular.
Giclée prints are works of art in themselves, said Taylor, whose company has been working with artists for over 40 years. For the artist, it is a true reflection of their work that they can be proud to sell and that accurately represents their art. For the owner, it is an affordable piece that will bring enjoyment for many, many years.
Living in Chicago during the winter months is when Thomson paints for the gallery and the season ahead. Favorite subjects include northern water scenes, garden scapes and nudes.
When asked if prints of her work affect the value of her originals, Thomson responds, Not at all. It is a matter of educating art buyers to the value of each and the appropriateness of both. At times, it makes more sense to have a print in a summer cottage where you dont have to worry about its durability, cracking or fading. Sometimes it makes more sense to pay $800 for a print rather than $5,000 for an original.
Most of her oil on canvas paintings require two days to complete. Thomson, who attended Kendall School of Design and studied with Carol Wald, a world-renowned artist, has a graphic design background. When she returned to Petoskey after working in business in Chicago, Wichita and Dallas, she did not find a ready position for her talents and turned to fine art and painting. After one of her first paintings sold in a hotel lobby and the rest at an art fair, she said, I can do this! and was on her way as an artistic entrepreneur.
She draws on the beauty of Northern Michigan for inspiration. Her signature style is represented in the flora and fauna in bright, bold colors in pieces as large as 36 X 48. Along with her scenics and stills are a line of rooster paintings that have become very popular.
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If you have the opportunity to visit the Petoskey gallery, pick a time when Thomson is seated at her easel, painting in the window. It is then that her style of using a knife rather than a brush is fully appreciated. She says the trowel-shaped instrument feels right and lasts longer than brushes, although she does resort to the brush when it comes to signing.
You paint best what you know best,
she says, but you also have to paint what your customers want. She feels blessed to have found her passion and to be able to make a living at it, raising her two daughters on her own.
People come to Northern Michigan to relax. I try to capture that desire, that feeling. I want to express the peacefulness of life on canvas. Thats the essence of