My name is Loretta Thompson. I have been creating for more than 25 years, professionally exhibiting, and selling commissioned work.
In addition to my own art, I work as an arts administrator for a local non-profit arts organization, where I also have curated and managed gallery exhibitions, and teach visual arts to youth and adults. I work in various mediums, originally starting in sculpture, working in wood and hand building, and creating mosaics. I paint in acrylic and resin and often use various materials for texture and layers. I love color and representing the color in sunsets and landscapes. I recreate the landscape in various ways, in light and darkness, silhouetted, and abstracted. I also enjoy exploring how we see things, which is shown as part of my series of eye paintings, playing with the presentation and detail of the eye and iris. However, landscapes are my main focus, always learning how to use and reuse resin and exploring with color to create new and better effects.
I have always wanted all people to be able to purchase and experience my work. To support this effort, I have designed apparel and home goods with my original work. I am excited to offer jackets, tops, bags, and face masks for men and women, with my original art. These items can be purchased through my website or on Etsy.
Hi Loretta! Tell us a bit about yourself. When did you begin doing art and how did you get started? When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Loretta: Interestingly enough, when I was a kid I wanted to be a veterinarian. I love animals and the outdoors. My work to this day mostly represents nature, no animals though. My first experience with art was in an after school art class in the 4th grade. I remember, applying a grid to a comic strip to learn to redraw the images in the Cathy comic. Although it was a very short program, it was fun and I continued to draw things around me, cartoons, pictures around the house, and objects from the classroom for years to come. One of my first realizations that I was artistic was in high school. I used to draw on my bedroom walls with whatever I could find, pencil, pen, colored pencil, and sometimes paint. I had only been to museums a few times with school and didn’t know anyone who was an artist. My mother didn’t understand why I had “ruined” her walls and was very angry. My aunt stepped in and told my mother not to make me paint over my artwork, that I was an artist, and to be creative. That was one of my favorite childhood memories. Though I did not go to college for art initially, I continued to study it as electives. In my early 20’s I was approached by a cousin who saw my drawings on a family trip and encouraged me to attend art school.
What artists of the past or present have inspired you?
Loretta: I became much more aware of the art world when I went to Philadelphia to study at The University of the Arts. It was there that I became obsessed with the “Freedom Sculpture” by Zenos Frudakis. I had never seen anything quite like it. The expressiveness in the figures spoke to me and drew me in each time I viewed it. Other artists, I’m still inspired by are Georgia O’Keeffe, and Degas. I often go to the museum and seek out their work for motivation and inspiration. I am drawn to how they express movement, shape, and emotion in their work. I am inspired everyday by new artists who are experimenting with and developing their craft. One artist, in particular, Zaria Forman, is a pastel artist who creates large scale images of glaciers, with her hands. This kind of out of the box art-making is wonderful to watch, especially when it draws attention to important issues.
In reflecting back to the start of your artistic endeavor, what is the most useful advice you ever received?
Loretta: Honestly, I’ve been a working artist for a very long time, but it’s never been a full time role for me. It’s something that I’ve had to fight for, and encourage myself to do everyday, every week, every month for every year. At the beginning, I didn’t really have anyone giving me advice as an artist. I think people assumed that I knew what I was doing because I was entering work into shows and selling some work. I received a lot of support and feedback about my work, which encouraged me to push forward, but not how to continue or do more. I think for those who are seeking advice I would encourage you to seek out other artists or groups of artists who create work like you or are on the same path as you. Have people that you can share your work with, ask questions of, people who will be honest with you, but who are not being harmful. I think the best thing I did was surround myself with artists of all types, who I could grow with, and they could grow with me. Technology is a great thing, there are so many groups now on Facebook and through Instragram. Don’t try and figure it out alone.
Your main focus is landscape art? What is it about landscapes that you find fascinating?
Loretta: Landscapes, while they don’t typically change physically, can have many different variations throughout the day. As the sun rises, and sets, if the weather is rainy or hot, if it snows. And, the colors you see in the sky are breathtaking. I have found, and continue to find, different ways to represent what I see in a landscape. Color is the most important aspect of landscape imagery. Capturing the right colors and combining with an urban, rural or suburban landscape, make the difference in capturing varying perspectives, but most importantly, expressing emotion.
Your art is very unique. What’s the most challenging part of your artistic process? And how do you overcome it?
Loretta: Resin is a very finicky material. I love it because it changes as you apply it, but it’s also challenging when you really want it to stay put. That being said, the most challenging part of working with resin is manipulating it so it moves the way you want. I am applying the resin in layers and with different colors to get the effect that I want. Because it is a flowing material, you sometimes wait to see what happens and the end result is the effect of the material itself. And, that is the beauty of the resin. The waiting is what is hard. Resin can take 5 hours to cure. And, during that 5 hours a lot can change, including what you thought your piece looked like. This is all part of the process. You adapt, make changes, add another layer, learn from the last pour and move on!
What are some of the tools you use to create a distinct style of artwork?
Loretta: There are various tools, from taping to applying resin extremely slowly. I use a heat gun to release bubbles. Since some work is mixed with acrylic, those pieces begin painted with acrylic and are finished with resin. Some pieces use a texture with gel or paste to give a different type of layered effect. I use brushes, palette knives, wooden sticks, and the wooden end of the brush to apply paint, resin, and paste; whatever works.
How has your style changed or evolved over the years?
Loretta: I started as a self-taught artist and then went to art school. As a sculpture major, I started mostly creating figures in wood and clay and shifted to painting, mostly due to lack of studio space. Over the years I started working on abstract figures and moved to landscapes, but kept the focus of color in all my work; bright, vibrant colors. I would say my biggest change was painting abstractly. This was something I struggled with and taught myself how to do. Now, some of my best work is abstract, and I have the most fun painting in this form. I love drawing and painting all the little details, this is why abstract can be hard for me because I have to let go of a lot of control and let the material do the creating.
What are some of the stories behind your work?
Loretta: Most of my first paintings are figurative. Since I could not carve, I wanted to express myself through painting figures and decided to do this abstractly. I am a single mother, this painting is of a mother with two children, one child in her arms, one at her feet. There are lines woven all throughout the pieces making the image a puzzle of color, shape, and line. The piece is titled, A Mother’s Love. One of my recent abstract pieces is inspired by a sunset, made with all resin. The colors set beautifully and because it is resin, has an amazing gloss. My mosaic tables were initially an experiment. I wanted to make myself a table. I ended up loving the process of breaking and fitting tiles and creating designs. It was almost therapeutic. I still have tables, tiles, shells, beads, and other material, waiting for me to experiment with them. With all of my work, I intend to express emotion through the colors and imagery in the landscape or nature. Overall, I enjoy creating, whether it’s painting or mosaics. I even have found joy in designing clothing with my art.
You also have some amazingly designed apparel and home goods. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
Loretta: Originally, I wanted to design heels. I love high heels and have a hard time finding artsy heels that I can wear to work. But, I couldn’t find the right type of shoe to actually design myself. While I was looking around for shoes to design, I stumbled across websites where I could design my own apparel. I have always wanted my work to be affordable for the average person, like myself. So, while I price my work to sell and to be competitive, I also wanted to create a way for people who don’t typically buy wall art to buy my work. So, I thought if I made my work available on clothing and some home goods, anyone could take my work with them. So, Ladyreds apparel is not available on Etsy.
What are you currently working on?
Loretta: I am currently finishing a project for a juried exhibit for Sitar Arts Center’s “Identity” show. The Ladyreds Signature Collection will be available on October 15th, with pieces designed from the Identity Collection. I just received some supplies to work on some new resin pieces for my Fall/Winter apparel collection. The next collection will be available in early November.
What’s next on the horizon for you?
Loretta: I plan to reveal a new collection of work and apparel every few months. To be the first to know about the collection, subscribe to my website, www.ladyredsstudio.com. I will also be posting videos of works in progress and providing artist’s tutorials for resin painting. Stay tuned.