“I paint mud puddles,” says John Thompson, MBA’82, in a modest understatement. Thompson’s paintings and prints reflect his close observation of waterways and ponds, and how their surfaces interact with light and plants. His art, he says, is an outgrowth of “taking in a quiet moment, if you stop and look.”
Thompson’s professional life, veering between art and business, hasn’t always allowed him those quiet moments. He earned a bachelor’s degree in studio art and a master’s in art history, then opened a gallery and weaving business in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Weaving helped hone his keen sense of color. On a late-fall day in his bright, airy studio in Waltham, Massachusetts, he says, “When you’re weaving, you start blending these funny colors, and you see how blue, in proximity to yellow, becomes this wonderful yellow-blue.” A visitor’s woven scarf provides a near-at-hand example.
Seeking greater financial security, he pursued an MBA at Babson and spent many years working for a software company. But when that company was sold, he turned back to art, earning an MFA from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design (Mass-Art). “I thought I’d be a Sunday painter,” he says, but art actually became another career. His work is displayed in restaurants, institutions, galleries, and elsewhere; he also teaches art at MassArt and Framingham State University. And as owner of the Lincoln Studios building that houses his workspace and that of more than a dozen other artists, his business acumen still serves him well.
Thompson mixes media to create a sense of depth and rhythm in his landscapes. The resulting layered effect mirrors his scrutiny of the natural world. As a statement on his website puts it, “Variations and constant change in the color, pattern, texture, and light become opportunities for observing the fleeting beauty of the ordinary and the accidental, the common and the sacred.”
As a teacher, Thompson strives to help students find their voices. After a lifetime of professional pivots, he seems particularly well-positioned to impart that lesson: Having found his own voice, he has no intention of stilling it anytime soon. “At age 67,” he says, “I’m not learning how to slow down.”