Moods on canvas

Painting may have been Max Thomson’s second creative career, but it is one that was always going to happen, once the mood struck.

It had been a long time since Max Thomson had thought about painting. A long-established fashion photographer, he didn’t intend to pick up a paintbrush again; didn’t intend to show his work; didn’t intend to get a good response to it and “certainly didn’t intend to do the artist thing”. But he did.


“At school my teachers always said ‘oh he’ll become a painter’, and back then I thought I might too. But then I got into photography.”
For 35 years.
Then, 11 years ago, after eyeing the tubes of acrylic paint left in the basement by his son, Max started thinking about giving painting another go…
When inspiration struck.


“But then I heard something on the radio: ‘Never wait for inspiration, get started and inspiration will come’.”
So he got started – and inspiration duly came for 10 hours a day, every day. “I couldn’t get enough of it in the beginning; I painted furiously.”
Which isn’t to say Max has milder feelings about his art these days. Although he now spends fewer hours in his Devonport studio, he still picks up a brush every day. “I miss it when I’m away.”


But even when he is away, Max still views the world compositionally. His last exhibition, for example, had its genesis in an impromptu trip to the park. “It had just stopped raining and I felt compelled to pull over because the grass looked amazing. The sky was just this solid block of grey that seemed unimportant compared to the grass, which was this luminous, glinting green.” Consequently, all the paintings in After the Rain, held late last year at Black Asterisk gallery, had their compositions focused at a low angle; the sky cut off as if it didn’t exist, evoking a slightly sinister feel.


The old photography skills are useful in achieving outcomes such as this. “I take photos to paint from, but more to capture the mood I want to convey.”
Max’s work is all about mood – of the subject, yes, but also his own. Although a selection of his paintings are sold through Herne Bay homeware store Tessuti, sorry dear buyer, he doesn’t give you a second thought: “I’m not painting  to order, I’m painting to please myself.”


And Max is pleased. “I didn’t realise how frustrated I was not painting till
I started. I still stand back from something I’ve just finished and think ‘how did I do that? How did this happen?’”
He doesn’t know. But it did.
For more on Max Thomson’s art, visit his representative gallery

Words Gena Tuffery    
Photography Ophelia Mikkelson


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