When I asked Reece Thompson if he had always wanted to be an artist, his response was, “I had no choice. I tried to get away but my hand is attracted to paintbrushes like banks to cheques and teenagers to phones.”
I met Reece, 24, the straightforward young man who has a beautiful way with words, last week at the Livity office in Brixton. He was bringing a room to life through painting, as the winner of the PAINT Livity competition.
Learning that he had won “was like when you get your GCSE results and know you done well in the exam but you can’t be sure because it depends who’s judging it. Opening that email was another confirmation to continue pursuing what I am doing.”
Brought up in South West London and now living in Essex, Reece has always loved art. He says: “When I was a child and my nan used to babysit me she would give me pencils and paper and I would draw until I fell asleep. I have a lot of time to think and often my thoughts become pictures; other times they become poems or stories.”
However, he only started pursuing art as a profession in the last few months, after he released a print that was bought by someone in New York — “That was the confirmation I needed”.
Reece studied Fine Art at A-level and got “very good marks”, but was unfortunately told that “art is not a realistic thing to pursue”. He went on to get a BA Hons in Sociology and Criminology, but he was happy that he didn’t go to art school so “I can make my own decisions, techniques and sort things out by myself.”
Although his favourite art medium is oil paint, Reece says, “I use whatever I have and whatever I feel will convey what I am trying to say best. Most of my work is improvised and has a range of mediums.”
One of his main artistic inspirations is Kadir Nelson, who is also one of his top three artists (William Turner and Basquiat are the other two). Despite naming Kadir Nelson, Reece said that he could name hundreds, as he’s “inspired by anyone who has odds stacked against them and reaches their goals (morally).”
However, Reece’s biggest influence is his cultural identity — he is of Jamaican, Indian and Irish descent. This is because “it’s hard being mixed race in a world where people see black and white. I express it by including black subjects disproportionately. Many pieces are about subverting stereotypes, secretly.”
Despite winning PAINT Livity and exhibiting in an event in September, Reece told me “I am working on my portfolio quietly until I feel it is strong – then you will see me around.” Nevertheless, he wants to use his career as an artist to make a difference right now — “I do things in the background. I have activist friends and I contribute artistically where I can.” He also plans to do creative workshops in schools.
To any aspiring artists, Reece’s advice is, “If you’re calling yourself an aspiring artist you’re not going to be taken seriously. You’re either an artist or you’re not. You can’t be a an aspiring student or aspiring plumber. Get the job done.”
He would also tell young people who may be afraid of pursuing their dreams “you need to work on your skills because you’re not confident enough. Make something, put it out there. Then repeat the process.”
Reece says: “Just recognise this is real life and not a dream and some days/weeks/months/years may be a nightmare for you. But whatever you can do better than everyone around you, capitalise on that from as early as possible. I was spray painting t-shirts when I was 15. That used to be the thing then.”
Reece has a solid determination to make his dreams a reality and I love that he tells it like it is, providing strong, inspiring words for the youth. Like he so clearly puts it, “If you’re not pursuing your dreams what are you doing?”