Isla Vista Artist Spotlight: Oliver Thompson

Photo by Kaylan Chlolewa | The Bottom Line

Kaylan Cholewa

Oliver Thompson, a third-year biological anthropology major at UCSB, uses his paintings as a means of letting his hands do the talking. More than that, however, he creates art for the purpose of self-expression; each piece reflects part of himself. Thompson has been drawing and creating for the majority of his life, but now has found passion in painting and displaying the work he and his friends create all around the walls of his apartment.

Thompson, originally from Turlock, California, is a transfer student pursuing a career in medicine. As is the case for many other transfer students, Thompson worked hard to earn a spot at UCSB. Since acceptance, he has taken advantage of the many opportunities offered on campus and has fostered a new passion for painting.

Starting from a young age, Thompson has been an auditory learner — he found himself doodling in notebooks while listening to what his teachers were saying. What’s more, Thompson states, “I only took two art classes in high school…basically it was just practicing shading and drawing with pencils.” You’d never guess that by the sheer amount of assorted, eye-catching art pieces that are hung on his walls.

Besides his formal education, Thompson got inspiration for his art from other things in his environment, such as the symmetry of church buildings, music, and his father’s drawings. When Thompson’s father was a late teenager, he was drawing perfectly detailed sketches of architecture, designs, and faces.

Thompson has a multitude of drawings hanging around the apartment that his father previously kept in an old art portfolio. Thompson reflects on the intricacy of his father’s work by saying: “My dad was always so good at being detailed. I like his drawings because he was so precise with it… some of his stuff I really like, but some of it is too precise for me.”

Thompson discussed how his father provided some inspiration for his paintings. “You could say I get my inspiration from my dad… growing up, my dad was always quiet… it wasn’t until later in my life that I began to respect the hard work he put into helping make ends meet for our family.”

In one specific drawing he shared from his father’s work, a simple, but very intricate sketch of a home was displayed on the page. It was a design of his mother’s dream home that his father had taken the time to detail.

From the moment you step into Thompson’s apartment, you can’t help but let your eyes wander around all of the paintings and drawings hung up on the wall, each piece created by either himself, his friends, or his father. When asked how long he’s been painting for, Thompson mentions that “I started around six months ago, but I have really been focused on it for the past two months or so.”

Thompson describes that he mostly paints in his apartment with friends. Occasionally, he’ll go down to the beach or Santa Barbara to paint sceneries, but he mostly likes to hang out with friends in his home to paint.

To celebrate creativity, art, and friendship, Thompson started “Wine Wednesdays,” a tradition for he and his friends to get together on Wednesday evenings, hang out, and paint whatever they want. All of the art materials are provided by Thompson; in return, he simply requests that his friends let him hang up their art on the wall afterwards.

When I asked Thompson if he plans to pursue a career out of painting, he discussed how he dreams of becoming a doctor but also hopes that he can still maintain his passion for painting throughout his life and career. When asked why painting is so important to him, Thompson stated that “Painting is a way to let my hands do the talking instead of my mouth. I use it as a destressor.”

As of now, Thompson has not publicly displayed his work, but hopes to be able to showcase his work at the Glen Dallas Gallery in downtown Santa Barbara in the near future. If you’re is interested in viewing Thompsons’s work, follow his Instagram at: 42_olly, or his Snapchat at: imoliver.

My last question for Thompson was if he had any advice for aspiring artists getting started, to which he replied: “I believe one has to jump in to swim.”