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Golden Memories

This article was published in the June 2002 "Artists of South Sound".  It was written by Elizabeth Bennett, Editor and Publisher.  For more information about "Artists of South Sound" you can telephone (360) 705-2766 or email


The ocean calls, the artist answers
     There is a notation in Carol Thompson's high school yearbook that she enjoys sharing:  "Carol is an artist to her fingertips."
     The Olympia oil painter has always had a love for drawing and painting.  That passion for art has served the Olympia artist well, and since 1989 she has made her living at it.  The scenes that draw people to Thompson's work are her dramatic seascapes.Carol Thompson Self Portrait
     "In 1972 I painted my first seascape and it became a life-long subject."
     Thompson honed her skill by taking classes from a variety of artists.  "For four years I took lessons, then one day it was easy;  one day it just clicked.  When I outgrew my teachers, I went to the ocean -- the teacher itself." 
     However she didn't go to paint -- she went to study the master.  The wind and blowing sand weren't conducive to a relaxed painting session, so Thompson spent the hours watching the movement of the waves through binoculars.  She studied why waves break the way they do and she noted foam patterns.  Back in her studio, she would translate what she had leaned into brush strokes that produced seascapes that glisten as if moist with sea water.
     "I don't know why I can make the waves look wet", Thompson said.  "It's a gift that God gave me;  that's all I can say".
     Thompson augments that gift by making frequent trips to the ocean and by producing an abundance of paintings.  She's also willing to share her knowledge.  Recently she demonstrated on a work in progress at the monthly meeting of the Olympia Art League.  As she presented a short autobiography the large painting sat facing the wall.  When she swung the painting around, there was a unamimous gasp from the audience.  The waves crashing against rocks along the shore reflected a stormy sky that was brilliant with the orange and yellow of a sunset. 
     When the murmurs of other artists in the room subsided, Thompson explained that 
she was going to show why you can't be "married to a painting".  Although she liked the sky, it needed something more.  With confident strokes of a large brush the artist enlarged the cloud mass, breaking up the repeated pattern of sky.  The change made the crashing waves appear more prominent, the sunset more intense.
     "I try to get so much drama into the painting that the light just smacks you", said Thompson as she clapped her hands together for emphasis.
     When someone in the audience asked how long it takes her to complete a large painting, she grinned and said, "Twenty-five years and two weeks".
     Thompson paints on smooth, portrait-quality canvas that her husband and manager, Ed, stretches.  She prefers a gallery wrap, which enables her to continue the painting on the sides of the canvas.
     "I started doing that before the high-end galleries began doing it.  It's a very acceptable way of displaying, plus it keeps the cost down and keeps frames from being beat up".
     The price of her gallery wrap paintings vary from $5,000 for a 10-inch by 46-inch painting to $70,000 for ones that are 8-foot by 6-foot.  The price of the numbered prints depends on the size and the gallery.
     However, galleries aren't the only place Thompson sells her paintings.  The Internet has proven to be a fertile selling arena for her.  Her original paintings and numbered prints can be seen on, plus more than 100 prints are kept at bid on the e-bay auction site.
     The prolific painter doesn't stop with painting on canvas.  Drive by her home and you'll see a seascape that covers the entire garage door.  She also has rendered massive murals on exterior walls, including the Fox Theatre and mural alley in Centralia.  She has a simple explanation for the hundreds of paintings she has done.
     "I love to paint;  I just love it.  I live to paint!"

Carol Thompson can be reached at

Hints from a pro

     Carol Thompson used to pay a company to print color copies of her paintings.  Now she prints her own, thus saving time, money and the occasional color errors.
     "It is so satisfying because you have total control of your own artwork.  Sometimes I had to compromise on color with the printer and I had to print 10,000 at a time.  Now I can print one or 10."

Producing Prints
     Thompson uses the following:

  • An HP 1120C printer.
  • Two scanners:  Microtek and Scanmaker.
  • PC with a 20-inch monitor.
  • Sony digital camera.
  • Wacom Intous tablet with a stylus, so she doesn't have to use a mouse.
  • Adobe Photoshop software for color correction.
  • Showcase software for storing and managing her nearly 50,000 reference photos.
  • Paper:  80# Curtis Brightwater bright white cover stock.

Painting Tips:
     Here are a few things that Thompson shared at a recent demonstration:

  • She paints with pure pigments with an occasional bit of odorless mineral spirits.  She uses no turpentine.
  • She never becomes so dedicated to a painting that she won't change it.
  • Once a painting is totally dry, she glazes it with paint thinned with mineral spirits.
  • She consistently uses the same brand of professional grade paint.
  • He palette normally consists of thalo blue, burnt sienna, burnt umber, alizarin crimson, raw sienna, cadmium white and Grumbacher red.
  • Her painting palette is a piece of glass on top of a piece of white foam core.  Tape around the edges holds the two surfaces together.

© 2002 Carol Thompson