Women do incredible things. Here, we feature the stories of women who are a part of the Southeast Missouri community by way of living here, being from here or passing through. We hope these stories inspire you to connect with others and that they encourage you to be who you are in the world. We need you and your unique gifts.
This story originally appeared in the December 2019 issue of The Best Years (TBY).
Caroline Thompson goes into her art studio every day. Sometimes she paints for hours on end, creating beautiful abstract pieces she hangs in her home and gallery. Yet there are many times she just sits down, takes in her surroundings, observes the smells of the studio and cleans the brushes. It’s a practice she learned from a respected art teacher long ago: the practice of showing up, of being present, of being still. And it’s this type of teaching that continues to inspire Thompson today.
Originally from Kennett, Missouri, Thompson has spent most of her adult life in Colorado. It was there, in 1999, that she discovered a deep passion for art.
“A friend pulled me into an art class that I didn’t want to take,” Thompson says. “But when I left that first class, I had a skip in my walk, and my heart was so happy.”
Within two weeks, she had a studio set up in her home. Within two years, she participated in her first art show and sold 17 original paintings. Throughout the last 20 years, Thompson has sold paintings to more than 160 patrons across the United States. And she’s just getting started.
For the last few years, Thompson and her husband, George, have lived in Cape Girardeau. Their residence has changed, and so has her art. Moving from large flowers to women and children of color to abstract cubism, Thompson remains energetic and enthusiastic about whatever she is creating. She has learned to let go and listen, letting the canvas guide her work.
In art, “there is no right or wrong,” Thompson says. “There are no rules to the canvas or the studio. Each piece has to be approached with freedom in your head, heart and soul.”
It’s a philosophy that has served her well for many years, allowing her to think outside the box, to be open to the process and to produce her best work. And while every painting is a personal journey of a lifetime of thoughts, she admits her current Picasso-inspired projects are the most fun.
“It’s playful and strong, with brilliant colors,” she says. “Cubism came out of nowhere, in small pieces that caught my eye. It’s amazing. I love what I do.”
And her love for creating art along with her passion and drive is what motivates her to keep painting and to keep teaching others, hoping they, too, will find the same joy through expression and creativity. This is ultimately what prompted the opening of the Caroline Thompson Studio and Gallery in May 2019 in Cape Girardeau.
Knowing the importance of community, Thompson wanted a place to not only display her own work, but to also teach in a space that would encourage others to create art, too. An active member of the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri, a regular artist in residence and participant in several other local and national organizations, Thompson is thankful for the opportunity to share and learn from other artists. Talking about her work and artistic process with others gives each person the chance to grow, expand and evolve, so that the work of creating is never done.
“Right now, I’m just enjoying being an artist and learning from my own life experiences,” Thompson says. “I can’t see living life without it.”
When she is not painting, you can find Thompson doing other creative things around her home. Some of her favorite activities include cooking, gardening and entertaining, all of which allow her time to get re-inspired, to contemplate her next work and to use her hands in a different way, though she is never away from the studio for long.
Often, Thompson can be found in studio, paint brush in hand, jamming out to country music artists like Keith Urban and Blake Shelton. Other days, she will paint in silence, stepping back to absorb her work, change her direction or listen to the canvas. But no matter what, she will show up. She will be present and still. And through that stillness, she will create.