Entrepreneur Crush of the Week: Mandy Thompson

"We always are who we were at our earliest years." - Mandy Thompson

I don't even remember why or how we became friends on Facebook - I only just met Mandy Thompson last week. Perhaps only very few words were even exchanged in the time we were virtual friends prior to our official meeting but one thing is for certain: Mandy has a lot to offer me. I feel in some way I've gotten to watch a stranger grow & I've had nothing but respect for her since she entered into my realm of awareness. Courageous, colorful, energetic, bold, & humble are only a few adjectives of many that describe Mandy's personality. Unashamed & unapologetically, she is... Mandy. If her disposition ever burst at the seems, she has learned to harness her energy & release it onto blank, white canvas, feeding a subconscious (or conscious!) desire from the community to see what she sees & feel what she feels when she paints. Perhaps we'll never know exactly but it is undeniable that her art is full of life, emotion, uncertainty, hope, & authenticity.

I watched Mandy bounce from canvas to canvas as she spoke - she is efficient with her work. When I spoke, she turned & looked directly at me & paused before any response; I knew she was truly listening to me. Without hesitation (but with great thought) she responded to my questions as her brush continued to dance over her canvas. Nonchalantly she wiped her fingers across her capris & never lost pace with work or thought. She weaved together bits of her life through discussion of family, being a preacher's wife, a mom, an artist, & mental health - the thing that has drawn me most to Mandy. Through a struggle with anxiety & depression, she makes a meaningful effort every day to be her best self, to be a quality influence on her daughters, to be a genuine friend, neighbor, wife, & respect her own personal boundaries. My favorite photo of Mandy is a selfie she posted of her wearing a shirt that says, "World's Okayest Mom," a public embrace of her imperfections. In her post, she says, "'Perfect' feels scrutinizing, unforgiving, accusatory." I couldn't agree more but it's not as if I had the courage to admit it until I saw her picture.

I've tried to rewrite Mandy's answers to my questions. To reword what she has expressed so eloquently would seem almost fraudulent. So here is Mandy in her truest form, in both word & art:

When did you start painting?

Growing up, I always enjoyed art — coloring and drawing from as early as possible. My mom says that I wasn’t happy unless there was a crayon or pencil in my hand. By the time I was a teenager, this affection had grown into photo-realistic drawing.

Why?

It’s hard to understand why people fall in love with art at the onset, but in hindsight I can say that I thrive in calm quiet environments, especially as a kid. & this spilled into adulthood, with my love for art being a major component of a balanced healthy lifestyle that suits my temperament. We always are who we were at our earliest years.

What inspired it when you began?

I think my childhood inspiration came from the soothing nature of art, & honestly that’s still the case. I was drawn to the creative process, challenging my brain to make things and achieve depictions of the world as I saw it. I loved the “game” of creativity, both with ideation & execution. But as a kid? All I knew was that I liked it!

When did you start back up again?

I returned to art in my mid-thirties, about 18 years after I set it aside.

Why/what inspired it?

While I was making lifestyle changes that would help me counteract depression & anxiety, someone advised me to explore art journaling as a cathartic resource — a way to express & explore the things that contributed to a long stretch of depression. The return to art also alleviated some of the roaring & churning in my mind, giving me that calming environment again. It really helped.

Talk a little bit about mental health & what roll it plays in your artwork.

As an adult, I actively embraced the symbiosis between my artwork & my mental balance — knowing that the two inform one another. On the one hand, having time in the studio helps me reflect on life, arrange my thoughts, give my mind a space to process, & generally dial down the whirl of the world around me. On the other hand, those things that are tugging at my mental energy often show up in my paintings through symbology, colors, & overall message.

What message do you want to send to anyone who sees your artwork?

Life is a bit wild, strewn, chaotic — but if you step back and look at the big picture, there is balance & beauty.

What message do you want to send to anybody who meets you?

From all angles, I aim to instill a sense of hope in others: Hope that things will get better, hope that they can be better, hope that change can happen, hope that creativity is accessible to them, hope that their mental landscape can shift. Hope that something can be done about those things that keep us up at night.

How long have you been at the studio?

I’ve had a space there since the doors opened. Ed Hose let me know Harlan Hambright had just gotten keys to the building & I was first in line. Being a part of the downtown community as well as the larger arts community in Glynn County has deeply impacted me. I don’t exactly fall into the expected “coastal Georgia” style of painting seascapes and marsh scenes, and with that I didn’t know how well my work would be received. In fact, the creative community at large has supported me & offered opportunities that were beyond my expectations. There’s definitely a place for abstract artists in our area, and we have the local community to support them! I say that it takes a village to raise an artist, & I’m grateful for the village that’s raising me.

Where all can your work be found?

You can find MTs at Dot & Army & the Brunswick Stewdio in downtown Brunswick. For my SSI people, I have items at Viola’s Market as well as Uncle Don’s Local Market. Also, my work is on permanent display at The Farmer & The Larder, downtown.

How do you want to impact the community?

One of the things I love to do is coach others in their own creative endeavors, helping them find their creative footing & better understand the creative process as it applies to their lives. I don’t widely share this service, as it seems to happen organically — the right people at the right time. However, when it happens, there’s a synchronicity at play. It’s a privilege to walk with someone as their creativity unfolds. In a more general sense, hope my paintings help people understand their own stories. I’ve had countless others respond to my artwork in a way that is deeply personal for them, retelling how the colors & energy reflect something they’ve been struggling with in their own lives. There’s a profound sense of resonance that occurs, a “Yes I understand. This is exactly it.” It’s an honor to illustrate the emotions of someone else’s life, especially as I simply aim to work out my own inner plot lines on the canvas.

What are some of the biggest lessons you've learned since you began painting again?

There’s a largely held belief out there that creativity is something that just happens — “the muse strikes” as they say. From my experience, the sitting-around-&-waiting isn't necessary. I've learned to harness & influence my own creativity & rarely have "writer's block" (for lack of a more fitting painterly term). When I actively pursue new ideas & directions, I'm not short on inspiration. Now, needing rest is a different "block" entirely. But that's a lesson I'm still learning!

What are some of the biggest obstacles you've had to overcome in regards to your artwork?

By far, my wrestle with anxiety is my largest obstacle. This makes meetings & crowds & new opportunities very daunting, as well as taxing. There’s a real cost during those seasons and circumstances that push my anxiety up a few notches. I have learned the ebb & flow of my own mental/emotional energy, & am learning to manage those tides.

Lastly, how do you balance home life and art & how does one inspire the other?

My art is an overflow of my touch points in life. Whether that be working through a particularly troubling season, or cathartically painting intense emotions, it’s going to seep out into my art in some way. The timing, however, has been quite interesting. I transitioned careers, becoming a professional artist, around the same time that our daughters entered our lives. From that perspective, I can’t imagine one aspect of my life without the other. Being an artist makes me a better mom, as I’m a better version of myself. & being a mom motivates me to settle into the quiet of my studio & let the mind clear itself to make room for more of what life brings. For introverted types, we need space and time to reflect and refresh our minds in order to have energy for those little ones who deserve our best. The studio is a refreshing sanctuary for me, & sends me back to my family with an inner peace and resilience. Also, it’s important to me to model a balanced and successful life as a woman who is becoming the best version of herself that she can be. It’s my paramount goal as a mother: help them become the best versions of themselves that they can be. So, we talk about the aspects of my work that scare me. We talk about hard days. We talk about being tired and taking care of your body. We talk about self-awareness and self-nurturing. We talk about trying our best. We talk about doing hard things. I hope this openness helps them learn a few lessons and prepare them for adulthood.

I am so thankful Mandy invited me in to her studio to give me a glimpse in to her work space, her sanctuary. As somebody who has never claimed to have it all figured out, it's obvious Mandy lives with great intention - a lesson most of us do not seem to want to learn until much later in life, if even then. She continues to inspire me, encourage me through her work, her posts, & how she embraces life.

What an honor to get to watch her grow & continue to inspire the community in so many ways <3

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