Lionel Thomas is a self-taught artist who’s displaying a panel of paintings based on musical themes. We first found him on LinkedIn, and immediately got intrigued, hence we decided to do this interview.
Lionel’s colorful and vibrant art finds its roots in the dynamic vibes coming from those cities: Lille, France – or Lila as we know it in Spanish – and Garoua, Cameroon.
His Cameroonian and French roots give his artworks depth, the symbol of musical culture in constant movement.
Next, the interview, exclusively for Kimatika:
K: Tell us more about your background?
LT: I was born in Lille. I grew up in a smaller town called Garoua. The former is cold, known for its grey, rain clouds, at the crossroads of London, Brussels, and Luxemburg. The latter is very warm, sunny, peaceful, and almost desertic. Such a coincidence that they are both located in the North region of their respective countries. I like to describe myself as “the child of the Norths”.
K: When did you start this project?
LT: Last year, actually, about 6 months ago. It’s still a young activity but it had been pending for a long time, I felt that I had a lot of stories to tell, and this was the right time. I have been drawing and painting since my childhood, but this was an epiphany after years of activity in corporate communication marketing and graphic design with my other company: Kilifori.
K: What kind of technique do you use?
LT: Oil painting is a realm of infinite possibilities. I use brushes techniques mostly. I’m experimenting impasto and glazing a lot. I’m a fan of knife techniques; They give my paintings that energy and look that I’m searching for. I combine digital and traditional art which allows me to reach new heights and frontiers.
K: Tell us more about your sources of inspiration?
LT: I remember my childhood in Garoua, those long drawing sessions in our house’s study room, impatiently waiting to run to my mum to show her my “masterpieces”. I grew up watching Disney’s classics: Bambi, Peter & The Wolf, Fantasia, Song of The South… Also Japanese animes. Reproducing what I saw was the game. I met “real” art in high school. It was cold, segmented and boring. The passion came along with Vermeer, Lorrain, Turner, Martens, Picasso, Basquiat. Their work blew me away.
K: And where did the idea of painting music come from?
LT: When I wasn’t drawing, I was listening to music in the living room. My dad is a huge music lover, he had a great vinyl and CD collection, organized by genre and countries, I could switch from Umm Kulthumm to The Jacksons’ albums very quickly. Painting music comes naturally as I got exposed to tons of art covers. Furthermore, being able to express my feelings that way helps my artistic growth. Music is a vessel of emotions, so is painting. I’m on a mission of transforming the hearing experience into a visual one.
K: You are also a musician, tell us more about it?
LT: I am a multi-instrumentalist. I play the piano, the guitar (electric and acoustic) and drum machines. The saxophone came late to the mix, I can’t resist that cool sound. I’m a quick learner and have easy access to the instruments; It is a blessing.
K: And what kind of music do you listen to? What music is on while you’re painting?
LT: I like the Blues, Soul and Jazz music. At times, I’m into contemporary music: R&B and Hip-Hop. I was born in the 80s, therefore that 90s vibe always hits home. I’m glad that this analog trend is making a comeback in today’s records.
K: The characters we see in your paintings, are they real musicians?
LT: No, they are just figures. I like to explore and contemplate my music and art idols from different angles. I redigest, compile their background and deliver it raw to my audience: I can feel Basquiat’s sadness and the tension of Miles’ horn when Herbie messed a solo up. Something special and very unique comes out of this, the viewers can feel it as if they were actually there.
K: Tell me about your goals?
LT: I would like to have my gallery. I have a clear vision of what my brand is: a place where people can discover the combination of art and music. A creativity hub for other artists as well.
K: Do you plan to venture into other artistic expressions/topics?
LT: I will always be faithful and loyal to my values, education, core, and vision. There are things that I can’t do. I have been asked to do nudes just because I paint women or Star Wars paintings, but I had to pass. It is important to “keep it real” when facing art. What kind of stories do I want to tell? I am a music painter. I will never make sociopolitical pieces, even commissioned. Music can handle social problems and tensions perfectly. For example, Marvin Gaye came up with “What’s Going On” by observing the civil unrest in Detroit in the 60s while touring.
K: What are you most thankful for?
LT: Being an artist is not easy. It’s an everyday struggle, full of rejections, letdowns, disappointments, and frustrations. But, guess what? Over the hill is home. I enjoy the ride, I’m having fun and making great friends in the process. I thank God for giving me this opportunity to touch so many people around the world, from this little studio, with the vision and talent He gave me. It’s a sad world we are living in. People deserve more happiness. Art will prevail.
K: Are there any upcoming showings?
LT: I do not have any scheduled exhibitions. I’m taking my time. Building up my catalog. However, amazing things will happen very soon. Stay tuned!
K: Can we buy your art? You do international shipping?
LT: Yes my art is available in limited editions on my website: www.liothomas.com, which anyone can visit, follow on social media -to find hidden work and gems: Facebook and Instagram. Subscribe to my newsletter to get in the loop. For shipping, I do ship rolled over canvas internationally on FedEx ground.
K: Thank you very much for this interview!
LT: Thank you.