First published: Winter 2000/01
William Thomas Thompson’s career and identity as a visual artist would seem to defy many of the current characterizations of outsider art. He was a fundamentalist Christian since the age of 13, a self-made millionaire who lost a fortune made from imported silk flowers, semi-paralysed since 1980 by Guillain-Barré syndrome, and, most remarkably, since 1989, a painter and visual artist who accepts that this occupation is a pre-ordained mission. In 1989 Thompson had an extraordinary road-to-Damascus experience which left him committed to painting.
Thompson is an articulate, engaging man with great social grace. He remains driven by intense though humble ambition for recognition as an artist. Although he came from a rural family and is not university educated, his drive was diverted to art rather than to amassing great wealth.
Over the past decade, Thompson has executed around 600 paintings, and two separate versions of the remarkable Revelation murals (one 300 feet long and the other 175 feet in length). He has developed an unmistakable style which owes much to the lack of normal control of his arms and legs caused by his illness. He mixes his acrylic paints right on the canvases spread out on the floor, and paints very quickly. The wavy, unsteady execution of the images and the plentiful lettering around them is due to his physical impairment and he accepts that otherwise they would lack their dynamic excitement and childlike charm.