Meet Joelle Thompson, a senior at Columbia College, who is majoring in Painting & Drawing, with an emphasis in watercolor. We would like to congratulate Ms. Thompson on being selected as one of three recipients of our Frederic Whitaker and Eileen Monaghan Whitaker Foundation Scholarships for the Spring 2018 term. You can see her artwork and artist statement below.
I am a Senior at Columbia College of Columbia, Missouri, graduating in May 2018 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting & Drawing, and minors in Education and Art History. After the BFA, I will stay on at Columbia College in an accelerated Masters in the Arts of Teaching program with certifications in Art and Spanish Education. I plan to graduate with my Masters in July or August 2019. With these degrees, I want to educate the next generation and exhibit my work, while promoting intercultural, interdisciplinary, eco-friendly practices. In my time at Columbia College I have been a member of Kappa Delta Pi and Alpha Chi honor societies, a Sustainability Committee member, and a Study Abroad Ambassador. I have exhibited work in the Boone County Art Show, Columbia Art League (CAL), the University of Missouri, and Columbia College; I have also volunteered with CAL’s annual Art in the Park.
Fall of 2014, I never imagined my journey toward a BFA would lead me toward a solo watercolor exhibition. I enjoyed too many other media and found it difficult to focus on one, even in class. Watercolor was the last thing on my mind; my small, liberal arts college eliminated watercolor classes due to low demand.
Yet, last semester, as I struggled to find my voice in oil paints and gouache for my BFA review, my professors suggested I select one medium that spoke to me best. As I reflected, I was carried back to my high school years, to the projects I made in my studio classes. Watercolor felt the most intuitive to me. It was so well-suited to the expressive, organic demands of my subject matter (Native Missouri wildflowers that benefit pollinators). I was surprised—the professors allowed me to pursue it as my medium of choice.
After spring semester, I was fortunate to spend the summer in Peru and Ecuador. In Ecuador, especially, I found inspiration. I volunteered at a home for vulnerable young women, lived with them and painted their portraits. Another volunteer introduced me to a well-known Bolivian watercolorist, José Rodríguez Sánchez, whose exhibition showed me that watercolor can be large scale and take front stage. South American watercolors awed me with their immediacy and blending of human identity with the land.
Over the past semester I have hiked, researched, and grown natives to find inspiration. My style is delicate and reflects the fragile nature of the flowers I paint, and my palette of non-toxic, mostly earth-based pigments captures a softness and care I wish to convey to my viewer. I want to make the wildflowers that our pollinators depend on approachable, inviting, worthy of space.