London based artist Will Thompson is demonstrating exactly what it takes to be a popular artist in the 21st century. We spoke to him about how he uses social media to his advantage, and what advice he has for aspiring artists…
Words: Bea Renshaw, Subeditor: Costanza Maraffio
It’s not often you come across something inspiring on Facebook. Scrolling through all of the adverts and cat videos, it takes a pretty special post for you to actually pause and take notice – unless its from Will Thompson. The 23 year old is posting videos of himself creating his artwork and sharing them on social media, which are so popular they go viral. One video reached 20 million views overnight, and became one of the most trending posts on Facebook at the time.
Based in a studio in Shoreditch, the graphic design graduate has found his flair in creating large scale portraits of faces he finds captivating. From The Joker to Chet Faker, or even just a member of the public he finds inspiring, he manages to capture the smallest of details in every face he paints. Will paints with a number of techniques; whether its paint splattering, blending, glazing on canvas or spray paint, his aim is to experiment with his work. Unlike most artists, he films the whole process from when the pen first hits the canvas, until it is fully complete. Sped up and put to music, he then posts it online – and my oh my, do they get a reaction.
With social media becoming a key element to the success of many aspects of our generation, Will has levered it showcase of his extraordinary talent, which in return has catapulted him towards online success as an artist. “I think people really do underestimate the power of social media, it is mankind’s greatest communication tool and of course it helps when you are trying to share a message. I want to communicate through my artwork, how I feel, what I think and I believe social media is the most effective and efficient way of getting out there to the public.”
Its Will’s raw talent that keeps those who watch his videos captivated from start to end. Because he begins with a blank canvas and a photo of the face he is drawing next to him, you become invested in the process and the final result. His Facebook page currently has 178,000 likes, with most of his posts (images or videos) being shared and liked by thousands. “I never could have imagined the sudden rush of people watching my videos and the crazy appreciation for my art that I have received. I never expected my page to take off to the extent that it has. I just wanted an outlet where I could display my work and have feedback from those around me.” Wills online popularity is continuously growing. More recently, his portrait of Bob Marley was shared by the official Bob Marley Facebook page, attracting more fans as it reached 208,000 likes.
Today, many artists question whether it is important to be in the capital city for the vast opportunities available. “I’m originally from Cornwall and I find that city and country life both have their pros and cons, but for someone young and eager to make their mark – London is definitely a place to do so.” Will’s inspiration of London was apparent at his most recent exhibition, ‘Faces of Shoreditch’, which was held at the Canvas Bar on Old Street. His aim was to capture some of the interesting people that Shoreditch inhabits. Alongside his photographer Felix Klugman, he set out on a mission to track down some captivating faces, some of which he turned into paintings to showcase at his exhibition. “For an artist, Shoreditch is like Disneyland, everywhere you turn there is fresh new art appearing on walls and in the galleries dotted all over, it’s impossible to not feel inspired to be creative in a place like that.”
With his own studio space and his online profile growing, it is fair to say that this young creative is making all of the necessary steps to sustain in the 21st century as an artist. We asked him what advice he has for aspiring artists: “1. Experiment – don’t be afraid to fail. Keep practicing your techniques over and over until you’re happy with the outcome. 2. Loud music – I couldn’t paint a single drop without being inspired by music which I believe is sacrosanct to the process. 3. Create artwork that at times pushes boundaries and at others makes people smile. I follow my own set of rules when it comes to what I create and I think it’s important for any artist to follow their own judgement and communicate their own thoughts through their work.”
His plans for future involve creating more well known portraits, and he has just co-launched a brand new outlet, ‘The Social Artists‘. The site aims to help aspiring artists get recognised for their work. “It kills me to see anyone with a talent hidden away or wasted, we intend to work with other artists and create more than just a buzz for people with artistic flare.” Will’s original paintings can be found on the site too, along with hand signed prints and posters.