Emerging Artists | Melanie Thompson

Wildland beauty

Melanie Thompson, Tucker Down Road, oil, 12 x 16.

Melanie Thompson, Tucker Down Road, oil, 12 x 16.

This story was featured in the July 2018 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art July 2018 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

On her way home from a plein-air event in Sedona, AZ, last fall, Melanie Thompson couldn’t resist the urge to drive an hour out of her way to visit Desert View Watchtower, a spot in Grand Canyon National Park known for its breathtaking views of the canyon from the South Rim. Finding the area veiled in a beautiful haze upon her arrival, the artist immediately set up her painting gear and completed a small study. The serendipitous vapor, she realized, was caused by smoke that had drifted in from a nearby prescribed burn. “That layer of haze made it more about the atmosphere and less about having to paint every nook and cranny of the canyon,” says Thompson.

Back at her studio in Richland, WA, the artist used her study to complete a larger painting, progressively lightening the cavernous, receding gorge in the backdrop to reflect its smoky cloak. “One of the reasons why I really loved the scene was that it says everything I love about the landscape—these expansive views that make you feel small in a very big landscape,” notes Thompson. “I try to capture that feeling a lot.” Just as she was celebrating her 30th birthday this past spring, the artist learned that the final work, titled DESERT VIEW LAYERS, garnered Best of Show at the American Impressionist Society’s Small Works Showcase.

Primarily a self-taught landscape painter, Thompson earned a degree in graphic design and fine art from Washington State University in 2010. To help pay for her studies, she worked as a
wildland firefighter, spending weeks at a time hiking, digging fire lines, monitoring fires, and camping throughout the Northwest with her crew. Along the way, she developed not only a deeper appreciation for the region, but also a profound desire to portray its awe-inducing beauty with her paints. Today the self-described painterly realist lives just a short drive from some of her favorite painting spots in eastern Washington and Oregon, including Hells Canyon and Hanford Reach, and she is surrounded on all sides by vast skies and wide-open prairies that also routinely inspire her. “Out here, you can see forever,” she says. “There’s a feeling of freedom that comes when you can see the whole world in front of you, and I really love that feeling.” —Kim Agricola

representation
The American Art Company, Tacoma, WA; Phinney Gallery of Fine Art, Joseph, OR; You & I Framing & Gallery, Kennewick, WA.

This story was featured in the July 2018 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art July 2018 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

MORE RESOURCES FOR ART COLLECTORS & ENTHUSIASTS
• Subscribe to Southwest Art magazine
• Learn how to paint & how to draw with downloads, books, videos & more from North Light Shop
• Sign up for your Southwest Art email newsletter & download a FREE ebook

COMMENT