From Critique to Refocus: Meet Artist and Photographer Alison Thomas
Have you ever felt the sting of a critical remark about your artwork?
When a fellow artist told Alison Thomas that her photography looked like everyone else’s, she was taken aback. But then the Louisa, Virginia, artist used that feedback as fuel, finding a way to differentiate her art and raise it to a new level.
Finding the Essence
Alison bravely faced the truth that her nature photography didn’t stand out. And so she began to digitally manipulate her photographs, giving them a more ethereal quality. Now, her goal is to reveal the essence of a scene rather than an exact recording. “Fog on the Lake” (shown above) is a beautiful example, as is “Blue Fog” below.
Format is another way Alison’s work is distinct. Her vertical panoramas appeal to customers looking for art that fits nicely into tricky spaces, like an entryway or beside a china cabinet in the dining room. Her horizontal panoramas are ideal for placement over a fireplace, sofa, or bed.
Enter Frame Destination
Alison didn’t discover Frame Destination until she had been exhibiting her work at Florida art festivals for a couple years. “Since then, I have been using your products exclusively for frames, mats, and glass for my smaller framed pieces,” says Alison. She purchases our satin-finished Nielsen Profile 24 black metal frame, Bainbridge 4Ply Artcare Alphamat Matboards (“Snowflake” with black core), and Artcare Acid-Free Archival Mounting Board. “Everything has always arrived quickly and well-packed. They’re well made and a good value.”
See More of Alison’s Work
Visit Alison’s online portfolio, Serenity Scenes, to view an array of landscape panoramas. If you’d like to see her photography in person, check out this list of galleries and upcoming exhibits. Alison’s blog dives into her childhood in Korea, photo trips, and more. How does she overcome blocks, and what’s her latest project? Find out in our Q&A below.
Now for Artie’s Eight Q&A with Alison Thomas…
1. What is your background; how did you get started?
When I was 19, I found the camera that my older sister had left behind when she went away to college. It was old and not very fancy, but it had an adjustable f-stop and shutter speed. Around that same time, I received an ad for the Time Life series on photography. I got the first book, a roll of Tri-X film, took the camera out, and learned how to use it. Because of a troubled childhood, nature was an important part of my life; I found peace and solitude in the woods across the street. As I started photographing nature, I began developing my own black-and-white photographs and even had a few exhibits in local libraries. Life, however, got in the way: I got married, took a real job, and had a daughter. The camera was untouched for many years until I went on a trip with friends to Assateague, Virginia, and realized how much I missed taking photographs. I bought a new camera, and a few years later, my husband and I moved to Florida, where I discovered art festivals. At first, I showed straight photographs and then panoramas, and with my first copy of Photoshop, I moved into digital manipulation.
2. What role do you think the artist plays in society?
There are many roles that artists play in society. There is art to bring voice to issues in the world. There is art to make us smile and laugh. My purpose is to bring beauty and serenity into the world.
3. What has been a formative experience or the best advice you've received within your career?
Twice, people have given me advice that initially upset me but then positively impacted my career. The first time happened when I was considering entering art festivals. Some friends suggested I attend a festival on Sunday morning before the show opened, when artists may be open to answering my questions. While looking at the artists' tents and walls, I figured I could start cheaply. I asked an artist about getting an EZ-Up tent. In a booming voice, the man told me, "If you're going to do it, do it right! Get the good tent. Get the good walls." And so I did. While it poured rain during my first art festival, I thought, "I can't quit now. I have too much money invested." If I had bought that EZ-Up, I'd have bailed right then and there. The second instance was even more critical. I complained to a group of art festival friends about not selling much at a recent show, and someone said, "That's because your work looks like everyone else's." I was upset for a few days until I started looking at others' work — that friend was right. So, I started doing the digital manipulation to create a more unique look.
4. In what ways does your work reflect your personality?
As a young child, going into the woods gave me calm and peace. It still does. I found my photographs improved greatly when I moved from Florida back to my home state of Virginia; I connect more with Virginia scenes since they were what I grew up admiring.
5. Creative blocks, do you get them? If so, how do you overcome them?
Sometimes, I return from a photo trip and can't find anything that works. I planned an image to crop a certain way, but now it doesn't work. So, I put the photos away for a month or so. Then I can look at them with fresh eyes because I've forgotten the plan and see something totally different.
6. What is your most indispensable tool? (Not counting the obvious, like paints, brushes, canvas, camera, etc.)
My eyes, my mind. The photographs are just raw material for my creations.
7. Do you have a new project you are working on, or a new passionate idea?
This year, I am retiring from art festivals. So, I am learning the ins and outs of selling online. I am also thinking about writing a book about my experiences doing art festivals — not as a how-to but as a collection of stories.
8. What is your favorite color to incorporate into your art?
I like using vivid colors, but I don't have a favorite one.
All artwork and/or photographs used in this post are subject to copyright held by the featured artist.
ARE YOU READY FOR THE SPOTLIGHT? Simply respond to the questionnaire here to apply to be included in an upcoming Artie’s Eight Spotlight.
Last Updated October 25, 2023