An Interview with Painter Louis Thomas at his Studio in Paris, France
As ever, Louis' work caught my eye on Instagram. I was captivated by the intimacy, and decorative nature of his portraits of fellow artists, models and musicians as well as people brought in from the streets of Paris. Across his oeuvre, Louis uses plants and flowers to celebrate the characters of his subjects. As well as a painter, he's also a cartoonist and illustrator who has worked for clients such as Sony Pictures, Pixar and Thames and Hudson. He studied at Gobelins in Paris as well as CalArts in Los Angeles before setting up his studio by Jardin du Luxembourg on the Left Bank. The space is filled with paintings as well as collections of books, herbal tea and dried flowers, which are organised by colour and texture. I spent the day there with the artist discussing his influences and processes. Follow him on Instagram @louis_thomas_draw
Was there a pivotal moment when you decided to be an artist?
I guess when I was born. According to my family, I never suggested that I wanted to be anything other than an artist.
Tell us about the space within which you live and work?
I live in the middle of Paris, and to me, it's the best place on earth to have access to culture in a very expansive and cheap way. I live and work in an atelier, with a lot of daylight from an open roof window. My place is full of my inspirations and objects I love.
Do you have a routine or follow any rituals when you paint?
I can't paint before 2 or 3pm in the afternoon, but once I start I can paint until 3 or 4 am, and sometimes without stopping or eating. Usually I wake up, do some stupid checking into the digital world and then play piano, read, and maybe go out for lunch and a walk.
Can you tell us about the process of making your work?
I usually sketch a lot before I start to paint. I pick one sketch and try to improve it whilst working on a larger scale. I then paint onto this larger sketch, whilst trying to develop the drawing at every stage until the very end. I try not to be mechanical in my work, and look at the model until the very end of the painting. I'm always trying to capture a reality rather than working entirely from a sketch or the idea of a subject.
What piece of your artwork would you like to be remembered for?
None, I don't believe that it's important to be remembered for anything, except maybe for your family and friends, but as for the rest, I will be gone anyway. I like the process of drawing way more than the result. I'm yet to complete a painting that I'm entirely convinced by.
If you could work within a past art movement, which would it be?
Perhaps not a movement, but to live a life like that of Pablo Picasso with all his stages of improvement would have been quite fascinating.
Do you collect anything? Your studio is full of treasures.
Except for my cat Pipo, I don't really collect things and could easily leave everything behind. However, I do buy lots of books, especially old ones with gorgeous covers. Over the past year, I've only really bought red books. I also love flowers and some of them dry particularly well, so I find myself surrounded by dried flowers. I think I'm an aesthete to some extent. I like things, which are beautiful, but not necessarily expensive.
How would you define beauty in 140 characters or less?
I guess beauty is whatever feels beautiful to me. It's the most subjective thing on earth.
Is there a favourite painting, which inspires you?
There are tons, probably anything from Pablo Picasso, Jean Cocteau or David Hockney.
What is your greatest indulgence in life?
Pasta with pesto and red wine.
Which artist of the past would you most like to meet?
Painting wise, it's got to be Pablo Picasso again (sorry), David Hockney, Jean Cocteau, Caravaggio and Alice Neel, In terms of music, it'd be Leonard Berstein for a weekend at least. Then, for films, it'd be Stanley Kubrick, Michelangelo Antonioni and Billy Wilder. Finally, the authors would have to be Pier Paolo Pasolini and Fyodor Dostoievski.
How important are the stories, lives and passions of your subjects?
The most important to me is the drawing itself, but I do enjoy meeting a diverse array of people and talking with them about their lives and thoughts whilst painting them.
Has social media had a positive impact on your career?
It did in the sense that you have people who now have direct access to your work all around the world, of which some have become clients or future friends. At the same time, it feels like it's a little too addictive and hard to put social media out of your mind. The brightly-lit screen is a brain killer for me, so I'm trying to work on this and spend more and more time without it.
What do you wish every child were taught?
Benevolence and compassion for everyone, regardless of the way they look, their beliefs or the way they think.
What is your favourite art gallery in Paris and why?
I don't know many art galleries. Nonetheless, my favourite, or at least the one I have been to the most, is a Jean Cocteau and Marie Laurencin gallery on Rue de Seine in the 6th.
Do you prefer to work within a community or independently?
I really prefer to work independently, because I need solitude - it's bliss. As for the rest of my life, it's all about community. That's when I'm not drawing, reading, playing piano or sleeping.
Do you often make and receive studio visits? Are they important?
I do have studios visits happening quite often, because I paint from life and so have probably painted about 200 people over the last 4 years. I like people, and I like to paint from reality, it's important to my work. Sometimes journalists or galleries will come over and it's time for me discuss money or the process and this is something that I tend to be bad at. It's far from my world, but of course it's needed.
What advice would you give an artist following in your steps?
Enjoy yourself, because this is the only thing that counts in the end. Find pleasure in whatever you do, wherever that pleasure comes from.
Do you love what you do? Why?
I would not do it if I didn't love it. I just live everyday as if it was the last, so I don't have time not love or appreciate my time here.
Written by Flora Alexandra Ogilvy, founder of Arteviste