Ta Thimkaeo paints people, she wants her paintings to have character, to tell a story but without words as if using mime. To be dramatic, emotional, sometimes theatrical but always with feelings and always special. To tell stories to be vivid, exciting, thought-provoking with something of herself in her paintings; in the form, the colours, the brush strokes. Ta's inspiration comes from Claude Monet for his use of colour, his expressiveness, detail and the softness of his beautiful paintings. Vincent van Gogh for his bold use of colour and she likes to think she is a little impulsive like him, and Lowry for his simple but very sophisticated work.
What initially drew you towards becoming an artist?
I left school at 12, to work in the rice fields, at 13, I worked in a sweat factory in Bangkok making shirts, at 14, I was driving a pick up truck 7 days a week, 14 hours a day selling vegetables. Working in the Bangkok sweat shop, we called it a factory back then we made shirts from early morning until late in the evening with one day off a week, which was a Sunday. We worked, ate and slept in the same place but still it was better then the rice fields I came from, you try working in a rice field in the baking hot sun from sun rise to sun set and no shade anywhere.
One Sunday I went for a walk I didn't get far, as I came across an old art studio with an old man painting with oil paints and I stood and watched him for ages, he invited me in and showed me what he was doing, showed me round his studio.
I knew then that I wanted to be like that old man and paint, I loved that old studio, I loved the chaos, the smell of paint, the smell of varnish. It was fascinating and I was well and truly hooked. I didn't know how I was going to do it but I knew one day I was going to be an artist, but I remember thinking it would be easier to walk on the moon then me becoming an artist, now I’m looking down from the moon.
How would you describe your own personal style?
You have to understand until a few years ago I had never heard of Picasso. I knew nothing of cubism, surrealism or indeed impressionism. I have to have a feeling for the painting I’m working on or thinking about. I want a bit of my character in the painting and it’s been said many times that my work is quirky. I’m not sure about that, I think it’s intense, confident, confused and complex, I am really not sure what word you would use for that, maybe aberrant? I mean, what style do you call a painting with a crocodile sitting on a chair, playing the piano, reading music and beating the drum with his feet and singing?
What pushed you in that direction and how can you see your work evolving in the future?
I have a very vivid imagination. I can have an idea and it’s like a photograph and it stays with me until I get it on canvas, I have a head full of ideas and I think if you look at my very early work the theme would be much the same, but now it is much more vibrant, colourful and focused and confident. I will always be a painter of people though they may not always look like your normal person.
What inspires you in your work, is there a driving factor that draws you to the easel?
Art changed my life and every day I want to paint because the more I paint and send my work round the world the more my life changes. People have written and spoken words about my work that has bought tears of happiness to my eyes, you don't need more inspiration than that. So every morning when I wake up I want to get into my studio and bring my imagination to life.
Are there particular individuals who have encouraged / inspired you along the way, friends, family, teachers, maybe even other artists?
My husband Gary, and it was all thanks to a cheeky little sketch I did back in 2011 and that drawing changed my life. He gave me the confidence and made me believe in myself that I could be an artist, mind you, it took some time before I really did believe it.
Also, a collector of my early work, Patrick, helped us both understand art a little more, he also sent me a lot of art books and I discovered Botticelli, Rembrandt, Delacroix, Dali, Gauguin, Chagall and of Course Picasso. Patrick thought us that every artist should have a library, I will always be indebted to Patrick, must have cost him a fortune for the books and shipping from the UK.
When it comes to creating your work, do you have a preferred medium, certain types of brushes or tools you love to use?
I paint using oil and draw using oil pastels & charcoal, I paint mainly with a palette knife, and I just broke my favourite one, I could have cried, the handle was about twice the size with layer upon layer on paint on it but I’m ruining another one in now.
Could you describe the process behind your art? How do you get from concept to execution?
I have an idea and once I have it in my head I want to get it on the canvas. I'm a very quick painter, once I start I want it completed as soon as possible and I love to see the idea come out of my head and see it hanging on a wall.
Could you describe your normal day as an artist? Have you set routines and rituals or is a more a case of when the moment is right you work?
I make a cup of tea and take my 2 dogs for a walk on the beach. I’m a very early riser, just as the sun is coming up and I like to watch the sky changing by the second, the dogs antics make me laugh and I can have a good think about the day ahead, then I’m ready work.
When you work, do you focus on one piece at a time until completion or are you working on multiple pieces at the same time?
I only work on one piece at at time and once I have finished I don’t touch it again until I’m packing it.
Which of your artworks are you most proud off?
All of them. I love all my work. I know some people say you should just concentrate on the one theme and I guess my theme is people but you may not always recognise them as such. But if I was to pick one I would say my 'Eggs' series. When I painted the original 'Egg Lady', my husband when he saw it said ‘that will never sell’, it sold within hours of me putting it up for sale and I have sent my 'Eggs' all round the world in all shapes and sizes, and I have had loads of commissions for 'Eggs' with pets, son’s daughters, husbands, wives and even one from a daughter for her Mom’s 87th birthday, I was very proud of that, the Mom loved it.
Is there a fellow artist alive today that you admire? If so, why?
I went to the UK and Ireland a couple of times and I was like a kid in a sweet shop, I couldn't believe the art galleries and museums. I was lucky enough to visit the Tate when there was a Lowry exhibition on, I spent a day in there looking at his work and wondering how could he have painted all that using just five colours.
It’s difficult to explain how I felt walking round those cities, to people who rightly take them for granted, it was a fantastic experience. It was then I really started to learn about art, to see some of those amazing artworks in museums, and books, I’ve never seen so many book shops in my life, it seems everyone on a bus or a train reads a book.
I now have some amazing artists who influence me, I now know and love Botticelli, Freud, Picasso and of course Lowry and I’m learning everyday. I’m still like a sponge soaking it up.
What challenges do you feel the 21st century artist has to overcome?
I think for me the internet it is nothing but a benefit. I used to have a gallery / studio here on Samui and it was very difficult to make a living and I worked long hours. A few years ago I gave it up and decided to concentrate on selling online and it was hard work too. I had to work very hard to build trust and my reputation but it has paid off better then ever I imagined and now I have sent my work to 44 countries. That would never have happened without the internet, and you can sell your work not only with online galleries but through social media.
What advice would you give to a young aspiring artist currently studying art?
Open your mind, use your imagination as it is the most powerful thing you have. Show your work as much as possible if people can’t see it they can’t buy it. I can only talk about online galleries but I would say use them, it’s hard work but the benefits are immense as you never know who will see your work. Your work is available 24 hours a day 7 days a week every day of the year.
There are 3 tools you need your imagination, your heart and your palette knife (or brush).
You will also get lots of offers from people offering to make you rich and famous, be very careful and take most of it with a pinch of salt, only hard work will make you rich and famous and at first you will be chasing collectors but one day with luck they will be chasing you.
Despite having developed your own distinctive style, is there another style of art that you are immediately drawn towards and admire? Why?
Cubism, I think a lot of my work has a touch of cubism in it.
Recently, I have been working on The Conspirators & my Jazz paintings and I’ve honestly been overwhelmed not only do I love painting them but I’ve also sold a lot of them before the paint is even dry, but my Lovers & Eggs will never go away.
We have all heard of the unfinished masterpiece, even Da Vinci laboured away at the Mona Lisa for years and years, have you works that are in a continual process of evolution? When working on an artwork do you find it hard to let go? Knowing when enough is enough?
I’ve been asked this question many times before and I always answer, no, when it’s finished and I’m happy with it, it’s finished, I want my painting sharp & focused and I just know when it’s finished and I never touch them again until I pack them for shipping.
What are you working on at the moment?
My jazz & conspirators are very hot at the moment, I’m also getting lots of commission requests for them.
When is your next exhibition? Is it a solo or group exhibition? Could you tell us a little about the exhibition, when and where it is?
My first real exhibition was on Samui 2015 with a big cocktail party and lots of people all dressed up, I had to make a speech and thank everyone, don't forget I'm Thai and these were all Westerners, I've never done anything like it in my life before, my English is not bad but its far from perfect, but they were very kind to me.
I put on a little black dress, some red lipstick and made the most of it. I loved it, not so much the attention but the fact people I've never met before liked my work and wanted to talk to me about it.
I have done a few since here on Samui and I enjoy showing and talking about my work but I'd really like to take part in a exhibition in Europe that would be exciting.