November 28, 2017 | Interview: Rahoul Ghose
If you haven't seen Douglas Thompson aka Tempus Deficit's whimsical artwork online or at the annual Oil and Ink Expo, you've missed out on a fresh look into the moto world and riding. NYC Motorcyclist hopes to remedy that right now as we had the pleasure of interviewing the 38-year-old Connecticut-based moto artist recently about the inspiration behind his lofty creations, which pair motorcycles with symbols of flight, freedom and fancy.
In his own words: "Floating becomes a metaphor for letting go, and the whole concept is fascinating to me as a representation of freedom and lightheartedness. This is also how I think of motorcycling; riding is a freeing and lighthearted act. So, these two seemingly incongruent things actually line right up."
You can read the full interview below, or check out a gallery of Thompson's work here on NYC Motorcyclist by clicking here.
1) So, tell us a bit about yourself and what brought you to combining art and motorcycles.
I'm a mental health counselor by profession, so there's no question that my art is a reaction to the seriousness of what I do. It's a wonderful means for escape; I literally get to tie a balloon to my stresses and launch them into the air.
2) What inspired us to write about you is your work with motorcycles and balloons. They have a whimsical kind of carefree, adventurous feel. What made you combine the two themes? Have you seen the French short film The Red Balloon, which portrays balloons as cognizant characters?
I've honestly never seen The Red Balloon ... I probably should! I haven't seen Up yet, either. The idea came from my children, from the different books I read to them. Two that come to mind are Crockett Johnson's Harold and the Purple Crayon and the Journey trilogy by Aaron Becker. Or Dr. Seuss. Remember when Winnie the Pooh uses a big blue balloon to get honey from the tree? I'm sure that influenced me too, although it wasn't a conscious thought at the time.
There were two driving forces behind the balloon and kite images: a couple of years ago, I needed something that would get my work into the next Oil and Ink Expo, and I wanted to make my son giggle. Between those two things, I managed to find my voice as an artist. I enjoy the goofy, unexpected and visually incongruent. Motorcycles are heavy; they shouldn't float. But I'm creating a world where things like that make sense.
kite (12x20") | tempus deficit
-- Douglas Thompson, artist
3) You work with space, balance, heights, and floating objects … balloons, kites … is this the feeling you get when riding a motorcycle?
Absolutely. There's something inherently ridiculous about the concept of flying down the road completely exposed like that. Balanced over two contact patches the size of a quarter, and deliberately tipping over again and again as you go into corners but staying upright, is surreal in itself. It doesn't feel like it should be possible; the way riding feels, it may as well be a magic carpet. And it's as precarious and as wonderful as floating around on a bunch of balloons.
4) You've done lithographs, but I also noticed you hand sketch and even work on the computer. Tell us a bit about the process you go through.
Producing a lithograph with Nicolas Draeger as part of a collection for the 2017 Cafe Racer Festival in Monthlery, France has been a wonderful experience that I hope to repeat in the coming year. That said, the prints I offer in my shop are not lithographs; lithos are another process entirely. Most of my works are better described as mixed media prints; I don't use the computer to draw, but after I've inked a sketch or painted the background textures, I'll use it to combine different elements created by hand and then scanned into PhotoShop. Also, my process for preparing an image for a print run is not the same as how I go about completing commissioned original works. For those, I'm using only watercolor and ink.
-- Douglas Thompson, artist
5) Which artists inspire you and why? Any particular pieces of work?
Lorenzo Eroticolor is a dear friend whose work I admire tremendously; he's at the top of that list. Chris Myott's process and composition fascinate me. Martin Squires' illustrations ... Katy Clark's linocuts ... Matylda Mcilvenny's work ... That's just a handful of motorcycle-specific artists whose work really speaks to me. I could go on and on. There's a lot of very talented people working today.
6) My favorite piece of yours is Dog & Triumph Bonneville. I have a Thruxton and a Jack Russell Terrier … so go figure. What’s the story behind this image?
That's Copilot. The sketch for the rider was the first in the balloon series, and was one of the images I showed John Christensen (the founder of the Oil and Ink Expo) back in 2014. I thought it would be funny having him looking down, but when I was working on the finished piece, that image had me wondering, what is it he's looking down at? I ended up answering that question with another question ... what's looking up at him? It's a great question, and one that I intend to address again in future work. As far as where the dog came from, I'm pretty sure that I'd watched the documentary Sit Stay Ride right around the same time so I probably had dogs on the brain.
copilot (12x20" in") | tempus deficit
-- Douglas Thompson, artist
7) Where did you train in art and what did you study?
I'm mostly self-taught. I took a few studio courses in college, and minored in art history, but I've really got no formal training to speak of.
8) What inspired your IG tag @tempusdeficit? I have heard the Latin saying 'I Celeriter Tempus Deficit' or ‘Go fast, time is short’. Is it a reflection on ‘life is short, so make use of it’?
Much like 'Carpe Diem' ('seize the day'), yes. It's my own inside joke with myself ... that time is short. Since my art is not my day job, there's not an awful lot of time for me to create, and that can be frustrating. It's also 'Memento Mori' ('remember that you will die') and 'Memento Vivere' ('remember to live'), which I think describe my thoughts on what it is to be a motorcyclist pretty well. It's about the urge to create as much as I can, of the highest quality I can, while I can ... and that clock is ticking for all of us.
9) Being a Triumph owner myself I noticed much of your moto art uses Bonnevilles … Café racers and even the occasional bobber. What do you ride?
I'm riding a 2004 Triumph Thruxton. Triumph's modern classics have great lines and a classic look that translates well into my drawings, so I use them a lot. It's also easier to draw from the bikes you know the best. But every so often I'll mix it up a bit. I haven't done a scooter yet but I probably will ... with my work, the quirkier the better. I've been meaning to do more images of monowheels ... Tom 'the Atom' Anable tells me there's a working unicycle with a motorcycle engine somewhere in the USA. You don't get much quirkier than that.
10) When did you start riding and what was your favorite bike?
I've been riding since 2004. I'd say my favorite bike was my first one: a 1988 Honda Hawk GT that I rode for four years before I poured heart and soul into customizing it. It was never properly finished, and a good friend owns it now. I've owned three different Honda Hawk GTs prior to owning the Thruxton, and I love those bikes. My Thruxton, though, is a bike I’d wanted for a long time.
what you see (16.5x22" in") | tempus deficit
-- Douglas Thompson, artist
11) You have a selection of 12x20 prints for sale on Etsy for $45. For commissioned pieces what do you need from clients? How much is a commissioned piece?
All I need is a good photo of what a client wants to have in their commissioned piece - whether that's their bikes, people, or your neighbor's llama. One of my favorite commissions was inspired by a client's childhood photo. Contact me at email@example.com to discuss what you're looking for!
12) Where do you plan on taking your moto art next in terms of themes?
I'm moving away from prints somewhat, and looking toward offering more of my original artwork. I'm looking at different mediums, too. Currently, I'm primarily working in watercolor and ink, but I've been playing around with both linocuts and oils lately. So you might see some of that soon! I'm also kicking around some concepts for childrens' books.
Thank you so much for your time ... it was great getting to know you.
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Nice interview! Doug is a great guy who I first met at Hawk rallies and fell in love with his art. I only have one piece so far, but there are a bunch more that I want.Adam Zuckerman
Proud of our good friend and fellow artist, who goes by the name Tempus Deficit, for being featured in NYC Motorcyclist! Our collaboration is featured in the article gallery alongside some of his incredible work. Well done, Doug!Matthew Allard (@inkediron)
Whether it’s their bike, people, or neighbors’ llama...”. Inside joke insert? It made me laugh, maybe a little too loud ... What a great interview Doug, and congrats on an amazing year!Kelly Hanlon (@khan15579)
I have a piece of his... LOVE it.Bruce Philp (@thismotolife)