Updated: Aug 1, 2020
"For me, it's a wonderful means for escape; I literally get to tie a balloon to my stresses and launch them into the air."
A warm hello to all admirers of art, motorcycles, and motoart! Some artists in our world create art because they have a story to tell. Others do it in the form of commentary over a real-life theme. Today we have a mental health professional, whose art is a reaction to the nature and seriousness of his work, where he renders mental wellbeing to those in need.
His art can be described as aspirational, at times incongruent, yet a delight to look at for hours on end. His work has been shown internationally, at several motorcycle fests such as the Oil and Ink Expo, The One Show, Tour de Chauffe, 73 Vintage Moto Art to name a few and not to forget, at the second Moto Art Show in 2019 held in Mumbai.
I am delighted to introduce you to and start our motoartist interview series with Douglas Thompson a.k.a Tempus Deficit.
Mallika: We’ve had the immense pleasure of hosting your art at our Mumbai Show in March, 2019, where many of our community members experienced your wonderful work and were really intrigued by the motorcycles floating with balloons. Can you tell us about your work and where the inspiration comes from?
Douglas: 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. For me, it's a wonderful means for escape; I literally get to tie a balloon to my stresses and launch them into the air. I want to show how it feels to ride a motorcycle in my artwork. Riding is a freeing and lighthearted act, so I try to focus on the part of motorcycling that's childlike and filled with wonder. I also enjoy images that are unexpected and visually incongruent. Motorcycles are heavy; they shouldn't float. But I'm creating a world where things like that make sense.
There's something inherently ridiculous about the concept of flying down the road, completely exposed like we are. Balancing over two contact patches the size of a quarter, then deliberately tipping over again and again as you go into corners but staying upright, is surreal in itself. It's as precarious and as wonderful as floating around on a bunch of balloons.
". . . I feel a real urgency to create before I’m gone . . ."
Mallika: That’s a really interesting perspective. Motorcycling does keep you grounded, while also giving your imagination wings. Or in your case, balloons. As a motoartist, what challenges have you faced in trying to bring your motorcycle art to new audiences and how have you addressed these?
Douglas: At the beginning, I thought that the biggest challenge of creating moto-themed work would be in connecting with non-moto audiences. I've been pleased to find that my work seems to translate well in that way, and I feel it's a great compliment when someone who's not a rider tells me that they connect with it.
Mallika: That actually makes the two of us. In our previous shows as well, we’ve been welcomed warmly by the non-moto audience. There’s an aspiration in many of them to own a part of this motorcycling lifestyle, which gets answered in the form of art we create. Do you have a favourite artist that has influenced your work?
Douglas: I'm heavily influenced by the visual storytelling of my friend Lorenzo (@aristocraticmotorcyclist), and there are many other motoartists working today whose work I deeply admire. One of the great advantages of living in the age of social media and, specifically, Instagram is that I'm able to sample so many artists' work and benefit from the trend of process videos.
Mallika: Needless to say, Instagram is how we found you. And speaking of process videos, what is your art process?
Douglas: I typically begin by inking in a pencil sketch, then scanning that into PhotoShop. I'll then layer it with colors and backgrounds that I've painted separately. Other times, I won't use digital media at all, completing a pencil sketch with watercolor, a brush pen, and Micron pens. I like to play with different materials, though, so there's always something new on the horizon.
Mallika: It’s no wonder that your multi-layered process makes your work instantly recognizable and leads to these surreal and soothing paintings. The aesthetic however doesn’t instantly fit into a specific genre in the art world. How would you categorize your paintings?
Douglas: I would call what I'm doing illustration for a contemporary motorcycle culture. I don't try to speak to the stereotypical "biker" image that motorcycling has been stuck with. I try very hard to avoid the cliches of our genre.
". . . the skulls and flames, the “FTW” sentiments - feels cheap to me . . .
Mallika: Here at Moto Art Show, we feel very strongly ourselves about undoing the macho scary bearded biker with a pinup riding pillion. What specifically irks you the most about how bikers are stereotyped?
Douglas: It’s been important to me since the beginning that I set my art apart somehow - that I’m not simply recycling old ideas, but expressing my own experience. There are so many images of the “badass biker” out there already, that simply creating more of it using the existing visual language we’re all so familiar with - the skulls and flames, the “FTW” sentiments - feels cheap to me. I’m not interested in perpetuating something that doesn’t reflect the community as I know it, either. What I paint is an expression of the childlike joy i find in riding (and, at times, a reflection on my fears and doubts, and our personal journeys). I don’t want to dilute my work with ready-made tropes.
You also bring up a good point regarding the objectification of women in popular motorcycle culture. I want no part in perpetuating that. I was approached at a show not long ago by a woman who said she loved what I was doing and would like to buy some of my art, but there were few women riders depicted in my work. She told me she’d wait until I had more images of woman riders. That was a powerful message, and I’m sorry to say it was a surprise to me. I’ve primarily created images of male riders because that’s my own experience; I was glad to be made aware of this lack of representation in my work. You can expect more images of women riders from me in the future.
Mallika: Very well said! At Moto Art Show, it is really important to us to show and promote the work of artists such as yourself who are unbiased, open-minded and represent the contemporary motorcycling culture as we know it. We’re excited to know about what you are working on these days? Is there a new series in progress?
Douglas: I don't feel like I've exhausted the potential of my "balloon" series just yet, so there's definitely more to be seen there. I'm working on a number of different moto-themed works apart from that particular series right now, as well as some non-moto content. I've been thinking about a children's book for a while now.
Mallika: We’d love to see a children’s book come out from your perspective. We are curious to know the story behind your artist monicker Tempusdeficit.
Douglas: Tempus Deficit is a Latin phrase meaning “Time is Short.” It is significant to me in a few different ways: first, in the familiar “Seize the Day” kind of way. Since art is not my full-time job, I also find myself perpetually short on time to create. Knowing that our time on earth is limited, and that so is my time at my drawing desk, I feel a real urgency to create before I’m gone.
Thank you for being a part of our conversation with the motoartist Douglas Thompson. He’s on instagram as @tempusdeficit. If you want some positive vibes, we have exclusive art prints of his work in the Moto Art Store, the only place you will find them in India.
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We’ll be back again soon with a conversation with another motoartist. To stay in the loop and get more kickass motorcycle art in your mailbox, subscribe to our newsletter below.
This is your host Mallika Prakash signing off! See you soon!
Mallika Prakash is a motoartist and a curator who started life in Delhi, her art career in San Francisco and recently moved to Bangalore. She started Moto Art Show in 2018 in response to a lack of opportunity to exhibit motoart in India and began curating and hosting motorcycle-centric art exhibitions, bringing together a like minded community. She is extremely passionate about carving a space for motoart and everything it has to offer in the physical art world.