Born: 1970 | Coming to VA since: 1985 | Artforms: Drawing
Proudest VA moment: “I’m the coolest awesome artist in the world. Champion. Yeah.”
Leslie Thompson has been attending Venture Arts for over 30 years.
He’s an astonishingly prolific artist, whose life is filled with drawing. He has a fluent style full of character and meticulous detail. Much of his work is from memory, and through his drawings he revisits TV shows, films, comic books and pop icons from his childhood:
“I like drawing pictures of all the disco dancers. I drew a picture of Donna Summer once, and Earth Wind and Fire at the time of the 70s. I drew the A-Team, and Wizard of Oz. It was fun”
He’s exhibited and sold his work at major galleries and art fairs, and receives regular commissions to document events through live observational drawing on a huge scale.
His illustration of arts conference ‘Creative Minds North’ in 2017 prompted Bella Todd of Disability Arts Online to write:
“Every conference should have a resident artist: Especially if it’s Leslie Thompson, [a] visual artist with a learning disability and a gift for figurative observational line-drawing a la Grayson Perry.”
In 2017 he also became the first VA artist to have a full-scale solo exhibition, at Glasgow’s Trongate 103. It featured a retrospective of Leslie’s nostalgia-tinged work from his many years at VA, and was met with rave reviews.
He has quickly gained a reputation as a fantastic mural artist too. In 2017 he used paint pens to decorate the walls of Manchester design company The Sheila Bird Group, with quirky staff portraits. And more recently he spent a week in residence at the Manchester office of social media giants LADBible, where he filled a wall with icons and imagery depicting their journey to greatness.
Leslie lives for drawing. He is a true art star, with an astronomical creative talent that is now being recognised. But without Venture Arts, his work would probably never have been publicly shown, or seen by art buyers, curators and commissioners.
Learning disabled artists have countless barriers to a creative career. VA has given Leslie the resources, space and one-to-one support that he needs, so that he can explore his passions, experiment with new techniques and hone his skills. Now he’s one of our biggest success stories, taking the art world by storm.