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Rising Stars: Meet Mei Lisa Thompson

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mei Lisa Thompson.

Hi Mei Lisa, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
My grandmother, RC Wong, was a relatively famous artist in Austin, TX. She painted oil portraits, so I grew up going to local banks with the founder’s portrait hanging in the lobby that my grandmother had done. Now, my work hangs at a local gallery, Ten Women Gallery on Main St. in Santa Monica. She’s not around to see it, but I bet she’d think it was a step-up from a bank lobby. I probably took for granted her studio filled with crumpled paint tubes and worn out chalk pastel nubs. I definitely didn’t draw and paint as much as I should’ve. I was the typical artist with an ego who thought they could do anything without practice. That said, I grew up actually not doing much art. I didn’t even doodle. But I did watch a lot of TV and my grandmother must have noticed because she enrolled me in art classes at Laguna Gloria Art Museum the summer after 8th grade. It was a life drawing class. Little did I realize that this meant naked people. Interestingly, she did know this… funny to think she thought this was funny.

Anyway, on the first day of class, I was late. Huge drawing pad, pencils, charcoal, erasers, etc. in hand, I rushed into the classroom. All I saw was a wall of easels and adult students looking back at me quite annoyed by my late entry. When the instructor finally approached, he said that there was one empty easel on the other side of the room. I just had to cross through the “wall” of easels and I’d find it. So, just past that “wall” I did walk and found myself face-to-body part with the “life” in a life drawing class. The huge drawing pad, pencils, charcoal, erasers, etc. in hand were now on the floor. However, when I finally got to my easel, set-up the pad and started drawing–from THAT moment–I knew that I was an artist most of all. Then, regular life happened. I got a job in advertising as an art director, got recruited to LA, moved onto editorial art direction for “Sassy” magazine, passed through a few publications, finally landing at the L.A. Times. As the jobs gained in pressure and prestige, painting was pushed to the side. Then, it was pushed even further when I became a mom. I left the newspaper and went full-time homemaker. My husband went from a Domino’s Pizza delivery guy to a forensic child psychiatrist (it did take 15 years) and we eventually settled in Santa Monica.

So, as regular life goes, mine was very regular, at least until my kids’ school had an art fundraiser. It was unique in that each piece of art was on a 3″ x 5″ card that cost $20, and all of the artists were anonymous. During the night, people could buy as many pieces of art when their picking number came up. It sounded fun, but I was unable to go out-of-town for work. However, I had on a whim and under pressure by the parents running the fundraiser, I created a piece of art. Long story short, Ed Moses bought it. My art was the only piece he bought. Ed is pretty Google-able. After we met and hung out a few times, he gave me advice that finally got me back into the studio. He said, “Wake up every morning wanting to paint.” So at age 46, I did that. At Ten Women Gallery, I’m doing pet portraits–quick “sketches”, small oil paintings I call “petit portraits, and larger commissioned works. This venue gives me an opportunity to keep the creativity light and fun. My subjects are also so cute. Outside of the gallery, I do larger commissioned works and portraits. I’m currently working on one of my grandmother.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I’ve a jack of all trades “creative” I guess. I was recruited to LA out of college as an advertising art director. I next worked in editorial art direction for “Sassy”, “Living Fit”, “New Times”, and “Los Angeles Times”. I’ve been part of the creative launch for brands “Dita” and “Girlfriends LA”. I was the art director and project manager for the design and build of the stores at Four Seasons Maui and Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes. Currently, I’m the interior designer for a select few clients in Santa Monica and Marina Del Rey.

Alright, so to wrap up, is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
My husband is Kip (Dr. Christopher R. Thompson), and my kids are Cole, 16, and Avey, 13.


  • “Sketches” $75
  • Petit Portraits $55

Contact Info:

Image Credits:

Art of “Philly” and my grandmother RC Wong

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