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John Thomsen: Leaving NY for Athens

A portrait of the well-known artist and illustrator who, after a long and successful career in the US, has come to settle in Greece.

My father, Bill Thomsen, was a well-known Midwestern painter and mosaicist so I started out life surrounded by and excited to create my own art. Like most kids when I was growing up in the 1950s, I did a lot of pencil and crayon drawings, but when I was 9 I went with my parents to see Lust for Life, Vincent Minnelli’s powerful film about the life and art of Vincent van Gogh! I remember the next day going out, colors in hand, and working furiously on a drawing of a tree blowing in the wind like I’d seen van Gogh do in the film. For some weeks after that, I would pack up my watercolor paints and head into the hills near my home and paint landscapes with as much feeling and beautiful color as I could.

When I was 10, Leonard Thiessen, a friend of my father’s, came to visit. Thiessen was numbered among Nebraska’s most influential modern artists and he was also an art historian, so I was naturally very excited to meet him. He found some portrait sketches I’d been doing interesting and asked if I’d like to learn to paint in egg tempera. I was thrilled to learn another art medium, so he taught me to mix egg tempera like the old masters. One of my “masterpieces” was of the Madonna and Child on the top of an old rain barrel. Since it wasn’t my barrel, I had to leave it there and the elements were not kind to it.

The following year, I did a painting in tempera and was given an important award by Hallmark for the piece, which pictured a black and a white hand clasping one another in friendship. Fortunately, my town had a liberal arts college where my father taught so I had met a couple of black students all of whom I liked. For the States in the ’50s, especially from a town like mine, this concept was somewhat revolutionary!!

John Thomsen


Directed by Dimitris Delinikolas 

Dimitris Delinikolas is a film and digital media director and producer. He studied animation and directed a first master’s degree in film directing in the United Kingdom.

He then completed a second master’s degree at the Athens School of Fine Arts. In 2021 he completed his PhD at the Kapodistrian University of Athens studying the topics of transmedia storytelling and participatory film production. His PhD film and transmedia project “Metacities” was exhibited in The Blender Art Gallery in Athens in January 2024.

He founded the company emptyfilm.com focusing on producing cinema, new media, and transmedia narratives. He has been working as a commercials director since 2010 having won awards for his commercial films. He is teaching post-production, cinematography, and animation at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens in the school of Cinema and Digital Arts.


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