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Meet the artist: Matthew Sheek & Jeff Thomas

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In order to gain exposure for their work, southside artists have to take advantage of every opportunity that comes up.

That means entering contests and art festivals, organizing exhibitions together and, with the help of the Southside Art League, partnering with area businesses to hang their paintings.

Artists Matthew Sheek of Whiteland and Jeff Thomas of Greenwood have collaborated to put their work into a single exhibition, “Earth Colors,” showing through the end of October.

The exhibition is hanging at Earth Fare, 2110 E. County Line Road, Indianapolis, in the store’s cafe.

What is behind the theme, “Earth Colors”?

Thomas: Because it’s Earth Fare, we wanted to tie in with the name of the place, and many of the pieces deal with the natural world.

Why is it nice for artists to partner with businesses this way?

Thomas: Just to get our work out there. Otherwise, you just kind of disappear. You enter contests, and then the contest is over.

Sheek: Any time you can put your art in front of somebody, it’s a good opportunity.

Why is this a good opportunity for artists on the southside?

Sheek: The northside of Indianapolis has its own reputation at this point. It’s where a lot of galleries are located, and there is really some very good art up that way. Nashville tends to be a draw with the landscapes. The Southside Art League is very different from that. It’s not just a northside Indy sort of thing.

For each of you, what is the focus of the art that you do?

Thomas: Mine is all spiritual. I want to put the invisible, the abstract, the part that you don’t see on the canvas. That’s my intention. I just started painting 10 months ago, so it’s mostly acryllic, with some mixed media as well.

Sheek: My focus is usually trying to achieve simplicity, to subtract what is obvious and add what is meaningful. Though there may be a lot of complexity inside that simplicity. I try to reduce the image or the form into something very basic.

How did you get started on that track?

Sheek: When I was a kid, one rainy Saturday the crayons came out.

My parents had books on drawing animals and things like that, and a lot of those had extra lines on the shapes. The instructions were to come back and erase the extra lines when it was done, but I always liked how that looked.

What led you toward art in the first place?

Sheek: I didn’t really think of it as a choice. It was something that I have to do. I’d always been drawing and painting and things like that, and it became very much an outlet. I can rarely sit down for a meal with somebody without playing with the salt.

Thomas: I feel a pressure. I don’t sketch my work, I don’t plan it. I just feel a pressure to paint on the canvas. Then it kind of develops on my own from there. If I don’t do it, it keeps building.

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