The (Multi)Talented Cole Thompson

Hayden Robinson
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9 min read
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August 16, 2023

Cole Thompson (they/them) is a multidisciplinary artist through film, illustration, modelling, and more. They were born, raised, and still reside in Glasgow, Scotland. Although diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome as a toddler, in recent years, they have labelled themselves as, in their own words, "being somewhere on the autistic spectrum. No spot specifically. Just somewhere on there."

Cole's curiosity about the world around them is made obvious by their love of travelling. From Paris to London, the latter being where they go for concerts and events, the big cities are where they thrive the most. Among their most recent visits was to New York City. "Last March was the first time I ever crossed into the States to New York City," they said, "which was a surreal experience in the best sense of the word. Just like Paris and London, despite being a place I only knew from films, I just felt very comfortable there."

Two illustration art photos of the same woman, she is leaning over in the left photo, holding a gun in the right.
Cole's Illustration Art

Perhaps the cities open Cole's mind to the broader, more colourful parts of their creativity, energized by the sights, sounds, words, numbers, and their own emotions, both wonderful and terrifying. This may explain their early influence and growing love of the horror genre. In fact, they tended to concern their peers at primary school (elementary school in the United States) by drawing scenes from the likes of Evil Dead, Nightmare on Elm Street, Child's Play and Dawn of the Dead. When one is put in the "autistic unit" with six other pupils as Cole was, it is easy for an educator to assume that this autistic child will be influenced negatively by scenes of graphic gore and violence, which many of the horror films during the 1980s had. One scene that Cole recalls with fascination, and maybe terror from those same teachers, is in the 1991 science-fiction film Terminator 2: Judgement Day, in which the T-800 (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger) rips the living tissue from its endoskeleton arm.

But despite the adverse reactions from others about their gruesome inspirations, this has never stopped Cole's love for horror or hindered how it shaped them as an artist. They never considered putting the coloured pencil down.

Photo of the first film vampire. He looks at what seems to be a memory of him approaching another person ominously.
Movie Poster Art, Cole Thompson

"I didn't find [horror films] scary," they explained. "But I loved the strangeness of them. The misconception you hear is showing these films to kids will negatively affect their minds. But these films are so far into the fantastical and surreal that I never considered them possible. They're comic books. The people getting paid to make these films throughout the eighties weren't committing crimes. Horror from their childhood inspired them to make these very films! It's a perpetual cycle of inspiration, giving it to the next generation to trust them in keeping it alive." According to Cole, horror has always been alien from what people are comfortable with. There may be something deeper and sharper than simply the graphic scenes, maybe even a reflection of the horror within ourselves. It is, in Cole's words, "why so many racists can't stand a filmmaker like Jordan Peele who gets horror because he's putting a mirror in front of what the state of things has been for too many people for too long." The same could be said about Cole's approach to art and film and the stereotypes surrounding the behaviour of neurodivergents such as themselves - mainly as overgrown children who are naive at best and can't think or act for themselves at worst - this is part of what alarmed those same educators when an autistic child loved such a gruesome genre.

As previously established, Cole's love for filmmaking and illustration goes back to their childhood. They explained, "Illustrating has been with me since the beginning. Filmmaking was a fantasy but not a tangible possibility until I started making fun, little short films with my friends using my Flip camera. We were playing around but practising skills like framing a shot, blocking scenes, and editing. That was the start of my education in making films."

Since childhood, they have loved learning about films, especially horror. In fact, one of their earliest inspirations was the famous American YouTuber/filmmaker James Rolfe (Angry Video Game Nerd), an influential figure in the viral world of online videos, especially in media criticism, and also, like Cole, a massive horror film fanatic. Rolfe's documentary, Cinemassacre 200, chronicled Rolfe's journey as a filmmaker.

"It had quite an effect on me as a 10-year-old kid," they explained when describing the documentary. "And that's when I found my direction in life. That's what I wanted to do. I took a summer course at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, which was insanely expensive but was a breath of fresh air meeting other people my age who shared the same dream instead of feeling trapped in an enclosed space of the high school."

Illustration of two photos. On the left is batman and another smaller person, looking at each other. The photo on the right is a person female energy with long, brown hair. She has a serious look on her face and is holding a shotgun.
Cole's Poster Art

One of Cole's earliest breaks was discovering a Facebook post in early 2014. This post was about the documentary Shooting Clerks, a biopic of filmmaker Kevin Smith. Finding themself fed up at the age of 16, Cole decided to shoot their shot and sent the original poster a message, saying that they were in high school, wanted more film experience and asked if they needed any crew members. And sure enough, the production did.

Despite missing their school final and failing most of their exams, Cole recalls the experience as "one of the best decisions I've made. I met people through that film who have become good friends. The experience working on it got me into a Television Production course at college, and that led me to get the chance to direct, film and edit short documentaries for BBC Scotland's online platform from 2018-2021. All that came from opting to follow my heart instead of what everyone else was stressing about. That film Shooting Clerks ended up getting featured on its own panel at San Diego Comic-Con, focused on an episode of the AMC series Comic Book Men, and touring with screenings all over the world. I think I made the right choice sending that message."

Among Cole's other work is the short horror film Shut Eye. In only seven minutes, they can capture fears traced in the modern era - the unknown both online and in person, what lingers in the dark, and whether one might be alone or being stalked, some of which is shown by anonymous texts and a mysterious hand posting on social media. The film's lighting and close-ups amplify these fears, leaving the viewer with a sense of intense claustrophobia and anticipation for what comes next. From experiencing the film, it is clear that Cole understands what makes horror an exceptional genre, what scares an audience, and how to visually present those fears and phobias in the medium.

Aside from their incredible adventures in filmmaking, Cole's illustration is just as important for them. A time when Cole's artistry shined was during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was, for them, as for many others, a period when uncertainty and fear for the future were at the forefront of their mind. However, this did not deter them from pursuing their passion. They put their all into the art and posted it online regularly in time, and Cole then began to build a small following.

"I just kept going ever since, all through the pandemic," Cole said. "I pursued art as a career because I'm loyal to what makes me happy and content, and I get that from illustrating. Plus, that feels cathartic since I've started to get a following for my art. All those years of refusing to stop what I love doing, and now people want to pay me to do what I was told not to do when I was a kid? I must be doing something right. I'm forever grateful to the people who support me now and those who have always supported me. It's a career with its fair share of frustrations like any career will give you, but it's also full of surprises."

Cole's journey reflects what many artists go through - a passion for something misunderstood, underestimated and even, for lack of a better term, queer to most who do not follow that world. Yet Cole pursuing it no matter what or where they end up shows that the determination of an artist can, and does, lead to the most exciting life and the most fulfilling of achievements.

Perhaps the achievement that stands out the most in Cole's illustrious career so far is working for the legendary film company Lucasfilm.

Illustration on the left of The Empire Strikes Back. A male, a person in a black mask, and another male presenting person wearing a hood. The two without a hood have light sabers. Luke and Darth Vader. Emperor Palpatine is smiling. On the right is s different illustration. It is mostly in orange, and there iare lots of people in the middle of a circle. It is a promo for a film called climax.
Illustration Poster Art by Cole Thompson

 MEOKCA, a design agency, approached Cole with an exciting collaboration opportunity for the upcoming May The Fourth Be With You celebration, dedicated to Star Wars enthusiasts. Cole was among the fourteen talented artists chosen for the project, including other neurodivergent and LGBTQ+ individuals and BIPOC artists. Cole's art was based on the first Star Wars film they had seen, Return of the Jedi. "My earliest memory of Star Wars," Cole said, "was watching Yoda's death on VHS. Getting to work on Return of The Jedi was also very fitting because I could draw Emperor Palpatine as scary as I wanted to, thanks to my strong influence from horror films."

Understandably, such an opportunity to work with a highly respected company would create fear and anxiety for any artist. In Cole's case, however, they loved every moment, telling us they "gave me this incredible opportunity, and it was such a lovely experience. The illustration was plastered on Disney+ worldwide in all different languages. We got featured in an article by IGN, and I was interviewed by the official Star Wars website. I even got my own page on the Star Wars Wikipedia, Wookieepedia!"

Cole's Illustration art of David Byrne left, and Dame Vivienne Westwood.

Of course, it would be wise to remember the modelling Cole is passionate about, among their other impressive enterprises. One only has to look at Cole's Instagram profile @colethompsonismyname to see what photoshoots they have been involved with. Their most recent post on April 4, 2023, shows a throwback to a year before when Cole was involved in a London photoshoot with Jeanie Jean. The posted photos are an insight into how passionate and extraordinary they present themselves in the shoot. In a purple dress and black jacket, standing around graffiti-filled parts of London, among other locations in the city, Cole and Jeanie present something that is both punkish and elegant.

 As a neurodivergent artist, Cole Thompson has shown a great deal of passion, determination, and, above all else, unfiltered creativity in all that they do. As well as wanting to leave behind work that connects or inspires others, they also want the concept of competition between neurodivergent and those who are neurotypical to be thrown in the bin. They say, "Trying to incorporate competition into something as subjective and fluid as art is a complete paradox to me. You can't judge one piece of art as "better" than the other. We're not in art class anymore. Give a platform to artists you think have a style you normally don't see. Still, this neurotypical state of things thinks they are incapable of because they belong in the group always last in the big race."

In conclusion, Cole Thompson presents themselves as a multi-talented neurodivergent artist who wishes others to push themselves into what they are most passionate about. If there is anything to take from Cole's work, it is that autistics and neurodivergents who strive to be artists are every bit as creative, fun, and explosive in all that they push themselves in. And in a world that underestimates those seen as different, those kinds of artists won't ever back down.

Especially when the artist is Cole Thompson.

You can follow Cole and keep up with his fantastic career on his Instagram page - @colethompsonismyname.