Creator Spotlight: Casey Promise Thompson
"Creating art and writing can be an extremely powerful tool to help not only you, but others. Dig deep and let go." -Casey Promise Thompson
Casey Promise Thompson is a mixed media artist, writer, and poet based out of Nashville, Tennessee. A studied virtuoso in the visual arts, Casey came to Vocal in pursuit of a new form of artistry—one that's been reluctantly placed on the back burner since middle school. Writing has always offered Casey a different sense of expression, and now she finds herself engrained in the endlessly supportive Vocal community.
Before moving on to her written work, it's 100% necessary to address how incredible Casey's artwork is. Check this out:
Reader's of Casey's work can feel the pure heart behind every word. In true artistic fashion, she bleeds onto the page; every splatter an abstract ink blot offering a sense of who she really is. A writer of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry, she's open-minded about the formats she creates in. She just can't help but put herself out there, and the Vocal community is thankful for that. As members of that community ourselves, we knew we had to showcase her work in this #VocalSpotlight.
We're honored to offer Casey a platform that allows her to expand upon her artistry. This feels like the beginning of something big. Without further ado, Casey Promise Thompson, everyone:
On Her Background, Upbringing, and Becoming an Artist:
I am an omnist, artist, and a chronic daydreamer. I have a love of stained glass, antique furniture, instrumental music, and thunderstorms. I also make a killer grilled cheese sandwich out of Brie.
I was born in an old farm house out in the rural hills of Tennessee. My parents were hippies and my mother’s midwives were from a hippie commune called The Farm. I was raised with artists, musicians, and all sorts of creative types. My mother was a gay rights activist in the 80’s and 90’s, and eventually became a sociology teacher at the local University before she passed away in 2015. My father plays the fiddle and the guitar and used to restore antique cars. He’s my everything.
I certainly had a unique childhood. There was always a melting pot of people that surrounded my life. I suppose my brothers and I were just meant to be creative in our own ways. One brother is a singer out in California (Tripp) and the other is a photographer (Dylan). You will often see Dylan’s photography in my stories.
I’ve focused mostly on being a visual artist since I was in elementary school. The adults and teachers in my life saw my talent early on and I had a lot of mentors throughout the years.
I didn’t attend art college until my late 20’s, but only completed one year when I learned I had an opportunity to move to Santa Fe, NM. The high desert taught me a lot about myself as an artist and as a person. Both beautiful and tragic experiences molded me into who I am today. It forever changed my trajectory in this life.
On Writing and Finding Vocal:
I think I always had a bit of a knack for writing. I realized I might have a talent for it when I was in middle school. However, those around me kept pointing me in the direction of Visual Arts. So, I followed that path and solely focused on drawing and painting.
Before I left art college, I very clearly remember the moment my English Professor pulled me aside after writing a few short stories and telling me that I should seriously consider taking up writing. Of course, I was mostly focused on getting a Studio Arts degree back then. It wasn’t until this last year or so, after I became disabled with Rheumatoid Arthritis and Dysautonomia, that I started really focusing on writing short stories and poetry again.
When I found Vocal Media and all of the wonderful people in the Vocal Facebook groups such as Vocal Social Society (VSS), Vocal Cafe, and The Vocal Creators Lounge – that’s when I started to have realistic dreams about writing. It’s now my goal to publish a book of short stories using my own illustrations. The Vocal community has been extremely supportive and I couldn’t be more grateful.
On Communal Support and Dedication to Writing:
I’ve always had a bit of “Imposter Syndrome” lurking below the surface. Whether it be painting, drawing, or writing—I have always quietly doubted myself and my creative abilities. Even at my first solo art exhibition, a part of me couldn’t believe it was my artwork and my name on those stark white walls. Journalists and critics had nothing but wonderful things to say, yet I would still have that lingering doubt.
With writing, I still have those moments of wondering whether or not it’s something I can be successful in. The difference between the two, however, has been the support systems. In the visual art online groups and in the art gallery world, it feels competitive and sometimes rather arrogant. You can feel alone in that space.
I thought the writing communities might be the same, but it’s not. The vast majority of communication that writer’s have with one another is entirely different. It’s supportive and genuine. Writers seem to really want to help one another and lift each other up. I don’t really sense any sort of competitive behavior, especially with Vocal writers. Time and time again, I’ve wanted to throw up my hands and say “I give up;" but there’s always been someone there to tell me to stick with it.
So I do.
I keep going.
I keep writing and editing and reading and pushing myself harder than I have ever pushed myself before.
It’s been a surreal and wonderful experience.
On the Relationship Between Her Art and Written Work:
Most of the time the art I include in my stories already exists. I will look at a piece I’ve already made and write with it in mind. To be honest, I haven’t made a lot of art as of late. I think that a lot of my writing has to do with my own past, even when it’s fictional. Much of it is a way for me to heal through my own personal traumas and to fight off the last of my demons. So, I am using art from my past because I’m writing to move beyond my past. However, I want to start looking to the future—and that means making art and stories at the same time. Eventually I will write first, and then make art to fit the story. That’s when I’ll be really focused on publishing a book.
There is something deeply personal about every piece of art I create and every story or poem I write. I don’t really know how to be creative in any other way. Maybe that’s why I am unsuccessful with doing art commissions. I have to be able to create from within myself and my own emotions—not emulate someone else’s visual preference. I can draw a portrait of your dog, but it might end up part octopus and floating on the moon.
I have always made my art with other people in mind. I want to be a voice for others who suffer with the same emotional and physical afflictions that I do. Not everyone has the right words, so there is always the chance that a piece of art or a story that I create can help give someone else a voice. This is actually why I continue to create, even when I’m at a difficult point in my life.
As I said in the previous answer, I have a lot of trauma to move through. Writing is helping me heal those wounds in a way that drawing alone has never been able to fulfill. Perhaps it’s because, after all this time, what I really needed to do was to join the two together. It’s definitely been an exhausting, but fruitful and emotional journey these last few months since I joined Vocal.
On Which Piece of Art She's Most Proud of:
Each piece has its own story; and how might I pick just one above the rest? Well, I suppose I am most proud of one of my self-portraits. It’s the one with the rose-colored glasses and a snarling face. It represents how others perceive me and how people have too often had a specific idea of me when they meet me. So many people have assumed that my shyness is arrogance or that my quiet nature is me being mysterious. The expectations and assumptions from other people regarding who I am as a person and artist, put me into a box that’s been difficult to climb out of. I am, in fact, just quiet and reserved. I am, in fact, just shy. My aloofness is simply just social anxiety. So, this piece represents how society perceives me from afar.
On The Genre She Prefers to Write in:
I mostly enjoy fiction because I typically draw from actual events in my life. There’s this intense bodily high that happens when I write fiction. I think it’s because I can see the characters and scenery so intensely that it’s like I’m really there in my mind’s eye. I’m actually experiencing these stories. I sort of zone out; and often I don’t even remember writing some of it, I only remember being in the main character’s head and seeing through their eyes. It’s a real trip.
I feel that my poetry is the most healing form of writing and the most raw. I want to convey a very real message through my poems and that is often why they are so deeply emotional and often sad. They can even be quite triggering. And again, most of my poetry is made for others who have had similar experiences and don’t know how to express those emotions on their own.
Nonfiction is just outright fun. It lets me just free-write and get everything off my chest. It’s light, it’s easier and I can convey a message that’s much more to the point. I have a lot to say sometimes and nonfiction articles give me the ability to do that.
On Advice to Writers and Artists Trying to Channel Their Disabilities Through Their Work:
Be honest with yourself. Creating art and writing can be an extremely powerful tool to help not only you, but others. Dig deep and let go. Art therapy works for a reason, and that’s because we can much more easily draw what’s invading and damaging our subconscious. It provides a safer space than physically vocalizing the pain we are feeling.
With writing, you can create characters and plots that are similar to what you have gone through or are currently going through. Take those characters on a journey of hope and reconciliation. Let them find their way to healing and you might be surprised as to what it does for your own heart and mind.
On Who/What Inspires Her to Create:
I’m inspired by love, music, people, memories, fears, traumas, adventures, grief, death, and so much more. Real human emotion is so amazingly brilliant and beautiful. Social media influencers like to tell us to always “be positive” as if that’s all we are allowed to be. But that’s not real life. Real life and the emotions that come with it are so much more exquisite and powerful. They're what make us who we are, and we should never try to push that part of us down into a hidden place. It will only sneak up on you in the end anyways. Instead of hiding your true human self: cry, scream, laugh, write, make things, sing, draw, reach out, run, listen and just be.
The people who inspire me are creative people who are honest—honest with themselves and in their work.
Vocal creators such as Caroline Jane, Call Me Les (Lesley Leatherdale), Caitlin McColl and Mike Singleton (MikeyDread) have surprised me in so many ways. They are people who are honest with the world about who they are and what they believe in.
Also, people like Caitlin and Les are amazing editors and have successfully helped me grow as a writer. People who want to help other’s dreams come true are the most inspiring of all.
On Her Goals as a Writer:
Short term, I’m wanting to publish my first book of fictional short stories with my own illustrations. Maybe even some poetry. Who knows what the near future has in store for me…
Long term goal? Get rid of that ridiculous and irrational “imposter syndrome” and truly own what I create.
On Creative Outlets Besides Writing She Enjoys:
Oh, there are many other creative endeavors that I wish I could take up; but I think I’ll just try getting better at what I’m doing now. And if I feel I have ever truly succeeded, one day I’ll take up those harmonica lessons.
On How Becoming a Vocal Creator Helped to Develop Her Online Presence:
I actually wrote a piece about this exact subject called “Finding Myself with Vocal Media”.
What would I write? Where would I post it? Do I let other people read it? That’s where Vocal Media helped edge me along the cliff so that I could get the full view. Typical blogging websites felt too confusing, trivial and random. Vocal Media provided the wire, the nails and even the frame for my work. My only real worry is will people in my life wonder why I’m not doing the art I’m “supposed” to be doing and criticize this new fling of passion?
Also, from an interview piece that Call Me Les did with me:
I started finding other creative ways to get through my slow and mind-numbing days.
That's when I found Vocal.
I had secretly always wanted to write, even though everyone in my life expected drawings and paintings. So, I just started writing about my life or my past and even my pain. Then the fictional short story challenges came along, and it completely changed my life. Not only did I find a new love for writing, but it also sparked my interest in drawing again because I could use my art to illustrate my writing. So now? Now I spend my days dreaming about what to make next…that's when I'm not at a doctor's office or at therapy.
What’s one of your favorite stories you’ve published on Vocal?
My favorite is definitely “When the Thundersnow Breaks”.
“Are you an artist?” asked Jayden.
The young man, still staring out to the now darkened street replied, “In a way we all are. As children, we all love to create. It’s in our very nature. Creating in itself is idiosyncratic. It’s not just visual art that is subjective; it’s making art in any form that is in fact, instinctive and intuitive and can be made in thousands of different ways. While we are all born to create, some people just have more of an ability to render what they see and feel in a visual way. You have that ability.”
After he finished his words, he stood up and looked down at Jayden and said softly, “You’ll find what you’re looking for if you don’t stand in the way of your true nature.”
Suddenly his eyes seemed kind and wise, and as soon as he had stood, he was gone, walking off and out into the snowy Santa Fe night.
There’s a lot of real personal experiences that went into that story. I did have an intense spiritual experience in a thunderstorm in the city late at night with a coyote. It wasn’t thundersnow, but I did indeed experience that amazing weather phenomenon too. I had a surreal conversation with a Navajo man on the side of the street one night who seemed to psychically know me in some way and helped me see my experience there a bit differently.
I also most certainly loved Canyon Road during Christmas and it truly is as magical as I described in the story, if not more.
Don’t think about it—first thing that comes to mind:
What is one thing you couldn’t live without?
Favorite musical artist?
Favorite visual artist?
Favorite work of art?
Favorite/most impactful poem?
Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.
Cats or dogs?
Favorite travel destination?
Day or night?
Favorite local restaurant?
What’s your go-to late night snack?
What are you currently binge watching?
What are you currently reading?
Camouflage by Dr. Sarah Bargiela
If you could speak a new language, what would it be and why?
Spanish because it’s becoming a language we should all familiarize ourselves with in the US.
Favorite story you read on Vocal by another Creator?
"Collaboration" by Caroline Jane
Thanks for connecting with us, Casey. You mentioned how the community on Vocal was "supportive and genuine"—let's not forget you're also a valued member of that community. You're one of the friends boosting others up; one of the writers contributing to the greater plot; and one of the artists molding the creative landscape for the better. Keep. It. Up. We're excited to follow along with the progression of your first book of fictional short stories. We're witnessing the development of a very promising author/illustrator—this is what it's all about. Don't walk; run—create.
Thanks again, Casey!
About the author
Vocal Spotlight aims to highlight standout creators who are changing the world one story at a time. We're getting to know the storytellers who inspire us the most, and we can't wait for you to meet them.