It was a doodle that would make a career. Brita Thompson, a Hazel Drive resident and 2012 graduate of Mt. Lebanon High School, was awfully fond of zentangles—black and white repetitive pattern drawings that are at once relaxing to make and hypnotizing to gaze upon. When she took to putting one on her blank Starbucks cup and entered it in Starbucks’ 2014 White Cup Contest, she beat 4,000 other entries from across the globe. It was a huge hit, with its swirls and blocks and mesmerizing patterns.
Starbucks manufactured the cup and sold it online then sold in in stores in 2015. Suddenly, Thompson’s social media accounts were on fire, and her custom art was in demand. “It kind of blew up from there. It was a pretty awesome opportunity,” says the 23-year-old.
Now Thompson has illustrated Color Your Mind: A Coloring Book for Those With Alzheimer’s and People Who Love Them, written by famous journalist Maria Shriver. “It’s a book of activities to do with people with Alzheimer’s,” Thompson says, noting it helps loved ones communicate with people who have the disease. Especially since there’s often “nothing to do” with people with Alzheimer’s.
Shriver found Thompson through coloring book publisher Blue Star, which had approached Thompson for another project that didn’t work out. During the six-month completion process, Thompson spoke with Shriver’s staff on conference calls, heeding very specific artistic direction. She did not get to meet Shriver, but on a California vacation, she did visit the publisher for the unveiling of the real book.
It took her a few years to get to that spot. “I knew I wanted to do art, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do with it,” she says. After high school graduation, she tried a year at Edinboro majoring in graphic design, only to learn she didn’t like making art on computers. “I didn’t want to be sitting on the computer designing things for hours and hours.”
By 2015, she appeared at the Three Rivers Arts Festival and the Mt. Lebanon Artists’ Market, where she will be featured again this year selling prints of her work, stickers and coloring books, in addition to blankets made of her signature fabric. Her booth is always a hit at festivals because people may not have the money to spend on exotic art or an expensive print, but “at shows, kids always want something. … Whenever somebody comes, they always leave with something,” she says, adding that stickers are especially popular because they are portable and look good on things like laptops.
She’s already met her goal of making art her career, but she has ambition beyond that too. “I would love to be [Shriver’s] official illustrator,” she says.
Meet Thompson at the Mt. Lebanon Artists’ Market, Saturday, September 23, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday, September 24, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Food, music and kids’ crafts. Admission is free. Market details: www.mtlebanonartistsmarket.com.
The coloring book is available on Amazon.com for $7.88.