"I have an outside gallery. I work out of my home," said Mr. Thompkins, a painter who had the opportunity to explore another media recently while at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center.
His ceramic masks were on display during the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival on March 11 at the VA hospital.
"Everybody has a mask their face hides behind," he said.
The most challenging aspect of the class was working with the glazes, which change color after being fired in a kiln.
For the past 10 years, patients involved in creative arts recreation programs at Augusta's VA have created items for the local festivals and have gone on to represent the Augusta area at the national level.
One of Mr. Thompkins' masks will be sent to the national competition.
Sam Smith is another veteran whose work was featured at the local event. His mixed media piece on Red Mountain, Ala., was created through his memories of home.
Helen Medlock, creative arts specialist at the VA hospital, said recreation therapies such as the visual arts provide many benefits for the veterans.
Art and music can provide mental and emotional therapy as well as physical therapy.
For the veterans who pounded clay into masks, the art worked their upper bodies.
"They become so interested in what they are doing, it helps strengthen them without them realizing," she said.
The March 11 festival also included musical performers.