Middlesbrough-born artist Mackenzie Thorpe is credited with changing the face of commercial art publishing in the UK.
But to get there Mackenzie needed to demonstrate dogged artistic determination.
Mackenzie was the eldest of seven children. Spare cash for art material was in short supply, so he creatively used what he could: flattened out cigarette packs, eyeliner pencils, his mother’s lipstick. School was miserable – dyslexia was little understood and he was mocked by students and teachers alike.
But then there was the inspiration from Lust for Life, the film about Vincent Van Gough, staring
Spartacus Kirk Douglas.
He says: “I remember the film resonating with deeply, and it was this film that became the catalyst in my applying to art college. A world away from the shipyards, but one which was to become both my launchpad and my salvation.”
It spurred him on to art college, followed by a job for the local authority teaching arts and crafts to children, then opening a small art supply shop in Richmond North Yorkshire. Here he started using the art materials himself, putting the finished work in the window. And from there his fame grew.
Today, Mackenzie is credited with changing the face of commercial art publishing in the UK, moving it away from the scenes of wildlife and landscapes.
Mackenzie’s work has given him world wide appeal – even to the extent that one fan had one of his pieces tattooed onto their skin –then instagrammed an image of the body art.
And he’s continued that connection with children: there’s the 20ft tall resin sculpture Skipping Together at Oklahoma children’s hospital at OU Medical Center. And at the Setouchi Children’s Film Festival Mackenzie delivered children’s workshops with the message Dream Big.
Mackenie’s most recent project is the lifelong realization of his ambition to exhibit a body of work inspired by his childhood memories of The Wild West, the exhibition, titled The Good; The Bad; and Me, Mackenzie Thorpe, opened at the POP International Gallery in Soho, New York, November 2013.
This year he will travel across the USA via Florida, Chicago, Houston and California, with London spring dates to be confirmed.
Check out his views on the ‘art world’ in his piece Is Art Still Elitist for Raconteur.