Artist Process Spotlight: Famous Pastel Artist Mackenzie Thorpe’s Career and Works

Painting of fisherman hauling a net on a boat entitled We Need A Bigger Boat by Mackenzie Thorpe.

Mackenzie Thorpe is one of the highest-selling British artists in the last few decades. From a humble background in the industrial northern English town of Middlesbrough, Thorpe has created a legacy of art that has sent ripples throughout the international art world.

It takes only one look at Thorpe’s famous pastel art to see why collectors fawn over his work. The smooth, careful strokes, the vivid colors, and the surreal shapes and forms tell stories and show emotions that words don’t have the power to express.

The art consultants at Marcus Ashley Gallery invite you to learn about this renowned oil pastel artist and his technique.

Thorpe’s Oil Pastel Art Technique

Mackenzie Thorpe works with a variety of media, including gouache, watercolor, acrylic, and of course, pastel. He is most famous for his use of pastels, particularly because he uses no additives or stabilizers in his pastel products — only pure, crushed pigment. This provides the strongest, most intense color possible without smearing or excess moisture.

Unlike other famous pastel artists’ techniques, all of Thorpe’s pastel works are quite literally painted with his bare hands. Thorpe works with a brush for classic paint mediums (gouache, watercolor, and acrylic) but he uses only his hands for pastels. Getting his hands and fingers into the work gives him precise control over the vivid colors and unique texture of pastels.

You can see the passion and control Thorpe exercises on paper with every pastel stroke: for example, when he creates ripples in the sky, he often uses just his pinky finger!

Spotlight on Thorpe’s Most Famous Pastel Art

According to Thorpe, this oil pastel art entitled We Need A Bigger Boat is about the job we all have to do in life: “getting love from one generation to the next.” The fishermen in the boat cannot possibly carry all their love into the boat — but they can try, because it’s the only thing worth saving.

Red boat in a black lake and forest entitled Loving by mackenzie Thorpe.

In Loving, Thorpe uses a streak of red in a sea of black and green to show the ability of love to overcome any adversity. Thorpe smears his pinky finger in the background to suggest a somber, haunting landscape, but the focus never shifts from the hopeful, solitary boat.

Red boat in a sea of pink entitled Over the Sea by Mackenzie Thorpe.

In Over the Sea, Thorpe illustrates what he saw as an endless sea of beauty when he moved from busy London to quiet North Yorkshire. In his overwhelm, he tried to capture the feeling of being utterly lost in beauty and wonder.

Thorpe’s Role in the Art Industry and his Inspiring Philanthropic Efforts

Mackenzie Thorpe achieves something in his art which is very rare: he captures the human experience, with all its tribulations and flaws, and shows the hope that can shine through and triumph over adversity. He does not hide that life can often feel like an endless challenge, but he determinedly finds the rays of optimism in self-expression and creativity.

Thorpe has passed on his tremendous success to a number of ongoing philanthropic efforts. As a child with severe dyslexia from an industrial town, he grappled with expressing himself, and he knows that without help from key individuals he would not have achieved the success he has today. As such, he supports several national and international charities, including the Royal British Legion, the Meningitis Trust, the NSPCC, the U.S. Boys and Girls Club, and the Japanese dyslexic society, The Edge. He dedicates the proceeds from much of his artwork to organizations like the NHS and the NE Autism Society.

Purchase Thorpe’s Famous Pastel Art at Marcus Ashley Gallery

Thorpe’s legacy is profound, with his artwork having been collected by the likes of Queen Elizabeth II, JK Rowling, and Tom Hardy. He is not just a famous pastel artist, but a sculptor and painter as well, and his mixed media talent all plays into the common themes of love and hope while honoring the struggles of his working-class background.

You, too, can become a collector of this famous oil pastel art with the services available at Marcus Ashley Gallery. Explore Thorpe’s originals and limited edition giclee prints or contact one of our knowledgeable art consultants.