Mackenzie Thorpe

About Mackenzie Thorpe

Internationally renowned artist Mackenzie Thorpe was raised in the industrial town of Middlesbrough in the 1950s, where his father worked as a laborer and his mother as an auxiliary nurse. Mackenzie acknowledges mixed emotions about this period in his life. He remembers the strong feeling of community spirit, the warmth and humor that flourished in the face of adversity, as well as the loneliness and isolation.

The need and compulsion to draw was obvious from an early age and remains with Mackenzie today. As a child, he would seek out whatever raw materials he could find, drawing on cigarette packs with stubs of pencils, or using eye-shadow and lipstick illicitly obtained from his mum’s makeup bag. Struggling with dyslexia throughout his childhood, Mackenzie found confidence in painting and drawing. Unsurprisingly, he left school without formal qualifications, taking on a variety of manual, unskilled jobs while continuing to draw and paint.

Mackenzie eventually mustered the courage to enter the local art college. His lack of education and a barely readable application did nothing to warrant support. His strength and the volume of work Mackenzie presented, coupled with his enthusiasm and commitment, won him a place at the Middlesbrough College of Art. Later, he also earned a spot at the Byam Shaw School of Art in London.

After leaving art school, he spent several years working with inner-city children in London before moving to North Yorkshire to set up a studio and gallery with his wife Susan, and children Owen and Chloe. Since then, he has become one today’s most collected and sought-after artists. His works express an entire range of human emotion, from the special bond of love and friendship, to the importance of self-reflection and individual triumphs. His works are a tribute to the creativity within us all and are a vivid expression of hope and the human spirit. 

Mackenzie’s perspective on life is clear. He doesn’t hide the fact that often life is a struggle, a dark tunnel which can seem endless. However, he passionately believes that our frail dreams are worth nurturing, and that love and honesty will triumph over adversity.

Questions Answered

It is Mackenzie’s belief that love is the most important thing in the world. He knows what he speaks of as he had a life without love and then a life with great love. Having love in his life has taught him what is truly important. He believes that if we all lived our lives based in love, then the world would be a much better place! Hearts are that universal symbol of love. It is recognized everywhere by most everyone. He could never use enough hearts to get the message across!

Mackenzie’s use of hearts is varied. Sometimes the heart is so big it looks like it could crush the person. Sometimes that is how love feels that it is so big that it could take your life. If you let it, love will take your life to much higher highs than you thought imaginable. What you feel might crush you turns to helium and carries you away. Sometimes there are so many hearts in the work you cannot count them all. That is also a message of an abundance of love. If you believe in it, the whole world surrounds you in love. Sometimes the love is behind you, sometimes ahead of you. Mackenzie shows us love in many different variations. He even has used bronze to depict something so soft as love. Everything leads back to love. If you have it in your life, you know. If you don’t have it in your life, you want it or at least should know to want it.

Mackenzie wants to be as inclusive as possible. He does not add faces so people of all ages, genders, and nationalities can put themselves in the artwork and feel it is them. If he were to paint the face of a boy then it limits it to boys. If he were to paint the face of a girl then it is only seen as a girl. The best reactions Mackenzie hears about his work is when an older man in his 70’s along with a younger granddaughter both see themselves in the same piece as the same character.

The idea is that we are all born the same, we are all equal. As we grow, we impose restrictions on ourselves and on our children. We are not born afraid of the dark. We are not born racists. We are not born frightened of spiders. We learn to be scared of new adventures, of new foods, of new experiences, and so our world shrinks. This fear is all between our ears, it’s not real. Yet we persist in living it and passing it on, instead of welcoming and sharing the joy of the new and the unknown.

For me, the big heads symbolize children: new, uncorrupted, their heads full of endless possibilities, open to whatever comes their way. It is only as we grow older that we become narrow and closed. Let’s keep our heads as big as possible. Continue to marvel at the beauty of nature, revel in the smell of the flowers and thank God we’re alive.

The big feet symbolize that Mackenzie never wants to forget where he came from, no matter how different his life has become. It can be dangerous to forget your roots. Your ego takes over and you’ve got wings on your feet. Mackenzie says that if he got too full of himself that he wouldn’t be the man his wife, Susan, fell in love with and married. He wouldn’t be the father of his children. My feet are firmly planted on the ground and that’s where he want them to stay, totally grounded. It’s important never to become bigger than your shoes.

Childlike is a synonym for innocence. Mackenzie is conveying his messages through the innocence of a child. He taps into that feeling of innocence of each viewer of his paintings at a young age. That age when we all had idealistic heads so big that we believed we could do anything, be anyone, and achieve all of our goals. Connecting to Mackenzie’s artwork makes the viewer feel a connection to that felling of innocence and to let that younger version of ourselves out.

Mackenzie chooses to paint in pastel so he can use his hands. Using his hands is the most immediate and raw connection to get his messages out on paper. Every ripple of the sky is achieved with the side of his pinky finger.

If it is pastel, he uses his hands only. If it is gouache, watercolor, or acrylic he uses a brush. He uses pure pigment pastels because there are no additives or stabilizers like wax or petroleum. It is just crushed pigment, the most pure thing he can use.


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