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Mackenzie  Thorpe

  Mackenzie ThorpeMackenzie Thorpe (1956- ) strives to express the full range of human emotion through his art, whether through his trademark brightly colored pastels or his new bronze sculptures. His imaginative imagery - from smiling children and charming sheep to tough industrial workers - is well-known and beloved around the globe. Thorpe credits innovative artists Van Gogh and Mark Rothko as strong influences, but the vision he shares is uniquely his own: "If you see a flower, look at it, paint it - but don't pick it, don't hurt it! That's the kind of innocence I'm trying to get across." In addition to being visually striking, Thorpe’s heartfelt work manages to elicit a profound feeling from the most stoic of viewers. "Life’s journey can be the loneliest and most painful place," he explains, "[however, if we] have faith in our own inner strength, look beyond the despair, we will discover hope."His own life experience has led Thorpe to passionately believe that hopes and dreams - and love - will eventually triumph over adversity.

Thorpe grew up in the struggling industrial town of Middlesbrough, England. Since art materials were an unaffordable luxury for a family of nine, young Mackenzie’s did his first color studies with his mother’s make-up! He recalls, "I'd spend my time getting cigarette packets, unwrapping them, flattening them and drawing on them. I'd just draw and draw and draw." Thorpe struggled with undiagnosed dyslexia throughout his childhood, but he always found solace in his art. After leaving school at fifteen, he did odd jobs until a friend suggested he try art school. "My application form was terrible, the spelling was all wrong and it was clear enough that I couldn't write essays. But I had literally thousands of drawings. At that time I used to carry an old school blackboard around on my back. I fixed a drawing board onto it, and some haversack straps. I was out at six in the morning drawing in the parks, everywhere. And because I had this huge pile of work there was no problem at the college - I was in!" His extraordinary talent eventually won him a place at the prestigious Byam Shaw Art College in London.

Presently, Thorpe’s worldwide exhibitions are sell-out events. His 1995 exhibition at Allerton Castle was largest one-man show ever held in northern England, and Artexpo LA selected him as their official artist in 1996. That same year, Elton John’s AIDS Foundation asked Thorpe to design their holiday card; the British royal family now commissions Thorpe for their shepherd-themed Christmas card every year.

Mackenzie now resides in Richmond, North Yorkshire, with his wife Susan and his children Owen and Chloe. Thorpe paints during the day in the window of his small shop (Arthaus) near Market Place so that passersby can watch him at work. 'Everyone can see in, see what I do - there are no tricks! It’s not a gift from God, I'm just a normal bloke, doing my job like anybody else."

Thorpe's Imagery & Symbolism


Various personalities in each of us. Mackenzie chooses to paint people in his life as animals to allow himself the freedom to depict them in many different ways. He can paint multiple portraits of one person, and by using different animals each time he is showing the different sides of that person.

Animals (square)

Tribute to Mark Rothko. Mackenzie connected with Rothko's bold use of color and simple shapes to make a statement


1.  Life's Dangers.  Mackenzie is deathly allergic to bee stings, but chooses to depict bees in his work to highlight the sweetness they provide. We must always be aware of what is around us - even in danger there is beauty.
2. Sound. Mackenzie wants you to hear the sound of the buzzzzz - usually depicted by just one bee.

Children with Large Heads

Innocence. When children are born they have large heads filled with imagination, purity, love, innocence, and happiness. It is only when adults enter their lives that their heads become smaller with each limitation, fear, prejudice, or stereotype.

Children with Wagons

Spreading Love. Mackenzie finds a lot of inspiration from his two children, Owen and Chloe. It is Mackenzie's belief that children are the source of love in life. When children go to sleep they go to 'the land of love' where they pick flowers, put them into wagons, and bring them back to the adults in the daytime. Each time a child touches or talks to an adult they are giving them a flower from 'the land of love'.


Transition. Cliffs represent the need for transition in life to something uncertain. What will be on the other side? Will it be worth the journey we have forged so far?

Cloudy Skies

Life. The rolling clouds reflect the difficulties and good times in life and the importance of experiencing both.

Fish In A Glass Jar

The Soul. The fragility of one's soul is likened to a fish in a glass jar for Mackenzie. You must carry it with you at all times, vulnerable and accessible to the perils of the world.


Love. Flowers symbolize growing love. When you nurture relationships in life you are able to benefit from the beauty they provide from the ground up.

Large Feet

Working Class Upbringing. Mackenzie grew up in a northern English shipbuilding town where everyone had working class roots. Mackenzie doesn't ever want to lose those roots. Or, as he says, 'become bigger than my shoes'.

Match-Stick Men

Life's Adversary. A working class person, or laborer, depends on his arms and hands for his livelihood. But, when factories shut down and leave these men without work, it's as if their arms and hands are rendered useless. They face the largest challenge of their life: adapt to the situation or be left behind, just another match-stick man.


Parents. Their responsibility is to care for the flock and guide them through life's ups and downs.


Tribute to Vincent Van Gogh. Mackenzie connected with Van Gogh's lust for life and realized it was alright to be different.

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