The Artist’s


The Artist’s


I grew up in a small town in Northwest Indiana. At the time it was so small it didn’t even get the privilege to be placed on a driver’s map of the state. It wasn’t until I was about 10 years old when they built an Amtrak Station that consisted of a bench and a glass overhang when we were finally accepted as being important enough to let drivers know where they were when they passed us by. My sister and I grew up doing the usual kid things. We played tag and kick the can, we went roller skating and I played lots of baseball. She and I use to go down the street and walk up a tiny hill that was about a block away and go to a convenient store that was shaped like a little red barn. It was called, “The Red Barn.” Later a lady named Becky bought the business and renamed it to, “Becky’s.” Becky didn’t last too long and a couple named Vee and Tony bought it from her and they renamed it, “Vee and Tony’s.” There we would by candy and drinks. We would often cross the street, which was a fairly busy road, to the local drug store. This was a much larger building. There we would buy magazines, comic books, old radio tapes and, toys. It was at this store where my official art training began.

I remember on one of the metal book racks, in the magazine section, there was an oversized paperback book on how to draw cartoons. It had a Bugs Bunny like character and a cartoon bulldog on the cover. My mother bought it for me and thus my art education began. It was written by a golden age character animator named Preston Blair. He worked for Disney where he was an animator on movies such as Bambi. He also worked for Tex Avery at MGM. He was best known for drawing the sexy Red Hot Riding Hood character especially the famous dance scene she did. I learned how cartoons were made and I spent countless hours drawing ovals and circles that became dogs and rabbits and funny little things.


Later on, I began drawing sports figures. I did that until I was about twelve years old. While visiting my Aunt’s house I discovered a very large book with all of Norman Rockwell’s Post covers. I asked if I could borrow it and I began drawing a plethora of Rockwell covers.


I kind of damaged the book because I left charcoal and pastel marks all over the pages. I eventually gave the book back and my Aunt never complained about the many smudges I had left. Years later I found the same book at my grandmother’s house without the book cover. I asked if I could keep it and she gave it to me. Now I have it in my collection still today. The smudges that I created as a twelve and thirteen-year-old boy are still there. My love and adventures in drawing and painting people and figurative art had begun. Over the next couple of years, my drawing skills improved and I was ready to start formal art training so I could learn how to really do this art thing. When I was fifteen I started classes at an artist’s studio. He was a well-known portrait artist from the area. There I learned a structured classical approach to drawing and oil painting. I went to class from 7:30 pm to midnight every Tuesday and Thursday for five years. I am sure my mother was happy when I got my driver’s license since she would no longer have to drive me there and back twice a week.

When college came I went to art school and did more drawing and painting. I got hired at the age of nineteen to work on a half a million-dollar computer doing digital retouching and artwork for magazine and billboard ads. So I worked and continued to paint. Time past and I worked and continued to paint. As an artist, I improved, but I have to say looking back there was something missing. Inspiration is a funny thing. It can lead to different roads. Sometimes it leads you down multiple roads or too many roads. You don’t notice it until you look back and see how wavy and curvy it is and you realize it isn’t going anywhere. Just simply follow the road ahead.

I believe my road straightened out when a sense of purpose was giving not just to my art but to my life in general. It was the day the twins came into my life and more specifically the first month of Georgia’s stay at the hospital while treating her cancer. During her first month of, “Induction,” she liked riding around the hospital halls in her little blue and red push car. I would push the car with one hand and hold onto her pump which was connected to her port in her chest with the other hand. I would do pop wheelies and screech as we turned the corners. The twins were turning two at the time and were just learning to talk. On the walls were pictures of animals and flowers and bugs. I would lift her and her sister Rayne up and tell each of them what the animal was and what colors were in the pictures. Maybe it is a strange place to get inspired to do art, but that is what happened to me. There are all kinds of inspirational things happening in a place like this. You see how strong the kids are as they are going through a terrible time in their lives and how they trooper through it. You see the doctors, nurses and, techs heroically doing whatever needs to be done to save these kid’s lives. You meet other parents and you have a common bond with them. This is the kind of place where art comes from. It has placed me on a new track and I hope my art will do justice to it.


Written by: Raymond (Duke) Thornton III, my father

Is the sky still up above

And is it still blue

I can feel the grass below my feet

Is it still green to you

I can feel the warmth of the summer sun

But cannot see its golden glow

I can feel the chill of the winter cold

But cannot see the pure white snow

I can hear the birds singing

And I remember how they soar

Through the air on colorful wings

I remember, because I can’t see anymore

Isn’t there beauty all around us

Surely this must be

But, aren’t beautiful things ugly

When you cannot see