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Because he paints in layers creating texture, Thornton paints in acrylic, but will use oil paint to add richness to elements in his paintings, such as eyes.

Featured Article

Local Artist Paints Larger Than Life

Inspiration Comes in Many Forms for Andrew Thornton

Article by Lynette Confer

Photography by Miguel Edwards

Originally published in Bend Lifestyle

Local large-scale artist, Andrew Thornton, has come full circle. “Growing up, everyone always said I was an artist, that was my identity,” remarks Thornton. “I thought of it as something to do, but I never thought of it as a career. I was always just trying to have something relevant to do for work.” After college, Thornton worked for years in the professional world and became a bit of a serial entrepreneur.

In 2009, Thornton, a native Oregonian, moved to Bend. “When I got here, the Hullabaloo Festival was going on and they had these street art chalk contests,” notes Thornton. He decided to enter and ended up winning the contest several years in a row. It was at one of these contests where Thornton was recruited by Whole Foods as a muralist. 

For four years Thornton worked as a graphic artist for Whole Foods. But, he found that watching his murals get painted over to make room for the next one was not what he wanted to do. “You pour your heart into it, you know,” he says. “So, as an artist, I knew that I wanted to create work that outlives me, work that doesn’t get painted over, work that will be here when I am gone.” While working at Whole Foods, Thornton was hired for his first large-scale commissioned painting. “That’s how all this started, by doing murals," Thornton reflects. "This large-scale art, it just sings to me.”

The scale of Thornton’s art is part of what makes it unique. And powerful. It is difficult to comprehend the scope of it by a photo or from his website or Instagram. “Someone will see a piece on my website and I encourage them to see it in person,” Thornton says. In person, many of Thornton’s canvases will tower over you and all have a completely different presence. In fact, Thornton builds his own canvases for his largest works.

Before meeting with a client, Thornton will prepare eight to ten small sketches. “I will ask a client what they are drawn to . . . and they might not even know why, but maybe one of the sketches, photos or other examples I bring along will speak to them,” explains Thornton. Start to finish, most of his large-scale paintings will take approximately six weeks to complete. He checks in with the clients twice during the process to make sure he’s on the right track. “But, I also tell them that the final piece will be a work of its own. It comes together the way it comes together,” he notes.

When speaking about his painting process, Thornton admits that it is not always easy. “At first I’m working in layers, there are just shadows, a lot of gray and weird colors,” he says. “But although those layers will get covered, they have to be there. It’s like building a house, you have to have the foundation and the framing.” It isn’t until a painting is about 80 percent complete, when the highlights are going in, that Thornton says it feels like watching your favorite team win the championship. “It’s at this point that a painting starts to sing,” explains Thornton. “Until then, you aren’t sure it’s working, but now it’s this joyous feeling of accomplishment. There’s not much of that in regular life, so when you get that feeling, it’s worth every stage of the process.”

Thornton usually has three to four paintings in the works, and currently has nine works commissioned. Inspiration for his paintings naturally comes from his clients. But, outside of his commissioned work, Thornton finds inspiration from nature, wildlife and pets. He also enjoys painting abstracts. 

Although Thornton did not pursue art as a profession early on, it was always part of his life. “I always had this thought that I did not ever want to be a ‘starving artist,’” says Thornton. “The world made me think that I might not be able to make a living as an artist. But, I’ve learned that you can't let the outside world determine your life.” Thornton says he is looking toward his future retirement. “The wonderful thing is, this is something I can see myself doing at 80 years old. Art is never work for me, it’s always a pleasure. Art was who I was, but not what I did, until now.”

For examples of Thornton’s work, along with contact info, go to AndrewThornton.Studio

  • Painted for his family as a momento of his childhood, “Bliss” (to lower left), is a piece Thornton painted of his favorite spot in Oregon at Diamond Lake.
  • Standing over eight feet tall, this wolf is one of Thornton's largest paintings to date.
  • This painting, “Ramble On,” was commissioned by Mountain Burger in Northwest Crossing and inspired by a photo Thornton took himself.
  • This monochromatic painting, "Throw It Again," captures a Golden Retriever's impatient expression and is Thornton's largest canvas at 6 ft. x 8 ft.
  • Because he paints in layers creating texture, Thornton paints in acrylic, but will use oil paint to add richness to elements in his paintings, such as eyes.
  • Still untitled and in progress, this painting is a technical exercise inspired by a photo Thornton took in Africa and will be offered for sale when complete.
  • African wildlife and landscapes inspire Thornton and his goal in painting is always to give his audience something to think about.
  • Thornton says these large-scale paintings are the art that "sings" to him the most.