Studio Gallery: John Paul Thornton

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Video Interview by Los Angeles filmmaker Veronica Aberham

John Paul Thornton was classically trained at the Otis Parsons School of Design and California State University at Northridge, where he received his B.A and further training working with two legendary artists Hans Burkhardt and Saul Bernstein. During his studies, they challenged John to find a true purpose to his art making.

John reflects, “Their message was paint your time and to connect with things that are universal and could appear in any time period historically, but find in your period of time what is vital and real, paint the truth.”

John’s desire to find the “truth,” landed him a job as an art teacher at a school for runaway kids. He looks back, saying, “I got to learn their stories and their stories were so impacting to me. I had come from a middle class family in the San Fernando Valley and I was suddenly meeting kids from the inner city, kids from broken families with histories of abuse. What happened there really changed my life.”

John’s truth started with a series called, The Missing Children – Portraits of Hope, an ongoing body of work for which he still receives international recognition, it led to other opportunities working with underprivileged children around the world.

“I started getting these invitations to work in other countries. I worked in Japan and was teaching projects in China, working in Mexico, Europe, and Haiti with the United Nations and what has been exciting for me is that my art isn’t about my paint, it’s about the people and the experiences that its given me.”

Through his journey, John found an art that heals, a truth, and the real power of art. This Summer he worked in Haiti on Girls United Haiti, together the United Nations Foundation, the Merridan Health Foundation and Full-Circle Learning.

“Imagine a country that has gone through trauma, an earthquake or hurricane and is it possible to go into the ground, impact a group of young people and through art and creativity empower them to become leaders in the community. And can you do this in two weeks?”

It’s this kind of challenge that motivates John and gives him a purpose to his life and to his art. “I keep getting this message, you’re on the right path with your work. Keep going. This is what you are meant to do and art is your tool.”  For more of John’s story and art demonstrations, please watch his video documentary here on Studio Online.

John has taught at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California State University of Los Angeles, Pierce College, the Los Angeles Unified School District Conservatory of the Arts, and the Sophia School of Painting in Tokyo, Japan. He also served as Art Education Coordinator with the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs working on projects with MOCA, the Getty Research Institute and on International exchanges with Taxco, Mexico. John Paul’s paintings are in numerous private collections. He lives in Los Angeles, California with his wife and daughter.

For additional information please visit the artist’s website.

1 Comment »

  1. John Paul Thornton, I was interested in seeing what your art looks like so I looked you up on the internet. This video made by Veronica Aberham is very very good. I enjoyed learning about your inspiration, your feelings about people, and watching you paint them. I then was amazed and it opened my mind up about what art is to myself , just by listening to you explain about emotions. What a wonderful experience it must have been to work with the young girls who felt that they were stuck in a situation with little control, and not going anywhere. The girls gathered appreciation for each other and I am sure gained confidence in themselves, and released their own emotions through art. I see that in my classes, and ask for kids that are at RISK. That is what its all about. The Special Ed. Kids, the kids with parents going through divorce, the kids that have lost a parent, all these wonderful teens, that enjoy using the clay and sculpting a form, while feeling PEACE inside. It makes me whole and complete also as a Art Teacher. I really love my fruits that I made in class last Thursday.Thank you.

    Comment by Kathryn Hansen — 10/7/2012 @ 2:11 am

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